Cycles of Life

There is a very faint memory of looking through a glass window in a door and seeing a woman with a baby. Perhaps it was a hospital room and I was looking at my mother with my baby brother. I would have been almost two years old then and someone must have carried me so that I could take a peek. Would such a memory still exist? It isn't very clear but I've had that image in my head for many years. Whoever it was, wherever it was, even though I still carry that memory with me, I suppose it doesn't really matter anymore.

My mother and father posed for a rather formal shot during one of her earlier pregnancies. I think she told us that she was pregnant with her first child, our older sister who later died at five days old. It was a black and white photograph but the roundness of her tummy was clearly evident. My mother was a pretty picture of health and happiness.

A few years ago, I visited a friend at the hospital after she had given birth to her second child. She and I had been rather close at the workplace so I made the effort to visit. More than that. I wanted to visit. I could never visit my own sisters-in-law after they had given birth to my nephews and nieces. And I missed that. A friend's newborn would have to do. I would sometimes see her walking down the corridor at work, very pregnant, and anticipating the birth of her second child.

Another co-worker later arrived and seemed to know what to do when the baby needed to be changed. I stood beside her and watched. Nothing was said - as I felt it wasn't the place nor time for it - but my mind suddenly expanded as I watched her undress the little baby. It wasn't as if I had never seen babies before. But here was an unclothed newborn baby girl. A tiny creature. And I found myself absorbing all this new information about what a newborn baby really looked like. She was tiny. Yet not everything about her was tiny. I had seen newborns before, of course I had. But this was so different. And I realised that I was so inexperienced and so terribly uninformed.

In that happy room, on that happy occasion, I found myself thinking about men who thought nothing of forcing themselves on a helpless baby, tearing away at their innocence, for I knew that such unspeakable crimes had actually been committed. Why would I think about such things? And it troubled me for what did it say about me for even thinking such things?

Maybe my past had no choice but to intrude that very moment. Not that anything sordid happened to me when I was a baby and I doubt if anything did. Those thoughts which passed through my mind as I scrutinised the body of the baby girl were, perhaps, unnecessary. But I can't deny that it never happened. It was a new experience. And during those few moments, it was also a little strange. It was, otherwise, a lovely visit.

Both my mother and my friend - as well as countless women out there - experienced those cycles of life. They were brought into this world, grew up, married, and then it was their turn to give birth to their own offpsring. And I wish I could too.

There are cycles that a woman goes through. And I am aware of the food cravings, the taste buds sometimes yearning for that "special" taste to hit the right spot but it isn't sure what it craves for just yet; the mood swings; discomfort in the stomach; fatigue; tenderness in the breasts; even that certain expectant feeling but one isn't sure what it is that one is expecting for one obviously isn't withchild. The promise of a child, maybe? That it may, or can, happen?

More than a decade ago, when I was still unmarried, I spent time with my sister-in-law when she was pregnant with her first child. She was married to my second oldest brother who was away and I lived with her to keep her company. The experience was pleasant enough. I just wish I had been there to see the birth of my first nephew. Seeing him later as a toddler was precious in itself but I did miss those first days, holding him for the first time as a newborn infant.

In the later stages of her pregnancy, she took my hand and placed it over the side of her stomach as she said she could feel the baby moving around inside. I remember I was a little apprehensive as she took my hand, wondering what on earth she was doing. She was always very open and forthright that way and I wasn't used to that. She was, I think, delighted with what she was experiencing, and wanted to share that moment with me. I sort of understood it then but I was still in a bit of a haze. After all, pregnancies and babies happened to other people, such as my sister-in-law. Even though I would later leave to get married, I never really envisioned it happening to me as well. That is, I don't think I did. And I wonder why I didn't.

But married life soon brought with it thoughts of one's own baby, even if it wasn't actively pursued. No precautions were taken for we didn't believe in it. And even though I sometimes desired it, that sort of intimacy didn't come easily to me. And besides, it hardly ever happened. I was late for a few months but it turned out to be stress and I wasn't pregnant, after all. And unbeknownst to me then, I wouldn't go through that period again of wondering whether I was pregnant or not.

For a while, I was excited. And for a while, I even planned. I decided that I needed advice and information. There was a wealth of reading material out there on the subject and I had to choose one - as I wasn't even expecting yet myself - so I bought the book, What To Expect When You're Expecting. I liked the title. Catchy title, I thought. And it contained tons of information that were relevant to my needs. The book is still in my possession, there, on the shelf. Maybe I'm holding on to some hope, however tiny it is. For it is, indeed, tiny, almost non-existent. And maybe not even worth hoping for.

I envy her, that woman with the swollen belly and the full breasts which will be engorged with mother's milk for her newborn baby, waiting for that child to be born so that she can hold it in her arms for the very first time. I wish you a healthy baby, boy or girl.

I seem to go backwards in time. Instead of imagining getting pregnant, then giving birth, and the baby growing older with each passing year, I imagine a teenager now. Before that, he or she was a child. Before childhood, he or she was an infant. And even way before that, in the very beginning, the baby was in the womb, waiting to be born. During the first years of married life, I did it chronologically for it made sense to fantasise things in order. But not anymore.

Now all I see is the woman's body in the advanced stages of pregnancy. She could be married or even unmarried. And if it were the latter, I know it is not for me to judge. Still, it can be a little painful to be a witness to it. And there were times when it has been somewhat painful, even a little confusing. Maybe, for some, they wanted it to happen. And they made it happen.

The longed-for teenager is now an unborn child, waiting. The woman, too, is waiting. And her body is beautiful. It truly is. I envy her.



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