“Congratulations, Mrs. Winters….you’re pregnant.”
The words settled on me as if in slow motion, gradually descending upon my ears and sluggishly processed by my whirring brain. I felt Jiang stir beside me as he let out a happy cry, grasping my arm as I let out a slow breath, my mind trying to fight its way out of the thick fog it’d been trapped in. A tight, but bubbling, happy feeling grew within my chest and a smile spread across my face, but my happiness was being overshadowed….overshadowed by a sinister fear–a fear that I would lose this one too.
I grabbed Jiang’s hand in mine, squeezing tightly. I felt trapped, unable to convey the thoughts swirling through my mind…the thoughts that were threatening to overwhelm me. He turned toward me, meeting my eyes, and understood in an instant.
“This time we’ll be fine,” he whispered to me, kissing me on the side of the head. “I know it.”
“How?” I whispered hoarsely.
The doctor picked up on my worries and met my gaze, smiling reassuringly. “Take it one step at a time, Mrs. Winters. We’ll keep a close eye on the pregnancy, but both you and your husband are in top physical shape and have little to no history of family disorders. Your chances of going to full term are high.”
I gave a small smile, pretending to be reassured by his words as that sinister voice reminded me: that’s what they said last time.
I went home from the hospital that day feeling both extraordinarily blessed and extraordinarily worried. Although, I will admit…once I’d calmed down enough to interact normally with the people around me the celebratory er….well, celebration over my new pregnancy did at least quash my worries for a little while, leaving me numb and blissful as I drifted off into the most perfect sleep.
Which was definitely interrupted when I woke up early that morning puking everything I had in me up.
Here we went again. I just hoped that this time, it wouldn’t all be for naught.
Jiang was perfect and comforting during the course of my pregnancy though, which honestly helped keep me sane. He cooked for me, gave me massages, and constantly doted over the bump that was our little baby. His enthusiasm and affection had the end result of quieting my worries and I found that with every day that passed without a hitch, I grew more and more relaxed. Something which I hadn’t even deemed possible.
In fact, after we finally passed the duration of my previous pregnancy I think our nerves finally officially lifted and we even began remodeling the entire nursery for our new bundle of joy. We wanted to keep the gender of the baby a surprise, so we tried to decorate the room in fairly neutral tones. Sure the flowers and butterflies may have been a little girly, but we figured the blues and softness of the colors balanced it out nicely. Besides, who ever said boys couldn’t also like to look at butterflies?!
And you know, I have to admit that I really fell in love with the final product. Sometimes I’d even just sit in that room for hours, daydreaming about the little baby that I would carefully place in his or her crib and the hours that I knew I would spend just staring and marveling at them as they slept….
It was the image that kept me going those last couple months of my pregnancy….until finally, one early misty morning I woke up doubled-over in pain….
….and came home the next day with the most perfect creation ever known to mankind.
8 pounds and 7 ounces, in fact, of pure, blissful, perfection.
Welcome home, Kira Winters. We’ve been waiting for you for so long!
Life passed as if in a glorious dream after Kira was born. I spent every moment I could with her and it never, ever, felt like quite enough. She was incredibly sweet and quiet, content to spend hours just rocking in her chair, staring at the room, or her mommy, or daddy, or just drifting off into a peaceful sleep as she continued to rock back and forth…back and forth.
Sometimes I would watch her and just literally start crying from overwhelming happiness. Happiness that Jiang and I finally had a child….happiness that Kira was alive….and happiness that she was so healthy and perfect. My tears may or may not have had something to do with the fact that I was a bit of an emotional wreck after Kira was born, but oh well…..
I seriously could not have been happier.
You see…the fact that I was an emotional wreck after Kira was born was unfortunately not just limited to me bursting into tears because I was so happy…but also breaking down into tears because I was so…well, depressed sometimes.
And I hated myself for it—a fact which didn’t at all help these hopeless depressive states that I would get into. You see…the thing was…and again I hated myself for even thinking it, but sometimes when I was in one of these moods, I would look at my perfect Kira and my eyes would well up with tears as I’d think to myself: she’s not the son I lost. It seemed like an obvious, inane observation, but it would twist my heart and leave me feeling incomplete…like a puzzle that was missing a piece or a Dalmatian without its spots.
