Ancient History

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I found out I was pregnant with Archie a year ago, yesterday.

Around the same time, a mother robin built a ludicrously-located nest in our backyard and laid dainty blue eggs inside.



I was only two months removed from my fourth miscarriage. I visited those eggs daily, quietly tiptoeing through the woodchips to treeside. My hope for those four eggs was so intense and focused, they could have been warmed without their mother’s downy underside.

They had to hatch. Life had to win.

Days went by. I took more pregnancy tests, just to be sure there really was something going on inside me. Two pink lines assured me there was, but I was not fully convinced until the evening Aidan ran inside the house with a wild smile to tell me the baby robins hatched.


I cried when I saw them. They meant everything to me at that moment. I held a childlike notion they were a quiet sign from God that everything was going to be okay with my new pregnancy,. Despite knowing the birds were still in danger, I was confident they’d beaten the odds by simply hatching.

One morning, I went out to peek and they were gone. There was no doubt they were dead. They were still too fuzzy and thin-skinned to fly away. Their wings were still wisps, their beaks were still bright baby yellow and wide for worms the day before. I was such a fool to believe some God-sent bird chose my little blue spruce tree to bring hope into my battered heart.

And then? I began to spot. I called the doctor, who could only fit me in on the afternoon of June 6th, two days away. When I told the nurse I was spotting, she said she was sorry, but there was nothing they could do for me at that point in my pregnancy.

June 6th is my birthday. We went to lunch, where four-year-old Joel ordered a steak. That made me laugh. He got the steak, but wondered what the heck it was when the waiter put it in front of him. After lunch, we visited a nearby fountain where Beatrix got soaking wet when a burst of unexpected water blasted her in the face. Nobody laughed until she laughed, and then we couldn’t stop. It was a good day. My husband took the kids home and I went to the obstetrician.

The nurse practitioner found the source of the spotting and assured me it was insignificant and wouldn’t effect the baby. She scheduled an ultrasound, but I’d have to wait another week. I wouldn’t get an ultrasound for my birthday, but I was secretly glad. Who wanted a bad ultrasound and a birthday, forever linked? I didn’t want to turn 63 and think back to that really, really bad 37th birthday.

It was a low, slow wait. The day arrived and I saw my baby and his beating heart.

My pregnancy with Archie was my roughest and scariest. At first, they thought they saw amnionic bands that could entangle him. Then they said no, but they did see excessive scarring. Then the low-fluid battle began and he hardly moved. I lost count of how many ultrasounds I had with him. I saw him more in utero than I saw all my other kids, combined.

The worry never went away.

On Christmas Eve, we went to the 3:00 p.m. service at church, so it was still light as we made our way home to prepare for the big hours ahead. As we pulled into the driveway, a robin landed in our path. It stood there, looking at us. It hopped to the side. My husband pulled the Suburban into the garage. The robin didn’t move as the garage door lowered.

Someone asked if the robin was still there. Everyone crowded around the living room window to see. The crazy bird stood in the center of our driveway, looking up at our faces as if he expected to be invited in. Was he hurt? It didn’t seem that way. He seemed sleek and healthy and very out of place. Then he flew up into a branch and bounced.

“Merry Christmas, bird!” Beatrix chirped. I had to leave the window at that point. I told everyone I was going to rest before dinner.

I went upstairs and opened the bottom drawer of my husband’s bureau where I hid many of the smaller gifts for the kids. All of them were wrapped, except for one. It was a t-shirt I bought for our baby a few days earlier. I felt silly buying a gift for him. He wasn’t due until the end of January.

On the shirt is a bird, red-breasted. It perches on a bare-branched winter tree.

I had never really let them go.


You never do.

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