(Chapter Excerpt from Part IV of BabyCatcher: Chronicles of a Modern Midwife )
Colin, my twelve-year-old son, discovered me late one rainy afternoon sitting at the kitchen table, a damp Kleenex crumpled in my left hand, wiping my eyes as I tried to compose myself for his sake. It was the third week of January, two months after I’d miscarried a pregnancy, but I still found it impossible to get through a day without at least one meltdown into misery.
Stunned when the test came back positive, Rog and I had stared at each other with doubt and ambivalence. At forty-one, my professional life consumed me. I’d just achieved what some had predicted was an impossibility: I’d been granted delivery privileges at Alta Bates, and as a consequence, my midwifery practice burgeoned. Some months I delivered twelve babies, and no one ever knew if or when I’d be home. Rog, too, felt stretched to his limits, keeping his business afloat while picking up the slack for my frequent unscheduled absences. Colin and Jill approached their challenging adolescent years. How could we fit an infant into our lives? But when I lost the pregnancy and all hope for resolution dissolved with my tears, I fell in love with the baby that was not to be.
Colin asked, "Are you crying about the baby?" and when I nodded tearfully, he said, "Well, you just have to have another one, Mom, because it’s a Spirit Baby, and you should be its mother."
I must have looked puzzled because he said, "Don’t you know about Spirit Babies? How could I know about them if you don’t? I mean, you’re my mom!" But he could see my perplexity.
So my first child, this not-yet-teenaged boy, pulled a wooden chair to my side and draped his thin arm across my shoulders, saying, "Well, Mom, here’s how it is. See, I was one myself, so that must be how I know. Anyway, every woman has a circle of babies that goes around and around above her head, and those are all the possible babies she could have in her whole life. Every month, one of those babies is first in line. If she gets pregnant, then that’s the baby that’s born. If she doesn’t get pregnant, the baby goes back into the circle and keeps going around with all the others. If she gets pregnant but something bad happens before the baby’s born…now listen, Mom, because here’s the really cool part. It goes back into the circle, but it becomes a Spirit Baby, and all the other babies give it cuts. Each month, it’s always first in line. Isn’t that great?
"So you just have to get pregnant again, and you’ll have the same Spirit Baby. If you don’t, though, then the baby circle will just beam that little Spirit Baby over to some other woman’s circle, and it’ll be first in line for her. It keeps being first in line somewhere until it finally gets born.
"But it’d be a shame for you not to have it yourself, because I know how much you want it. So you just have to try again. Mom, remember that baby you lost before I was born?" I nodded wordlessly. "Well, that was me. Really. I’ve always known I was a Spirit Baby. I mean, I know what I’m talking about here, Mom."
In spite of Colin’s certainty that our household, so often bordering on chaos, lacked only an infant to make things perfect, Rog and I demurred. But Colin didn’t give up and even enlisted his sister’s support. Driving with them in the car one evening, I looked at my son in the passenger seat beside me. He stared out the side window and tried to hide his tears, but I saw the flush on his face, the shaking of his shoulders, and the surreptitious swipe of hand across cheek.
Six months had passed since my miscarriage, and I had just finished yet another discussion in which I’d told my pleading son that having a third baby at my age was out of the question. I reached over the space between us and squeezed his fingers. "Colin, I don’t understand this passion you have for a baby. Why do you want one so much?"
He tore his gaze from the distant hills and looked at me with swimming eyes and trembling lips. In a choking voice, he put all of his twelve-year-old passion into his reply.
"Oh, Mom! Oh. Just for the joy of it!"
Jill stretched forward from the back seat and placed a hand on each of our shoulders. "Yeah, Mom, just for the joy of it."
It was my turn to look out the side window and struggle with misty vision.
So, at a time when most women eye the empty nest at the end of their branch on the family tree with something approaching relief, I gave consideration to laying just one more egg. Several months of discussions peppered with doubt and disbelief followed. Although Rog and I made the final decision, there’s no denying that a big part of our decision to have a third child began with the insistence of our adolescent children that we "needed a baby in the house." Rog and I took a deep breath, looked at each other across the blond heads of those two wishful children, swallowed – and made a giant leap of faith.
I conceived my Spirit Baby a week later. Just for the joy of it.
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