Then sometimes it would all become too much and I’d break down crying, my face in the pillows of my bed as I sobbed until my throat was raw. I didn’t understand how it could still hurt. I didn’t understand why Kira couldn’t fill the gap in my heart, even when I loved her so, so much. She was the joy of my life and my new reason for being…and yet I was still unhappy. I was so fucking greedy.
It would be at these times when I’d find myself yearning for a son. Like maybe if I had a son it would somehow fill the hole in my heart. Complete the broken puzzle. But then I would feel guilty that this was somehow not enough. I already had my child with Jiang, a beautiful, precious baby girl, and I shouldn’t have needed more than that.
As Kira grew older though, these feelings just grew stronger. Her growing older meant that I was growing older, and I kept thinking to myself in a panic that I wouldn’t be able to have children forever. That I was getting nearer and nearer to the end of my window of opportunity—and that thought was terrifying. I wanted, no, needed a son.
….and I felt like shit for it.
After all…I could never again create something so goddamn perfect.
My beautiful, sweet baby girl.
“So what do you think of having a new baby brother, Kira?”
“Yeah. Like you, only a boy. Someone to play with and love and watch over.”
“Wuvvv,” Kira giggled, waving her little arms excitedly. I smiled sadly, unsure whether or not she understood my words.
Ugh, what had I come to? Here I was sitting with my perfect baby and teaching her how to talk (and she was so bright!) and all I could think of was, well, someone else, in a way.
Or was that even an issue? I mean, after all, loads of people wanted more children. Hell, look at my parents. They had SIX children. Insane! Clearly when they looked at us they felt the desire to have even more.
But they wanted more because they loved us so much. And it wasn’t to fill some gap. They had no gaps in their lives. Only an overflowing amount of love to give.
My eyes welled up again as I stared at Kira, so like her father, but with unmistakeable hints of myself in her, like in the deep olive of her beautiful, shining eyes. She was the perfect combination of the two of us.
“Mama, okay?” Kira suddenly asked inquiringly, tilting her head and smiling up at me as if to cheer me up. I smiled in return…a genuine smile that warmed my heart. I loved my daughter so, so much.
“Yeah, baby. Mama’s okay. She just wants….a little brother for you.”
“Okay,” she said happily. I wasn’t sure if she was agreeing with the prospect of having a little brother, just saying ‘okay,’ or whether she was just expressing her content that I was fine. I bit my lip, looking down at her, and then made my decision.
Tonight I would ask Jiang if we could have one more baby.
“Tamara, well- ahh…alright first off, yes. Yes, I’d like to have another baby with you, but….” Jiang hesitated in his response to my question, scratching his head in discomfort. My heart beat hard. “Well there’s something I have to tell you first that might make that more difficult.”
“Oh?” I asked, my heart sinking in my chest despite his earlier agreement to my request. “Um. What is it?” I prodded, noting that Jiang was staring away from me and looked to be deep in thought.
“Well, Tamara…I…I got a call today.”
“The kids…that is, Liu and Wang…they’d like to attend high school here,” he rushed out. “Which means they’d be living here. That is, if that’s okay. I wouldn’t want to do anything that would make you unhappy. I just–…” he became uncomfortable again, looking at me anxiously. “I haven’t seen them in a very long time,” he finally murmured, meeting my eyes anxiously.
“Oh,” I responded in surprise, having not expected those words to come out of his mouth. “Um…well, well yeah of course they can stay here. That’d be fine. I mean, they’re your kids and I know you’ve been without them for awhile now.”
“Are you sure?”
“Yes, of course! I’d never tell you you couldn’t be with your kids. We…we have enough space and all. We can put them in Andrew and Laura’s old room downstairs. There’s already twin beds set up. Um…” I continued, and then halted, my eyes suddenly welling up. With so many people in the house how could we bring another little baby into the world? That was just too much, wasn’t it?
“Tamara,” Jiang said softly, picking up on my distress and gently pulling me into his arms. “We can still try for another baby. We’ll manage fine. Liu and Wang are nearly 14. They can more or less take care of themselves just fine. We’d have plenty of time to look after a baby. In fact, they could help.”
