And then to the sky beyond

img_2847

Emmeline and I were sitting in the lazy afternoon sunshine, almost directly behind the left field foul pole, and I was telling her about the end of The Natural, pointing up to the stadium scoreboard and the light stands, waving my arms and telling her about the lightning and the bat, about Roy Hobbs and one epic home run — great shards of broken glass falling like fireworks and how the air must have smelled of filament and sulphur and something electric.

She tilted her head toward the enormous bank of lights above us, and I paused for a moment, trying to decipher whatever dilemma she was working over behind those eyes. A vendor hawking peanuts screamed, “Hot salty nuts!” A few brave seagulls circled overhead, ready to pounce on abandoned hot dog buns. At home plate, a player ripped a ball into right field. The crack made its way to our seats a second later. And still the girl stared, aiming a furrowed brow at perfectly intact light banks and watching what I imagined must be an invisible spectacle of fireworks, popping and falling just for her.

“Like cosmic rays,” she finally whispered.

“You mean the falling glass?”

“Uh huh, cosmic rays — like fairy dust!”

Everything comes down to fairy dust.

Through the eyes of a four year old, everything is laced with magic — the impossibility of flight made possible by the invisible, by belief.

I had told her just a few days earlier about cosmic rays, and sitting there in the sunshine, the muted sounds of a ball game surrounding us, I smiled quietly at the path of her thoughts.

For fun, I attend planetarium lectures, and at the latest one, the astrophysicist gave a talk about cosmic rays, these invisible particles that wheel through space and collide with our atmosphere, creating proton showers that fall on our shoulders nearly every second. No one really knows where these galactic rockets come from — maybe the remnants of super novae, or the magnetic ebb and flow of black holes; the lecturer said she was trying to figure it out — but somehow these tiny particles accelerate too fast for their own galaxies and shoot toward our own. When that one infinitesimal particle collides with just one particle in Earth’s upper atmosphere, some strange dark magic occurs and billions of points of light are created. The lecturer was explaining how those particles fall in wide, sparkling showers and I’m sitting in my chair, my head tilted toward her presentation, and I’m thinking of a little girl back at home in bed, probably dreaming about the exact same thing.

“Like fairy dust,” she whispered the next day, when I told her what I had learned. We were walking home from preschool, edging along the balance beam of sidewalk gutter, when she stopped and tilted her head toward the blue sky. She tentatively put a hand out, palm up, as if to catch a ray. Suddenly she jumped.

“Ooooh!” she squeaked, “I caught one!”

For the next few blocks, she stopped every couple of steps. A smile would escape her lips and her eyes would light up like fireworks themselves. She’d grab my arm or thrust a hand out, as if to stop my progress.

“Did you feel that?” she’d whisper, taking a few more steps, “Did you feel that?”

So it didn’t surprise me when, after my story at the ballpark, she suddenly put her hand out and began to feel again for the rays and the fairy dust. Pretty soon, she was making a show of catching the falling space particles and sprinkling them over her head, as if she was seasoning herself with invisible salt.

“When I get enough,” she told me, her eyes suddenly wide and unblinking, “I can fly!”

I looked at the detritus of food at her feet, peanut shells and a hot dug bun smeared with congealed ketchup, and I turned to see her lips colored blue by cotton candy chemicals — her eyes wild by sugar and the notion of flight, and I wanted to say, “I think you’re high enough as it is.” Instead I smiled and nodded, asking where she might go when she gathers enough dust.

For the next inning, she filled me in on her travel plans while I tried to watch the action on the field. Occasionally I’d catch words like “Pegasus” or “Neverland” and I’d nod or steal glances at her hands as they pretended to fly.

“Daddy did you hear me?” she said suddenly.

“What?”

“Sister,” she repeated.

Emme had never sat through an entire baseball game before, and I must have grown too comfortable in the sun and the seat. A year ago, she would have demanded a trip to the ballpark slides — huge metal tubes slicing through an enormous Coke bottle just beyond the left field bleachers — or maybe a chance to hit a Whiffle ball in the Tot Lot every other inning. But this year, she was content to sit for long stretches and pretend to fly, while I zoned out and apparently caught an afternoon cat nap. I swiped a hand over my mouth, checking it for drool, and then I sat up straight in my seat, wondering how long she’d been repeating the question.

“Daddy did you hear me?” she asked again, “When am I going to have a sister?”

“I don’t know, kiddo,” I told her, “One of these days.”

