Last weekend, we put our memories to rest in a tupperware container tucked below a rock on a hillside in a nature preserve. Embryo 10 was among them in a metal-tipped catheter inscribed with our medical record number and the date it first entered storage: 08/06/2011. Embryo 10: The baby we only ever got to know in our imaginations.
Before we did, we let you hold it, and we told you the story of how the essence of you lived this once in a little blue straw, pinched at the end and marked with the number “9.” The reason some other kid wasn’t holding the memory of you that day had everything to do with natural selection and that scientist’s determination that embryonic you was of superior quality to “10” and, therefore, would be more likely to result in a viable pregnancy.
I don’t know about that, but I got pregnant. And I was glad.
Now you won’t remember our talk or the way I told you I was happy you were “9.” And maybe, someday, when I recollect for you that day in the forest, you’ll think it sounds kind of strange: burying memories the way some folks bury their dead. Mostly, though, I hope you find it sort of beautiful.
We made a long paper chain and, on each link, penned the names of babies we’d lost or decided not to know because we were content with our family of three. On each end, we attached additional links to represent your dad and me. And then we counted to the middle and added a third for you. Whether by the hand of the Great and Powerful G-d or some cosmic coincidence or nothing of the sort, and without any forethought or advance planning, the middle link belonged to your one-time womb mate, “Zoe.” I might have been surprised. But I wasn’t. Not even a little.
We said Mourner’s Kaddish and asked G-d to bring us peace from Heaven, but the truth is, kid, sometimes I think we make our own. And that’s precisely what we did that day. We returned to a place of hopelessness and despair and chose to see it differently. It was different. Because we were.
This time, we were your parents.
In parting, you babbled a string of consonants and vowels that might have been a beautiful eulogy or a lot of nonsense. And we waved “bye-bye” to Embryo 10 and that place and the box full of memories that first made us Mama, Papa and Elbee. And we wandered down that hillside, Dad and I wondering out loud how our mystery became a baby and then a toddler like you.
Probably, it had something to do with time. And long naps in a rocking chair. Midnight bottles. Lullabies. Diaper explosions. Sickness. Health. Trips to the beach. The best laid plans. Splishy-splash. Boynton books. “Soggy Froggy.” Tweet, tweet goes the birdie! Carriage rides. The Cookie Monster. First flights. Petting puppies. Dance parties. Day care. Swings. Slides. Swim class. Beebo. Nature. Maybe even your mom and dad.
We did it, baby girl. And probably we’re just getting started.
Happy birthday, Elbee K.