From Pink to Blue
MY ELDEST CHILD recently completed elementary school. On her last day I came to watch the “clap-out,” the annual farewell march of the sixth graders through the school hallways. Students, teachers, and parents lined up to slap palms with the graduates, while a tear-jerky song about friendship played over the intercom. As my daughter came into view, I vowed to fix the image in my memory forever: her slight frame on the verge of young womanhood, her face filled with shy pride.
The event seemed a fitting metaphor for the most recent change in my own life. Expecting my seventh child, I had sensed for months that this baby would be my last. Physically and emotionally, I felt differently than I had in pregnancies past—not just tired, but spent, as if I were draining the very dregs of my resources. And spiritually, I was sure that this new creature was Anna, the daughter whom I'd received so many impressions about, the child who would bring closure to the family and mark the end of my reproductive career. I even had a blanket ready—an incredibly soft pink bundle, bought as a token of hope after last year's miscarriage. Everything seemed set. My eldest daughter was passing the cafeteria and the library and the office for the last time, ready to close one chapter of her life and open another. And as my youngest daughter formed within me, I was also making an end and a beginning. I loved the parallels.
A few weeks later I saw unmistakable boy parts on the ultrasound monitor.
Funny how quickly confidence can unravel into confusion. I had dug the pink blanket out from its hiding place, figured out the bedroom assignments for four sons and three daughters, picked the nursery colors. I had told dozens of people that this was my maternal swan song, even if the baby turned out to be a boy (which surely wouldn't be the case). Then change rushed in with its dual offerings of gain and loss. The gain was tremendous: a son! And the loss? Small by comparison, yet sharp: my tidy plan, and my sense of surety, were gone.
Parts of the plan have been easily reconstructed. It took a few days for me to acknowledge that I have received spiritual inklings about this son, that I know his name, that he belongs. It took a few more days to make new sleeping arrangements. But I don't know what to do with my lingering daughter-thoughts. Should I put them back in the closet, along with their matching blanket, to wait? Were my impressions real, or imagined? Am I done, or am I not? Neither option feels right. And the only answer I can grasp is that I need to wait and see.
Don't get me wrong. I've got plenty of rosy feelings about the little guy pummeling my internal organs all day and night. But like my sixth-grade graduate, who came home from the clap-out, slumped in a kitchen chair, and tried not to cry, I've got mixed emotions about this mixed bag of change. Facing ambiguity in the wake of shining certainty has left me feeling . . . well, a bit blue.
Reading this issue of Segullah, I realize I'm not alone in my wrestle with contradictions. Here I've met women facing painful goodbyes and ripped-up houses, new career options and new life stages, physical limitations and spiritual dilemmas. It seems that no matter what the size, shape, or flavor of a given transition, there tend to be common elements. Old ways collide with new circumstances. There are things to grasp, and things to relinquish. Desires bump relentlessly against the requirement to wait for clarity or resolution. And always, there are gains to be had, as well as losses to be endured. It's comforting to remember that all the facets of my current bout of limbo are normal.
My daughter starts junior high next week. As I get out the blue blankets, I wonder what surprises will be coming her way, what adjustments she will need to make. I see her excitement and apprehension as she heads off into the great unknown. And I realize we're making a parallel journey after all.
Kathy is editor of Segullah.