“Yeah, but when?”

I turned my attention to the sea beyond the stadium. We were sitting so high up that you could see the bridges lacing the horizon and the container ships lugging into port.

“I don’t know,” I told her again, and there was probably too much of something heavy and unidentifiable in my voice that she stopped asking and instead contemplated the water with me.

If you had told me four years ago that I’d ever want another baby, I never would have believed you. I remember sitting in her nursery in those first brutal weeks, listening to her wail, and it pained me to think we might have made a mistake. It was not supposed to be like that. But days passed, weeks. Full years went by, and this kid grew up and learned to roll over, smile. She learned to talk. We celebrated birthdays, felt joy in her achievements, sorrow for her pain and shame for some of the things she’s done. But this kid. Some days I want to scream for all her ceaseless jibber jabber and whine-on-a-dime tantrums. And some days I want to wrap her body in my arms and never let her go.

This feels like a sorrow for the selfish. We have one incredible baby already — shouldn’t I just be happy for what we have?

But I look at her sometimes and know what’s possible. I think of all the times I wake her up, her face dreamy and unclouded by worry. I think of every evening when I brush her hair after bath. She fools around with a toothbrush, mostly humming, and then we trade brushes. Just the other day, after I finished with her teeth, I waited until she sipped water to rinse and then I honked like a goose in her ear. She spit water on the mirror and I could see water gushing out of her nose, and we crumpled into a heap of laughter, our arms holding each other up. The next day she bleated like a sheep, and we collapsed into each other again at the sight of milk running out of my nose.

Sometimes when she’s at school, I turn to tell her something and have to swallow the words. When she gets home, we curl into her chair and plow through a chapter book, her tiny body curled into my own, her breath warm on my fingers holding the book. One day I had to send a quick email after we got home, and I came downstairs to see her curled up in a new chair my mom had gotten for her — a child-sized rocker to fit right next to my own reading chair. She held a book upside down, her finger tracing the words.

“Just like daddy,” she smiled, her face so proud.

My life now. It’s so full of magic.

And yet, we’ve been trying to have another baby for so long now, and I never realized I would ache like this, feel this horrible, guilt-soaked longing to have again what is already so great. It can make you crazy. I want to pick up every baby I see and I want to stay away at the same time. Picking them up would feel wonderful. Giving them back would be hell.

“When am I going to have a sister?” she wanted to know.

And I tell her I’d like to know.

From the water, she turned her gaze to the lights again and then to the sky beyond. In the distance, fog rolled over the southern edge of the city but the sky was blue and warm and comfortable above us. She tilted her head back and peered into the vault, scanning the horizon for celestial wrack banging against the stratosphere. Then she turned her gaze toward me again.

“Are they falling right now?” she asked.

“They are,” I nodded.

She smiled and leaned her head back and opened her mouth. She waited a moment and then jumped in her seat.

“Did you feel that?” she giggled.

I nodded again, careful not to let her see my eyes.

“Did you feel that?” she asked, “Did you feel that?”

And I watched her for another long moment before I closed my eyes and tilted my head back, too, as if to share in her tiny drops of magic.

Comments

  1. Lilsmom says:

    I simply don’t have the words.

  2. Thank you so much for sharing. My husband and I have been trying for our first for about 9 months and I was just wondering the other day if it’s as hard for people trying for their second or third.

  3. Christa says:

    Getting pregnant is hard, despite what your high school teachers tell you. It’s heartbreaking, which no one tells you. I wish you, Dana and Emme the best.

  4. debinsf says:

    amazing of you to share this, and so beautifully. My thoughts are with you.

  5. Beautiful, and my heart aches with you. May the fairy dust work its magic.

  6. Very beautiful, Mike. Of course you would want this again, to get to know and love another person that deeply from their very beginning.

    For us, our first child was hard to come by and our second relatively easy. I never felt what you describe when trying for our second kid, but I sure remember it from my first.I hope your baby finds you, and gets a move on already.

  7. Kristen says:

    I’ll keep you in our prayers too. We had a hard time with the second too but it happens!

