Between Quiet and White

Dear Minna,

I’m writing this a week before your due date. Let’s call “39 weeks” the eve of your birth, just for rounding purposes. Like your sisters, I don’t expect to see you until about a week after your due date, though I remain hopeful you could surprise me. There have been many surprises this pregnancy: a mix of straightforward and “…Really?” smaller inconveniences and mild small issues. Now that I’m at the end, I feel surprised by the two strongest emotions I have: the feeling I could go on for weeks if you needed me to, and the intractable sense of relief that this really is it and I never have to do it again. I thought Moira would be my last, but there was none of the accompanying sureness, that knowing that “Yes, this really is it. We’re done, now. Our family is complete.” Now, though, there is. You’ve made us complete.

Three little girls. What a lovely, lovely gift.

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These last weeks pass slowly, but I know well enough now that for all that these days drag on, I’ll blink and you’ll be as old as your sisters, walking and talking and the years will have flown. That will be the end of babies and small people, and we’ll move on to the next stage. As anxious as I am to meet you and begin our new lives with you in it, I’m just as anxious to slow down and feel each kick, relish each round of fetal hiccups because before I realize what’s happened it will be done. I’m sure I’ll feel differently once I’m in the throes of newborn boot camp, but I hope I remember how much it hurts my heart right now to hear people vent and complain about the perfectly baby-ish baby things that their babies do. Your needs and rhythms are set by clocks millennia older than I am, and it’s my job to respect the fact that the primal instincts in your body know nothing of minivans and preschool schedules and gymnastics class. I don’t know if I’m any more mature or wise than when I had your biggest sister, but I hope I can at least remember that: you’re new here, and perhaps the only other gift I can give you besides my love is the grace to understand just how new you really are.

Of course, I haven’t totally refrained from a little whinging. Last time I did this, I was 27 and now I’m nearly 32. You wouldn’t think that four years in the prime of your life would matter so much, but it did. The pelvic pain, the back pain, the exhaustion were all more significant this time around. Luckily, I stumbled on this piece on Mothering and it soothed every ache, at least for a moment: The Last Days of Pregnancy.

Germans have a word, zwischen, which means between. I’ve co-opted that word for my own obstetrical uses. When I sense the discomfort and tension of late pregnancy in my clients, I suggest that they are now in The Time of Zwischen. The time of in between, where the opening begins. Giving it a name gives it dimension, an experience closer to wonder than endurance.

I tell these beautiful, round, swollen, weepy women to go with it and be okay there. Feel it, think it, don’t push it away.

It’s a serious place. It’s a place of preparation and nervous anticipation. It’s also a time of joy, and anticipation of joy yet to come as we wait for you to take your place as our third and last little girl. Or to quote from Alice Hoffman’s Practical Magic, speaking of that place where your mind disconnects but you’re not asleep: “Drifting somewhere between quiet and white.” That’s where we’re floating right now, you and I.

Somewhere between quiet and white.

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I won’t publish this until you’re actually born, so let’s talk about your name. For a while in the middle I wasn’t sure if Minna was the right name; I tried using it and it didn’t click at first. As time went on, it did, and the meanings took on more and more substance for me. Depending on the language, it’s “love” in America, “the resolute protector” when it’s the diminutive form of Wilhelmina, and my favorite, the Hebrew meaning: “child of Earth.”

Because you’re the third and the last one, you got saddled with both your parents’ indecision and “Ah, hell with it” attitude: sorry but not sorry that you’re the only one with two middle names. “Heather” was for North Yorkshire, and the heather that blooms purple in the moors. The Latin name of several hundred types of heather begins with “Erica,” which is off by a letter if we’re honoring your aunt but it’s close enough for kissing. “Rowan” is for the tree and the mythology. The rowan is planted at the entrance of a property to protect those coming and going–travelers, if you will–and the home from evil spirits. In Norse mythology, the first woman was created from the rowan tree.

Child of earth, a purple flower born of North Yorkshire, and a celebration of womankind. We thought you would forgive us the indulgence, as in a transplanted family of travelers with three little girls, it seemed that these were the only names that would do.

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As you may have noticed, I tend to ramble. You’ll get used to me; your sisters have, and right now I needed to vent a lot of thoughts on your arrival. I can’t wait to meet you, and yet, I can, just a little bit longer. I can’t wait to share your name with you…but I can, for as long as you’re not ready to come out. Let me know, Minna, when you’re ready, and we’ll prepare to walk down the road to our first meeting together.

To give birth, whether at home in a birth tub with candles and family or in a surgical suite with machines and a neonatal team, a woman must go to the place between this world and the next, to that thin membrane between here and there. – The Last Days of Pregnancy

Until then, here we’ll stay in that place, in that membrane.

Somewhere between quiet and white.

Love,

Mama