There’s a big blue house directly across the street from us where a happy family of 4 lives together. During our pregnancy with Poppy, Eli and I watched with excited longing as the mother and father duo navigated life with their one year old son. We paid attention like students in class — we’d be A+ parents soon enough.
If you’ve read any of my previous posts, you know Poppy didn’t make it home from the hospital. Then last December, deeply in shock from her death, I noticed the mother across the street looked pregnant.
Our two houses are separated by a busy, narrow street. We see them come and go in their driveway almost daily. I remember nervously asking Eli if he’d noticed her bulging belly. We lamented our fate knowing the exposure we’d endure as her pregnancy progressed.
Months past and the weather warmed and her belly grew. Sometimes I’d shut the shades to stop staring and to hide from my own jealousy. We’d never met this family and they were oblivious to our pain.
Sometimes I wondered if they ever asked themselves: “What happened to their baby?” If we can see them come and go, certainly they can see us too.
There were days after Poppy died when I fantasized about walking over and knocking on their door. “Our baby was stillborn,” I’d say. “In case you were wondering. I wasn’t a surrogate and we didn’t put her up for adoption. She died,” I’d say. And the unsuspecting neighbor would stand there in dismay not knowing what to say to the crazy lady at the door.
But I never did that. And despite my fantasies, I wasn’t crazy. Still I wonder if they ever thought about us and what we were suffering. Did they see us the day we loaded Poppy’s changing table, bassinet and stroller into a truck to take to a storage unit? Did they see us the night we packed up the diapers and baby wipes and nursing bras to return to Target? Somehow I doubt it.
I watched her belly grow. She looked uncomfortable, as they say, and struggled to bend over to pick up her toddler. We waited anxiously for the day they would bring their new baby home.
Then one summer day the grandparents showed up and I knew it meant she was in labor. The older, unfamiliar couple tried to manage their unruly grandchild as he jumped around in the driveway. He wasn’t listening. The grandparents looked exhausted. The baby was certainly coming.
It was a heartbreaking relief when the parents and newborn pulled into the driveway 2 days later. Everyone survived.
The husband walked around the car and opened the door for his wife. She dropped her feet onto the pavement and slowly scooted to stand up. He stooped into the back seat and removed the car seat. There was a baby inside. They turned to go. She hobbled up their front steps, her stance wide. The walk of a woman sore from giving birth.
Their baby made it. Like most babies. Thank goodness.
It’s December again. A year has past. Yesterday I sat at my desk on the phone with a friend. As we talked I gazed out the sliding glass windows into my garden patio. Beyond our wooden fence I can see this family’s Christmas Tree.
I noticed a bobbing silhouette, then with rapped attention I watched as mommy and baby danced together around the tree. Tiny feet soared into the air as she tossed baby in her arms. To me it looked like the happiest moment in history.
I could hear their laughter. I could feel their love. I could hear her thoughts: “This is what life is all about…warm home…decorated tree…precious happy baby in my arms.”
I got up and shut the shades. I want what I don’t have. I am a mother without those happy moments. Sometimes I’m surprised by how much this still hurts.