  8. Wow. Mike, my heart goes out to you and to all the others out there trying to conceive. There are no appropriate words, really. Our first child was easy to conceive. However, our second was so difficult to produce, I wanted to throw in the towel after two miscarriages. I was happy to have an only child – after all, I am an only child and I kind of liked it growing up. (Though as an adult, I wish so badly I had a sibling to share the sadness with of losing a parent, there is no one that can understand that kind of loss other than a sibling). But after 13 months of miscarriages, planned sex – even if we were sicker than dogs at the time, costly ovulation tests (buy them on eBay), costly pregnancy tests (hello Dollar Tree) – we got our positive sign and it was a pregnancy filled with not joy, but the horrible feeling that this could be taken away from me at any moment so I didn’t want to become too attached. Now that our daughter is 9 months old it is hitting me that we had to work so hard for her. I am one of the lucky ones, I know this. My thoughts are with you, it is a tough road to travel.

  9. We’ve been “trying” for years now, which I hate saying because it implies we’ve been having relations like a couple in a steamy movie, when in fact it’s been all very clinical with doctors, so-called fertility specialists, lab tests and misplaced anger at them all. It breaks my heart when my parents ask about “any news?” But thinking of your daughter asking sounds ten times as painful.

    The one thing that makes me insane is all the time I spent trying NOT to become pregnant. Pills & condoms for years, worry, calendars & crossed fingers for the less responsible times. What a jerk I was.

    Here’s hoping your story will have a happy ending.

  10. And I sit here crying. Bleh. You are not selfish. Children are amazing little lights, and it’s totally natural to want more to love…and some little baby will be lucky to meet your loving eyes again one day…I hope for you that’s soon, but I really believe whenever a child comes into your life, that’s the right time, for all sorts of reasons. You might take this time to prepare Emme for the other possibility though…a brother :-) .

  11. Noonesmom says:

    I’m sure it’s hard but you do realize there are people out here struggling to have even one? This was nice and I understand but have some perspective.

  12. Nicely put. And you have every right to share your experience– those who have no children do have a harder road to travel, perhaps, but that does not make yours any less important to you. Thanks for sharing.

  13. Thank you all for such wonderful and amazing words and e-mails — I am reading each one and finding so much comfort. Thank you. I do realize we’re kind of in a different boat and I do get that we have one incredible child already but this is where we’re at, and this is our story. I’m probably not going to write in detail or in depth about what we do next or how we’re doing — it’s just too painful — but I may from time to time put something out there just to get it out. So thanks for listening.

  14. catinsf says:

    Mike, I love your writing. We also had an easy #1 and over a year of trying for #2 with multiple miscarriages. Our son is a year old now. Sometimes I still cry when I hold him, thinking of how I wanted him for so long. (Hope I don’t end up smothering the poor kid) I disagree with previous poster, while all infertility is torturous, waiting for number 2 while you watch the gap between your children grow is a special kind of pain. GOOD LUCK and I hope you’re family is complete very soon. Remember whenever your little one arrives you’ll spend a lot of time thinking “It had to be you”

  15. Thanks for sharing your story. I appreciate your perspective. Good Luck!

  16. This is so beautifully written.

  17. I feel really selfish too. We have two boys. Two magical boys and I can’t stop saying “I just know we’re supposed to meet another you-me” to my husband. It’s been quite some time, and recently I poured it out, told the Internets I was tired of negative tests. I don’t feel right about writing about it all the time, but sometimes I just have to I think, or I’ll explode. So…I get it. I guess that’s what I’m saying. And I thank you for your words because when we tell our stories, it reminds us that we aren’t alone in anything.

  18. Beautifully written. Your daughter is truly magical and wonderful, you and Dana have done a great job to raise her to appreciate all the magic and beauty around her. I am so very sorry for the heartbreak you feel, and you are not being selfish for wanting more, I truly hope and pray that you get your wish.

  19. So beautiful, Mike.

  20. Janelle says:

    I second all the wows and just want you to know we’re with you and keeping you all in our thoughts and prayers. Emme is such a lucky girl, and the next one will be too!

  21. This is so lovely. I’m happy to have found your blog and I look forward to reading more.

  22. Wow. Mike, my heart goes out to you and to all the others out there trying to conceive. There are no appropriate words, really. Our first child was easy to conceive. However, our second was so difficult to produce, I wanted to throw in the towel after two miscarriages. I was happy to have an only child – after all, I am an only child and I kind of liked it growing up. (Though as an adult, I wish so badly I had a sibling to share the sadness with of losing a parent, there is no one that can understand that kind of loss other than a sibling). But after 13 months of miscarriages, planned sex – even if we were sicker than dogs at the time, costly ovulation tests (buy them on eBay), costly pregnancy tests (hello Dollar Tree) – we got our positive sign and it was a pregnancy filled with not joy, but the horrible feeling that this could be taken away from me at any moment so I didn’t want to become too attached. Now that our daughter is 9 months old it is hitting me that we had to work so hard for her. I am one of the lucky ones, I know this. My thoughts are with you, it is a tough road to travel.
    +1

