To have an elastic heart. Just that phrase strikes a place deep in my gut, in my throat and between my eyes. I know my pliable heart and how it can grow and stretch. Sometimes if I’m alone, which truly isn’t often, I roll the windows down and I turn the music up as loud as I can stand it and I hear that phrase over and over and I cry because my heart is so open, so expandable. I am only now learning it’s limitless possibilities.
We talked about having a second child for a long time. I think we both knew that we wanted one but it was taking the plunge, pulling the trigger, being the person who said, now is the time. No one wanted to be that person and I think we hoped for an accident. A happy little incident that we would then get used to. But that didn’t happen. We had to choose and a few months later I found out I was pregnant again. I imagined a carbon copy of my little girl. Imagining the same birth, the same child, the same experience. And then during the twenty week ultrasound, we found out that it was a boy. And my mind was absolutely, completely blown. I realized only then that this baby was a completely new person. Before I had Nola, I remember wanting a baby. It was so simple to me. I wanted a baby. I know it sounds so strange but I never thought about her growing up, becoming a person. I was so shocked when she was born and I immediately began to see a personality, a soul separate from mine. I don’t think you can truly anticipate that feeling. And with my little guy I tried. I tried to imagine this new human that I would love as much as I love my wild bright girl. And I couldn’t. I was so busy with caring for my big toddler that I really didn’t have as much time to connect with him in utero like I had with her. No long chats, or singing or books just for him and as his due date approached, I was plagued with feelings of guilt. I was not a good mother, I thought. I did not have room in my heart for another.
The labor came two weeks late and I thought that it would be easy. I know how laughable that is. That because he was my second that I in some way knew what was coming my way, that my body would remember and i suppose shoot him out after a single push. I remember going to the birthing center and being told that I hadn’t progressed and I realized that I would have to work for this baby just as I had my first. And I came home, got in the shower and sobbed. I sobbed for my little girl to lose her position as an only child, I sobbed for myself for the labor I knew was coming and I sobbed for the baby who was coming into a family not ready for him. And the tears and the water got things going like they always do and within an hour the labor was strong and I was in transition and heading back to the birthing center.
I squated and worked my way to pushing and I remembered how hard pushing is. And my doula gave me a mantra to work with: this is the way out. This is the path to the other side. With each strong surge I would chant to myself, this is the way out. This is the path. My sweet beautiful Hugo was born. He fell from me and the midwife handed me his giant heavy body, almost twelve pounds of boy. His face all swollen and blue from vernix and he was magic and I felt my heart break and expand. A physical pain in my heart like labor as it made room for him and I instantly loved him. There was all the space in the world for the big baby boy who snuggled in close grunting and struggling like a bear cub. My sleepy toddler arrived holding daddy’s hand while I was being stitched up and found me sniffing the baby’s head like an addict, squishing his chubby arms and legs and kissing his little cheeks with a delirious giggle. She was tired and grumpy and it wasn’t until the next day that she really saw him. I have a photo that I love of Shane and Nola holding the baby. Hair all crazy and she is looking at him and I can tell she is seeing what I see. The sparkle of new love. The painful, wild feeling of an elastic heart expanding and of a family making room. Like a universe with a new planet and a home with a new room and a stretch in our hearts shaped just like him.