What if, what if, what if.

Dear little daughter,

It’s midnight and here I am on the couch. Our quiet house smells like daytime fading, tangy like the spaghetti I made for dinner, clean like the bleached sheets in the dryer. Everything is still. Heated air whispers up from the vents, clocks tick, my heart beats. As I lay on the couch and try to read, midnight approaching, you jab and turn beneath the skin of my belly until I can not read one more word. I set my book aside and open my robe so I can watch you dance through my naked skin. I press my hands firm against my stomach to try and guess your parts. Is that an arm poking up beside my hip bone? Is that the arch of your spine rolling across my middle? Is this your bum I feel so round and hard under my palm? I laugh at your wiggling body, I feel full and happy, both, already, to be your mother.

But tonight, like always, I worry, too. I lay still and marvel and worry as you dance.

I speak quietly into the silent house as the rest of our family sleeps, introducing myself once again and talking to you about your siblings, and your father, and your home. I cradle you in my arms and say, “I’m your mama. Do you know that yet?”

I pray that you do know it. I pray against my worries. How can anyone mother without worry? How can I welcome the sharp movements of your body inside me without also wondering if you are ok in there? Baby daughter. I am too often consumed with the unknown. Scary things imagine themselves right through my wonder.

What if your body is hiding a tumor? What if your heart stops beating too soon? What if your limbs don’t move? What if your ears can’t hear? What if you are fine, and then one day you grow up and stop speaking to me and I never know exactly why? What if, what if, what if? I die over the what ifs. I circle around them like a weary animal, so desperate for food that it dares to approach the spring-loaded trap. I know the worries are rows of metal teeth that will snap off my fingers and toes, will bite down with such ferocity I won’t know how to escape and might bleed to death in the end. I know, I know, I know, and yet. I circle.

This fear is familiar. It blinks at me from every blank page I’ve ever tried to write on. It smells like sharpened pencils and clean notebooks, looks like deadlines and panic, feels like my head buried under a pillow. Creating has always been a terrible, wondrous process. I never know what will come, what will matter, how it will translate from my head to my hands. It might be terrible. It might be wonderful. It might be nothing at all. Experiencing you being created in me carries a same kind of terror and wonder. Here is an elbow! I hope she is strong. Here are her hiccups! I hope she is safe. Here is her heartbeat! I hope her heart beats longer than mine. I hope, I hope, I hope.
What if, what if, what if.

You, little daughter, are another story being written. You are another fish in the sea, joining all of us out here with your own dreams and fears. You are another unknown, like all those pages I will stare at for the rest of my life, wondering what to say, wondering what to write. Except I’m not writing you. I’m just holding you. A spectacle of life as you dance in my belly, I am your first chapter. I’m holding you with a reverent gladness, dear one. Glad to be part of the process. Thankful to share my blood with you.

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My greatest fear in creating is that I cannot guarantee significance or permanence to any project, or even a single word. The reason I press on, the light that shines on my path, is the guarantee that I will not be disappointed to have joined the flow of imagination. It is never a regret to have tried- only to have ignored what presses so hard on our hearts. In many ways, this is what I feel in pregnancy. I have no guarantees for this baby. No promised number of breaths, no assured success in parenting, no prior claims to her devotion or her blessing; only this moment. I claim this moment as my own, this minute where she rests in the dark of me and I am the beginning of her story. That is my only promise. That for right now, I am hers. And she is mine. We flow on together, a light steady on our path, towards whatever moments may come. And I rejoice in the story being written.

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