I go back to prenatal yoga and Joseph’s absence is everywhere.
I already know what I am going to say. As we go around the room, the other women share how many weeks, boy or girl, first or second and how old their little girl or boy at home is. I have thought about this since the day Joseph was born. Fixated on it. Wondering how in the world I would ever talk about my son’s death. If I would even want to. What would feel like a lie, and what would feel like just enough of my story.
I say my name, that I’m 16 weeks, that this is my second.
The teacher, who is wonderful, who knows all about Joseph, moves on.
The second week I am back I tell them I think we’re going to find out if it’s a boy or girl and not tell anyone else. The room erupts in conversation as the other women tell stories of people they know who. They all imagine it will be so hard. They say things like, Oh, well, you’ll have to be careful how you decorate the nursery, and, You’ll still have to shop neutral colors. They don’t know these things don’t matter to me. They don’t know I think it will be easy to lie because I don’t want to talk about this pregnancy much anyway.
Throughout class, the women talk about what their toddlers at home will be for Halloween. I thought last Halloween was going to be our last without children, I remember, and am surprised I had forgotten.
I think about how I started going to prenatal yoga last October, at 20 weeks. How strange it was for me to be in a room full of pregnant women, bellies of all sizes sitting awkwardly in our laps.
Now, this year, it is familiar, yet strange for different reasons. I have mostly avoided pregnant women for the past ten months. I look the other way when I pass the two other pregnant teachers at my school. One of them is due a week before me. I haven’t spoken to her since I found out. I am afraid of all this talk about pregnancy, about babies coming, as if it’s a sure thing.
The yoga women talk about their first labors. I chime in sparingly, afraid they will stop and ask me a question about the baby I gave birth to. Where is he. How old is he. He would be ten months, I think. And yet, he wouldn’t have been. He would have been nine months old, if he’d lived, if he hadn’t been born early. And I wouldn’t be pregnant now, again, so soon.
How strange it is that I am pregnant twice within a year. I am careful to avoid using indicators of time when I speak.
At the beginning of every class, the teacher reads us a birth story. The women from yoga who have already given birth send them to her. As she reads, she explains things to us, educates us about the specifics of this and that. She used to be a labor and delivery nurse; she’s seen it all.
I think, after my second week back, that going to prenatal yoga is kind of like cognitive behavioral therapy. Talk of pregnancy and labor and birth in small doses in a safe space. Reminders of the hospital: fetal heart monitors, nurses, dilation, effacement, induction. Reminders of the early signs of labor I never experienced. The hospital bag I never got to pack.
I decide this immersion therapy is good for me. Good to focus on the changes in my body. Good to be reminded to breathe. Good to strengthen my muscles and practice opening.
Good to remember that I’m carrying a baby. A baby, who is alive today, whose heartbeat I chase every few days with the Doppler and tap out with my toe, not counting, but putting the rhythm in my body where I will remember it.
My body remembers.
It remembers the way to bend forward with enough space for my growing belly. It remembers holding a squat, breathing hard, lifting my abdominals around the baby to support it. It remembers to lunge wide, to put my hands on the inside of my knee, not to arch up too far or my skin and muscles and ligaments will stretch painfully.
And it remembers the weight of Joseph, where he sat, the way I moved with him and around him.
In savasana I put my hand on my belly and try to bond with this baby, to think of it growing and wiggling in my belly where I can’t yet feel it. And all I think of is Joseph. His absence. I don’t want this baby, I want Joseph, my firstborn, my little boy.
I go home and climb in A’s lap and sob.
© Burning Eye