I think it’s safe to write that my daughter-in-law is expecting.
Anyone who doesn’t already know (or whom she may not wish to know for perfectly reasonable reasons of her own) is probably not a regular reader of this blog.
So I can tell you, dear readers, I feel excited about this new family member. I also feel guilty. I am behind on my deadlines. Over 4 years ago, I started an online journal called letters to my unborn granddaughter. I wanted to tell her the history of herself. I wanted to speak my excitement across the years to the ear of the newborn, the toddler, the kidlet (where we are now), the adolescent, the young adult… all her glorious selves. I wanted to give her the truth too. And that became a stumbling block. Soon after she was born, my son and his then-partner split up.
The struggle that followed is an uncomfortable truth my granddaughter has a right to know. It is part of her history. But those are not the bedtime stories a grandmother wants to write. And the sense she makes of the years that followed are her own story to write. We do not need a journalist, even a loving grandmotherly one, to irritate us with the facts of things that cannot be changed. What would be the value of a story that flew in the face of a new revisionist family history? To fill her backpack with the enemy truth and send her back into the camp of deniers?
There is a myth that there are two sides of every story. There aren’t. There are a hundred perspectives. There are things that are hidden or seen only from certain angles. But things happen. They are as they are. People did what they did. The story of three blind men who touch the elephant’s leg, trunk and tail and say “An elephant is like a tree.” “No, like a snake.” “No, like a broom.” is missing the point. Regardless of what you see, there is only one elephant.
I could draw it for you, dearest. Legs, trunk and tail. Cracked gray skin. Warm grassy breath. But the elephant in the room is this: my stories are answers to a question you didn’t ask.
Ask me anything. I will tell you everything.
Now there is another love, another baby to be. A little brother or sister, a regal sibling to her Imperial Highness, the Empress of my heart.
This new woman chose to be my granddaughter’s other mother and is choosing to become a mother new/again. First/second. She welcomes me into her life and is inviting me to be at the bedside of the birth, to share in every sonogram and every pregnancy milestone. She has even invited me to name the baby, to offer my middle name selections. She could not be more sweet. She is everything I could ask for in a daughter-in-law and in a mother to my grandbabies. My heart breaks for her that she will always be the second woman. That this radiant pregnancy must fall partly in the shadow of the one that came before.
But in time, those tragedies of “before” will be planks in the bridge that brought us here to new steady ground and not hold the ash of fear in my mouth and in her husband’s. We are going someplace new with this their first/second baby. Someplace bright enough to drive the shadows back into memory (where they belong.)
She loves my writing. This first/second woman. For her, I want to keep a new journal. For her, I want to shake the fear out of my pen. It’s already long-overdue.
Letter to my unborn grandchild,
No one could love you more than we do. My darling, my monster, my bear-cub, my wolf-ling, gummy bear, tadpole, King/Queen of Everything and applet of Grandma’s eye. We are so looking forward to meeting you. We are looking forward. You will never be second in our hearts.