In the Southern Hemisphere, summer is making her entrance in the style of an old-fashioned burlesque striptease. Waving its feathered fans, its sequins glinting, summer flashes us with promises of days by the beach and sundrenched skin before it retreats behind cloud cover with a coy smile. Normally I am a big fan of summer wasting no time; I want it to arrive shaking and shimmying, leaving nothing to the imagination. This season, I am grateful to have the summer delay its pleasures. At the time of writing this I am three weeks away from giving birth to our third and final child. The heat, when it arrives, causes me to expand. I move like a weighted sponge from bathroom to computer to couch, grumbling about how “I can’t wait to get my body back!” And then my unborn son moves like a secret language beneath my skin. It causes me to go still, to put my hand on my belly and wait for more. These are the moments I will miss once my son is born.
As the due date approaches, my husband and I have been reflecting on the transformations we have gone through since our first child was born five years ago. We are curious to meet our third addition because of how relaxed we have been this pregnancy. We have this theory that there is a connection between the life events we were going through during each of the previous pregnancies, and the personalities of our other two children. With our firstborn son, Sol, we were overwhelmed with the changes and impending responsibility of becoming parents. We responded by trying to prepare ourselves in a very orderly way: We read books. We set up schedules. We wrote out plans and resolutions. Our son has proven to be an embodiment of our most organized and lawful tendencies. He thrives in structure and schedules. He has an innate sense of right and wrong and he is happiest when the world falls into its proper categories. His courage and loyalty fills us with pride. We see strength in him that teaches us to walk a little straighter along the lines of our own convictions, to speak with more honesty, to think with greater clarity.
During the second pregnancy, we had settled into our parenting skins a little more. We were making big moves toward the life we had been dreaming of – most of them requiring a great deal of faith. We sold and bought a house, fulfilling a long-standing dream of living by the ocean. We had very little furniture, only enough money to cover the basics, but we were taking actions to not settle for less. Knowing that I was going to have a daughter, I was thinking about what it meant to become a role model to a little girl. I ended up in the hospital with Zaviera due to a placental tear and during that time I wrote her a letter. I listed all of my fears about being a mother to her. I made a promise to myself and to her that I would pursue my dreams without fear so that she would see it was possible. When I was pregnant, I used to refer to Zaviera as “me, only double-strength.” I had the sense of a wild, playful, affectionate child growing inside of me. A being full of imagination and a fearless pounce when it came to participating in life. It was not long after she was born that I won the Writer’s Digest competition and the path of my life changed. Zaviera is everything I imagined during those months of dreaming. She has changed how I understand myself as a woman. She is unapologetically female, vividly alive. Every day with her, she grabs me by the hand and leads me back into the jungle that exists on the underside of my heart.
While our son and daughter seem to hold down fort at the opposite ends of the spectrum – Sol bringing order to Zaviera’s abstract lawlessness and Zaviera bringing dramatic flair to Sol’s literal interpretation of the world – we have the sense that our third child is going to fall somewhere in the middle. During this pregnancy, we have faced our fair share of challenges. My mother was diagnosed with chronic leukemia. After getting used to finally having an ‘adult’ income, my husband was made redundant at his job. During all of this I have been working on my master’s thesis and novel – a task which has seen me through all kinds of ups and downs. But we are relaxed about the arrival of Joaquin. We have been looking back at our lives over the past five years and all that we have achieved. We have been looking at the ways our children have changed us and how this third child feels like a completion to a certain level of that transformation. We have been learning to dance, finding our feet, tuning into the rhythms and now we are ready to let the music take us where it will.
I believe parenthood, from the moment of conception, is a marriage between the music and the dance of our lives. As parents we take turns with our children between being musician and dancer. We inform one another with our rhythms, we interpret those rhythms with our movements. Some years it is a whirlwind dervish, others a ballet. This year, as my child prepares to make his entrance into a season moving without hurry, with a glint of mischief in its eye and a celebration of the humor and the beauty of things, I dream about the stage set before us. I have my red shoes on and I am ready to saunter on to the stage and dance.
A post note: Joaquin is now nearly seven months old, a robust boy already testing the seams of clothing for a one year old. He is everything we imagined: he has a calm, focused intensity, and a glint of continuous merry-making and mischief in his eyes.