We're halfway there. 20 weeks into our 40 week pregnancy, I'm still working on balancing my hope against my fears, but every day seems to be a little easier. My belly is growing, faster than it grew with Gabriel. The growth is at once comforting and unnerving - I didn't grow this quickly with Gabriel, but maybe that's a good sign.
Halfway there, I find myself living on prayers, the silent whispers of my heart that I can't hide from God. I hope for a baby boy, whom I can watch grow and do all of the baby boy things that I never got to see Gabriel do. I hope for a little brother for my son. And I hope for a baby girl to dress in the pretty clothes I've collected in my hope chest over the years. The uncertainty of this rainbow baby's gender has provided me with twice the hope, easing some of the pain from having my hopes crushed at about this point during my pregnancy with Gabriel. Where my dreams for Gabriel's future were destroyed so suddenly, the hope this time is being stretched to its limits as I wait for this baby's birthday when he or she will finally be revealed as my son or daughter.
I have not-so-silent prayers, too. Although Gabriel taught me to live in the moment, his short life also taught me to dream big, and bold, and with specificity. I prayed for five very specific things when Gabriel's diagnosis was confirmed: For his live birth when 25% of babies like him are stillborn; for a chance to formally baptize him in the Church, though Ben and I baptised him with tap water from the sink in our delivery room; for a chance to bring him home from the hospital - my eyes still flood with tears as I recall being rolled in a wheelchair through the halls of Memorial hospital on that sweet summer day, June 12, 2011; for a chance to introduce him to Gideon, my other mighty warrior; and I prayed for hair, locks of hair to touch and stroke during his short life, and to save as a keepsake when my time with him on earth was through. When Gabriel was born with a circle of soft, long, blonde hair covering the parts of his skull that did develop, I distinctly recall thinking, "Well, I guess I never did ask for brown hair."
When Gabriel's diagnosis was confirmed, I stopped asking God if I could keep him, I stopped asking God to spare my son's life. I accepted the cross I had been delivered and said, "If You must take my son, please let me have these things before You do," and I'm so grateful that I changed my prayers because those memories are the ones that carry me when the longing for Gabriel becomes desparate. I'm unashamed now to admit that I hope for a baby, a boy or a girl, who is healthy and whole and will live a long life - and who has green eyes. Since I've wanted to have children - And I can't remember a time in my life when I didn't want to have children - I've had a vain and superficial wish for a child with green eyes, like my Grandpa's.
God knows my offspring and I tend to beat the odds, but common sense still tells me that I've got to give the odds something to work with. Green eyes are the product of a recessive chromosome. I don't need to have green eyes, nor does Marcos, for Rocco to have them. But we've got to have them somewhere in our bloodline. It helps to be able to point directly to my maternal grandfather and paternal aunt for evidence of the green-eyed chromosome. You can imagine my delight, then, when meeting Marcos' extended family this weekend for the first time at a birthday party, only to learn that he has three aunts and an uncle with green eyes too. My odds just increased.
As the party went on and my social inhibitions faded, I found myself conversing with these people who were not only Marcos' family, but who are Rocco's family too, and now mine through Rocco. Their pride in Marcos and the wonderful man that he is was evident. Their joy at the impending addition to their family was clear, too. I am more confident than ever that Rocco, boy or girl, green or brown eyes, will be surrounded by love. I've learned that love is the only thing we can promise to our children, and Rocco will never be without it. Never.
Still, green eyes would be nice.
Having hit that halfway point, having confirmed that Rocco does not have anencephaly, having verified once again that I am blessed to have Marcos by my side, I can almost feel this baby in my arms. Two and a half years ago I held my heart in my hands and watched it beat for the last time, but before long I will hold my beating heart again, in answer to the prayer that has remained most steadfast inside of me.