For people who don't know our story, this inevitably leds into variations of the question "Is this your first baby?". I'm getting better at getting the words out. No, our first daughter died... car accident ... eight months pregnant. And now that I've said it so many times, I can almost roll it out easily and move on with the conversation - out of self-preservation rather than callowness. They usually apologise - this was not the territory they were meaning to steer us into. So I need to sum it up so that we can move back to safe territory - "It's okay. It just meant that getting pregnant again was a Really Big Thing. Extra precious." Which doesn't really even begin to sum it up, but that's the best I can do for chit chat.
For friends and family who know the back-story, many have surprised us with the genuine intensity of their joy for us. It feels like a gift in itself, but I can't quite meet them on that optimistic territory - I just stand there smiling nervously and saying, "Yes, fingers crossed". And I think for a second - am I actually pregnant? Or have I just made a silly mistake? And I have to prod my belly surrepticiously, feeling for that taut roundness of womb.
Because, as amazing as it is to be pregnant again and to be feeling those first flutters, I have no illusions that this is a done deal. Knowing how many things could still go wrong (and have gone wrong for other babies I know of) makes it all the more precious. That bit is true, even if a small corny word doesn't capture the tenderness of it. But there's still a part of me that wants to save the celebrations until this chicken is well and truly hatched.
Zainab would nearly be two by now. Most of the babies who were belly-side with her are now speaking, playing games, running on sturdy small feet and learning to crack tantrums. Our street is lush with roses at the moment. I lean right in to smell them, crush the petals to my lips and talk quietly to my baby daughter. Her star has reappeared, now in a different part of the sky. The ritual of missing her is built into my life now - I stand at the dresser and consult her serious sleeping baby face on which brooch to wear, which earrings. When things are hard, I sigh "Oh Khallila" for her comisserations.
So many cues are interwoven with the missing of her. Wind in the gum tops makes me picture her as snugglepot and cuddlepie bush baby, learning to sing magpie warbles. The startling orange-red of pomegranate flowers against grass green leaves - those are the colours I wear for her. Poems, comic topiary, haloumi cheese, earrings - my link to her is cobbled together from so many little things. Even the little time I hive away for writing or art - this is a part of my life she reawakened in her short path through it. And every bit of being pregnant reminds me of her - suddenly I can recognise myself again as the mother-body who housed her. I'm becoming familiar with this mosaic-daughter, pieced together from so many small reminders and memorial acts. But I still hanker for her wholeness, and the thought of her dark-haired small form moving and making noise.
Image from here.