“Mom, I’m waddling,” Casey’s voice on the phone was rueful but good-humored.
“Hate to tell you, Sweetie, you’ve been waddling for days,” I replied.
With only weeks before her due date, Casey is short of breath, uncomfortable, sleep-deprived, and… waddling. She has kept photo documentation throughout her pregnancy and recently invited me to join a shared album, “Belly Chronicles.” My Lord! The female body is astonishing in it’s ability to stretch to encompass new life. Two weeks ago, the doctor estimated her unborn child’s weight at 8 pounds, 3 ounces. “I just want to meet her,” Casey said with plaintive yearning while stroking her distended stomach.
Like bins of photos scanned into one thin, portable disc, this year - with all its richness, sorrow, joy, and anticipation – feels condensed. It wasn’t long ago, mid-January, when Mom confessed to feeling punky. Within a few days, I headed to Philadelphia with my friend, Joan, to visit Mom and attend the Women’s March with my sisters. In the wake of Mom’s diagnosis, the events, exuberance, and power of the march were overshadowed as Mom approached her death with grace and courage.
In the weeks that followed, we stepped out of life’s habitual stream into the cocoon of Muirfield. After Mom passed in March, the three hours from Connecticut to Pennsylvania became so routine they seemed to shrink to an easy commute as I drove back and forth to help my sisters sort through the furniture and keepsakes of generations that had come to rest in Mom’s house. During the summer, July held a trip west for us; August, time in Weekapaug. Since then, again, we have been… waiting. Gratefully, this wait has been one of joy as we have been waiting for… babies!
Yes, babies… plural. Casey is not the only one expecting. Long before telling the rest of us, Tucker and Lisa whispered news of Lisa’s pregnancy to Mom during their last visit with her at Muirfield. And in watching our two girls prepare for the births of their babies, in watching them swell, nest, worry, weather discomforts, and yes, waddle, I’ve been reminded of a sign I particularly loved at the Women’s March: “Here’s to strong women. May we know them; may we be them; may we raise them.”
Two weeks ago, Tucker called with news of Lexi’s birth. His voice was happy, loving, and relieved as he reported that Lisa was tired but doing well after delivering their chubby, baby girl.
Lisa’s mother, Jan, had flown in the week before, and Dave and I headed north after getting the call. Francie and Matt were in Boston visiting their son Campbell, so they joined us at the hospital as well. Within ten months, two hospitals have been our haven – for such very different reasons - allowing us to retreat and reduce our circle of concern to what matters most: those we love and their well-being.
Our grandson, Paul, who’s not even three, seems such a big boy now that he has a baby sister. When first he held little Lexi, he gently touched her fingers and asked, “She has such tiny… um, what do we call these?”
“Knuckles,” said Tucker.
“Oh. Knuckles…” repeated Paul. And then, “Okay, I’m done,” he said, eager to have Tucker pick up the baby so he could scramble to the floor and play with his cars.
But, yes. Aren’t those tiny knuckles a wonder? I’ve held many babies, and still those tiny hands, fingers, and feet amaze me. I could gaze for hours at Lexi’s tiny nose and tiny mouth, breathing deep her sweet baby scent, regretting only that while nestled in the crook of my arm she is not close enough to nuzzle her soft, kissable cheeks. And where now, she sleeps and flops loosely over my shoulder, in six months, she’ll be smiling and sitting up on her own. So many surprises, miracles, and potential nestle within this brand-new human.
When my kids were little, I wished desperately that their happiness and security would last forever. Maybe it’s because I’m older and know more, but life seems tougher than it was then. Like the sign said, these girls will have to be strong.
And their parents are on it.
Before long, Tucker and Lisa will start reading to their daughter. Paul has several shelves of books, and his sister will probably love “Curious George,” “The Very Hungry Caterpillar,” and “Click, Clack, Moo” as much as her brother does. Soon, tales of Disney princesses and adventurers will join those selections. A neighbor has already added “Baby Feminists” to their library, so Lexi’s heroes might include Michele Obama, Malala, or Ruth Bader Ginsburg as well as Moana.
While Casey and PJ’s baby has not yet arrived, her room is ready for her. It is adorable and inviting in violet and light gray, with elephant accents and a pink braided rug. Long before brushes were dipped in paint or the color palette for the room was chosen, Casey ordered two signs for the walls. One, a Shakespearean quote, reads, “Though she be but little, she is fierce.” The other promises, “Let her sleep, for when she wakes, she will move mountains.”