  23. Kim aka Mama Sxia says:

    Hey,

    Just so you know, it’s not selfish to want to witness more miracles. I have to go get Blue Eyes from Preschool and Teddy Bear is sitting between my legs slurping his bottle, trying to wreck my USB port. #1 was very easy for us, and with #2, my best friend and I were trying at the same time. And best friend’s baby– she got pg right after me– was lost. Our kids, who were supposed to be born a few months apart will now be years apart, Blue Eyes being 4 years old when her little one is born. It hurts when things don’t work out as we hoped. But, the world will work out. If you really want it, Emme will have a sister or brother somehow. And if not the traditional way, just because people aren’t our own blood doesn’t mean they’re not family. Other little miracles are around us all the time, and they can be ours even if we don’t own them.

  24. Heather says:

    Mike,

    This is such a beautiful and gut wrenching writing. My heart goes out to all three of you. Did you see this post on Babble?

    http://www.babble.com/pregnancy/conception/secondary-infertility-miscarriages/

    It touches very nicely on all of the conflicting feelings and feedback you may have experienced. I’m wishing you lots more magic. Thank you for sharing.

  25. Cameron says:

    It will happen!

  26. I’m keeping my fingers crossed for you guys! This was just gorgeous and lyrical. Plus it had the natural in it, my fave.

  27. This post brought me to tears. You have such a gift with words and such a patience with your daughter that I envy. Those days of incessant talking and temper tantrums wear on me.

    But the part about a second child? Could have been my very thoughts. We lost our second baby and it’s had me reeling for over a year now. I want so badly to have another, to hold a newborn yet again, to give my daughter a sibling. However, we have issues that are preventing that, issues both physical and mental. I think I need some of that magic.

  28. You are so lucky with your little Emme and I know you know that. But it’s perfectly acceptable to feel this, of course it is! And please don’t let anyone tell you otherwise and good luck!

  29. Again Mike…
    You have such a way with words. The best time in my life is watching my kids with my husband. I remember trying to get pregnant with my son, Nico. We tried for SO long. We finally said…let’s just take some time off and give “timing” a rest. Sure enough, two months later I was pregnant! Sometime’s when your life is stressful, and you “try” too hard…it does’t happen. Not sure what your situation is, but I am sure it will happen for you eventually! You are a great father who is completely devoted to his family. That is so rare these days. Your wife is a very lucky lady. I am sure she knows that! Good Luck to you Mike! Shannon

  30. You are, of course, allowed /entitled to feel pain while knowing you are blessed. Isn’t that they way it is with most of us?

    My kids are 4 years apart and my little brother is 7.5 yrs younger than me and I know from experience that there are many wonderful things about having children several years apart. Not the least is that the older one can pour the younger one a bowl of cereal in the morning while the folks sleep.

    Man, you are a talented guy. You can sew children’s clothes AND write like this?!?! Jealous.

  31. This is tragically poetic, although not really a tragedy at all, I know, just kind of sad and hopeful. We’re pulling for you!

  32. Heather says:

    What beautiful writing, and what a beautiful father daughter relationship. We too struggled for years to bring a second child home. There were miscarriages, a stillbirth, and months and months of negative tests. All that time our daughter kept getting older. Now I have a squirmy 5 month old on my lap, and I can say that I would go through all the hardship and tears 100 times over to hear my girls giggling together. Fairy dust indeed.

  33. Jennie W. says:

    My husband worried the whole time I was pregnant, panicked at the thought that his daughter wouldn’t like him, that she would like me more because I had the boobs and because I was a girl too. I assured him time and time again that every little girl thinks that her dada is the funniest, smartest, cleverest, handsome-est, best dada in the whole, wide world. I knew because that’s what I thought of my dada; I thought he was Elvis and Superman in one. Now, the way they stare into each other’s eyes, my baby and her dada, they see stars. She knows her dada is magic.

    Mike, you feel this magic now with your baby girl, and you will feel twice as much when your next baby finds you…

Trackbacks

  1. niko says:

    Just beautiful.

  2. Grace says:

    Heart breaking for you guys. You sure do have a winner on your hands but I know it’s painful and will keep you in my prayers.