There is the tedious movement of the last few days of a pregnancy. The summer days well up like drips from a faucet, slowly gathering mass, then hanging there much longer than you thought possible. Maile’s stomach drops as the baby seeks out more space. At night she reaches over and grabs my hand, places it on her stomach in a particular spot, like the placing of a stethoscope. Like someone divining water. She doesn’t even say anything, and we sit there quietly, her eyes closed, my hand feeling the heel, the bottom, the bulging movements.
A sharp kick. She glances at me. Her eyes ask, “Did you feel that?”
I smile. After seventeen years you can have an entire conversation without saying a word. She rolls onto her side. I start reading again. I leave my hand on her stomach until she falls asleep.
* * * * *
The older I get, the more tempered my celebrations. I don’t know if this is good or not. It simply is.
When Cade was born thirteen summers ago, in a small hospital thirty miles outside of London, I basked in the joy of having a son. I could barely comprehend the wonder. My world revolved around the three of us, my small family, my insular world. There was no one else.
Now, five children later, my joy is touched by sadness. When our child is born, I will cry happy tears, yes. But I will also remember my friend’s son Eliot who was not born into life but into death. I will think of our friends for whom another month has come and gone without the pregnancy they so desperately want. I will think of my cousin’s child, born with complications.
I think the older we get, the more mixed up our grief and joy become. I supposed I could sit there, try to pull away all the beads of oil from the water. But there it is. Instead of separating it, I will swirl it around, watch the colors spread.
* * * * *
Sammy pushes on Maile’s stomach.
“Careful, you’ll break her waters!” Maile’s mom says, and we smile. Sammy’s intrigue passes from Maile’s belly to his own. He explores his belly button.
“Can boys break their waters?” he asks, deadly serious. We laugh until our sides hurt. Sam is rather pleased with himself.
* * * * *
Maybe we’re not meant to separate the joy from the sorrow. During Jesus’ long monologue in John about love, he interrupts himself to say that if we remain in his love, our joy will be full. Not pure joy. Not unadulterated joy. Full.
Which begs the question, “Full of what?”
Maybe full joy is a joy full of sorrow and grief and happiness and satisfaction and love and everything else, whatever it takes. Maybe full joy is like the movement of a baby still inside or the movement of summer days just before the labor begins.