“Are you sure?” I sniffled through my tears. “I mean, we still have Kira, and she can be a handful now in this toddler stage.”
“Yes, I’m sure,” Jiang said with a reassuring smile. “It’s nothing we can’t handle. We’ve been through much harder than this.” My heart gave a sharp pang at his words as images rose unbidden in my mind of exactly what times he was talking about, but I managed a nod. He was right. I knew he was. Sure things would be a bit hectic around here for awhile, but that wasn’t anything new in this household. We’d manage just fine.
And maybe, just maybe, I would get my son….
It actually didn’t take long for me to get pregnant, which for some reason I hadn’t been expecting. I guess I’d been making this whole thing out to be way more difficult than it was. It’s not like we couldn’t handle another child. We had plenty of money, plenty of room, and of course, plenty of love to go around. What more could the baby need?
I was, however, more sick during this pregnancy. Kind of like how I was during my first…and the first time it’d been a boy. My heart beat faster at the thought, but I tried not to get my hopes up. How often you got morning sickness was obviously not related to the gender of your baby, no matter how much people insisted on it. 50/50 chance, Tamara. 50/50 chance.
But what happens if you get another girl?
I pushed the possibility out of my mind. I was having a boy. I already knew it.
While I spent most of my time in the bathroom and hoping against hope that I was actually having a boy, Jiang spent more time with Kira, taking advantage of the brief lull in his work and my temporary absences to build his relationship with her.
He really was a fantastic father and seeing them together never failed to make me love him even more.
It was during my second trimester when Jiang’s children arrived from China, looking both scared and happy to finally be here. I was surprised when I saw them, because they’d both sprung up about two feet it seemed and suddenly looked nothing like the small, scared children I’d met so long ago. On that note, seeing how much they grew made me realize just how long it had really been. Where had the years gone anyway? Jeez…and now my 40th birthday was even right around the corner. I just couldn’t believe it.
I did everything I could at that point to make them feel welcome, letting them know that they could decorate their rooms however they wanted to, attempting to make meals for them (or getting my mom to help me out in doing so >.>), and always being supportive and there for them if they ever needed any help.
I think they appreciated everything I was doing, for they were always very thankful and respectful toward me, but it was hard to tell because they did act so formal around me. Whenever I walked into the room they’d nod respectfully and get all polite, when moments before they may have been giggling to each other or casually talking in Chinese.
I supposed that it was better than them shooting dirty looks at me or ignoring me, but it was still oddly depressing and isolating. I hoped that maybe with time, they’d be comfortable being themselves around me too…..
They did, however, get along swimmingly with Kira, awing over how smart and cute she was and helping out with her whenever we needed it. This was especially encouraging because I figured they’d be that way with the new baby too, and with such a full house we knew we’d need all the help we could get in raising him or her. No, no, him. It had to be him.
Once I got into the last month of so of my pregnancy though I found it difficult to help them out as much, finding my back hurting all the time and just constantly feeling tired. I slept a lot and when I wasn’t sleeping, I was eating. I guess it was a pretty dull lifestyle, but it was all I’d been up for these last few weeks.
Thus, it was actually a relief initially when I felt the first pangs of pressure and pain associated with the onset of labor. I was almost excited about it in fact….until my first major contraction hit and then suddenly all I felt like doing was crying. Fuck! Why was this so goddamn terrible?!?!?!
Jiang hurried me to the hospital, but we were a lot calmer this time, already knowing the drill. He let me grab onto his hand during contractions and even curse him out a few times as we drove, which was pretty good of him considering how foul my language got at that point….
It was with some fairly ear-splitting cries and lots of tears that I finally gave birth to our new baby. My heart seemed to stop when I first heard our baby’s new cry as he or she was rushed away to be cleaned. Everything seemed to go in slow motion as I fell back onto my pillows, straining to hear what the doctor’s announcement would be. It might have been only mere seconds before he cried out the words, but it seemed to have been an eternity as the blood rushed through my veins and my heart pounded mercilessly.
“Congratulations, Mrs. Winters. It’s a beautiful baby boy!”
The words hit me like a train car and all I could do was cry, struggling to catch my breath as happy sobs of relief washed over my entire being.
I knew it. I just knew it.
Finally, finally, my sweet baby boy.
My little boy….James Winters.