Dear Alexander Joseph,
When I got pregnant with your brother, I don’t know that one person (besides your Aunt Ashley) said, “Congratulations.” Certainly it was a tumultuous time: I was twenty (not quite ready to be a parent but not so young that it was scandalous) , Ben’s father was less than kind to me, I was in college, and my life was, well, adrift. When I was 8 months pregnant, I waddled home, proverbial tail between my legs, to my parents who accepted my delicate condition. I find it hard to believe that anything that packs sixty pounds directly onto my ass is “delicate,” but alas, I digress.
While it was incredibly kind of your grandparents to take me in, it came with some fairly long, painful strings attached.
When your brother was born, I spent the better part of four years trying to make it right. The end goal was to have another baby the easy/ier way. A way that didn’t involve being undermined my parents. A way that didn’t involve being treated like I was, very possibly, the stupidest person on the planet. A way that allowed me to feel like I was, in fact, a parent.
Your brother, well, he’s different. He’s on the autistic spectrum somewhere, and as a baby, he wanted nothing to do with me. I was turning my life into something that could make him proud, and he’d barely allow me to hold him. It didn’t change much as he grew – he was aloof, distant, heartbreaking. They have therapies available for autistic children, but none for the parents; parents who crave such things as a display of love in a way that’s easily understood. It’s never been that your brother didn’t love me, it’s simply that he shows it in a much more different way.
Finally, after graduating nursing school, getting married and moving your brother, father and I into a real house with our name on it, it was time for me to finally try for my next goal: another baby. All of that time I spent in school, working full-time, running my ass around to get graduated, all I wanted was to have another baby.
Month after month we tried and tried. Month after month, my heart broke into a zillion tiny pieces as I stared at that pee-stick, willing it to show me something – an evaporation line, anything. And month after month, I wept as the lily white stick stared back at me, mocking me. Pregnant bellies began to make me furious as I looked into fertility treatments. I was beyond confused – I’d gotten pregnant with Ben while on the pill and barely having The Sex – certainly this was bound to be easier.
Eventually, one Friday night, I took a pregnancy test while drinking a tall vodka/Diet and chain-smoking cigarettes (not at the same time, I’m not that coordinated). I was hoping to get the disappointment out of the way so I could enjoy the rest of my weekend (read: cry like a weenie).
When the digital test I’d just bathed in my urine popped up a “PREGNANT,” I actually said to aloud, “No fucking way.” I brought it down to show your father, who had been waiting for me to return in hysterics, and we both stared at it, bewildered. We’d finally done it.
The very next day, your father drove to the hardware store and painted your bedroom a nice soft yellow – niftily covering the barfy pink walls. He was so very proud to be having a baby.
It was the next week when the panic began. I’d somehow managed to get everything in my life right: I had a five-year old who was happy and healthy, I had a husband who treated me with respect, I had my very own house, a degree – with honors – and a life. It seemed too good to be true.
So when I began to spot fairly heavily around week 7, I just knew that my luck had run out. I couldn’t be so lucky; I just couldn’t – hadn’t I learned that by now?
It was a subchorionic haematoma, the US tech said, my head turned away from the US screen as I awaited her words. Look, she said, as I saw the flickering of that strong heart on the screen, that’s your baby.
And it was.
On March 30, 2007, after months spent miserably on the couch (prepartum depression is an ASSHOLE), I was admitted to the hospital to have you. All I wanted, I confessed tearfully to your father, was a baby who loved me. And after a whopping three pushes, there you were. You opened your mouth and began to scream. I don’t think you stopped without a boob in your mouth for a solid year after that.
I couldn’t have been happier.
You showed me what unconditional love felt like. It was the first time I’d experienced that type of love, and it made me whole in ways I didn’t know were broken.
So to you, my second son, the one who has made me whole, I wish you the very happiest of happy birthdays.