A year ago this week, we saw Gabe for the first time. At the time, he wasn’t “Gabe,” he was a thing, an idea, a possibility.
I still remember getting an early breakfast–Belgian waffles with blueberries at the stereotypical diner down the street from the hospital, where I chugged three cups of sugary coffee in the hope it would make this being inside of me move around enough that we could gawk at its genitals. I was too excited at breakfast to remember to pee, so when I hopped up on the table in the examining room, my bladder was too full for the tech to get a look at my passenger.
I remember joking that if it was a boy, we’d call him Lil’ Ron Burgundy. We’d already discussed baby names, settling on either Harper Katherine or Katherine Isobel if we had a girl. We weren’t sure about a boy’s name, only knowing that his middle name would be Brian after both our fathers, and maybe Kynion after my grandfather for a first name. I’d bought four name books at the end of the first trimester in my over-planning excitement, and Josh was sick of me spitting names at him (“Alexandra, Dylan, Holden, Asa, what about Inarra?”) at every waking moment. He’d finally refused to discuss them until we knew the sex of who was in me.
When we saw him–the ghostly skull, the delicate outlines of his ribs, his spine, his brain, the pulsing, pumping heart–it was one of the most amazing moments of my life. This alien thing in me was suddenly a visible future, moving from possibility to certainty. The coffee had done the trick and he was kicking and fist-pumping like a Jersey Shore extra, exposing himself to the world. Now, that skull is covered in downy hair and fat cheeks, the ribs are tickled at bedtime, the brain is constantly going, and the heart still beats. Sometimes, I lay my ear to his chest and listen to his heartbeat, the thing I looked forward to at each prenatal appointment, the assurance that he was still there, we were still together.
I consider myself fairly enlightened, but it was integral to us, the discovery of his sex. I wanted that part of my child, it was one more piece of the puzzle that was my future offspring. I admit that I was a bit put out that he wasn’t a girl at first (I’d been convinced), but his sex was an unchangeable fact, and one that couldn’t be dwelled on. He was a he, and that was who I was going to have. What he played with, what he wore, what he learned, those I could have some control over. Gender stereotypes could be dealt with as they came along.
That day, I couldn’t imagine the future. I couldn’t imagine my dude, the 21-pound shadow of my every move. Every day since that morning, I’ve looked at him, whether it was a picture of the ultrasound, watching him fling himself around under my skin, or, after his birth, sleeping in my arms or squealing in frustration. I didn’t know that this kid would shriek with excitement when I sing to him, that he’d sleep terribly and teethe without a hitch. The alien baby in those silent moments would go on to propel himself all over the house just to find a new texture to gently scratch at, would only respond to whistling instead of his name, would smile at me until mine hurt from smiling back.