Tuesday, March 29, 2011

A week without

(This post is inspired by Sharon Longworth's post here at her blog Resistant But Persistent. It got me to thinking about those times in life when the blinders go on and the only focus is the one we turn on ourselves. Thanks Sharon!)

When I was pregnant with my son, now nearly two years old, very early on the doctor was worried I was sure to miscarry. I left his office after a late afternoon appointment trying to scramble to find an open lab that could do more tests. Someone who could confirm or deny.

With all the worry and fear I'd managed to muddle leaving the parking lot and paying the attendant. Had my visit with the doctor gone smoothly I'd have left before the lot closed for the day or I'd have remembered to stop at the cash machine. The attendant asked me for money I didn't have. I was bursting with tears and trying quite literally to save face. He took pity and let me pass without paying. I recall he made some kind of joke meant to soothe me but all I was thinking was, "Please God we want this baby."

It was over---the fear and concern---exactly one week later. There was a tiny heart beating away at the center of an animated inkblot on the ultrasound screen. He lived.

I remember it from time to time, that one week of not knowing, that week without, when we were not sure if we should spill tears or not. Now I'll be chatting with a friend comparing pregnancies and sharing anecdotes and it will hit me that for one week my husband and I were in a state of emotional stasis. Waiting to know if we should pray over a loss or celebrate our fortune. It should be irrelevant because the baby that almost wasn't is now the toddler whose presence fills an entire house. He's a boy who gallops through the day with a laugh and wild limbs akimbo.

I can't assign this non miscarriage to irrelevance. It's not terribly important that for a week things looked bleak. I don't mean to make too much of this. People have suffered real, wrenching losses and I'm very thankful not to have had that experience. But when I look back I wince and realize that one week of new-found empathy, one week of liminal existence was enough to focus my larger outlook on life. It was enough to reinforce a mantra I often forget when trying to guess at the hands dealt to other people despite having only the backs of their playing cards to judge by. I'll never know what is happening in the course of someone else's life. Closed doors don't tell me a thing about what's going on behind them; perhaps it's best to speculate generously. It might be they are having a week without.

I've lived a largely liminal existence. A life of "not yets" during which I've waited for things to pass and new things to come. I've lived in a total (including the homes of each of my divorced parents) of 14 semi-permanent spaces, apartments and houses, and I don't think I'm through. Fourteen homes in 34 years. I've been struck by tragedy and wowed  by miracles behind the doors of those places. I've dreamed things, and resolved things, and started and ended things. I've been on the cusp of the next thing for months at a time.

It's not a settled existence. But who can claim that theirs is? When even something as precious as a new life can teeter on the edge of being for seven days, it's reasonable to assume that our neighbors, friends, and family might be living liminally, on the edge of next. It is reasonable to judge generously.