Marriage: Year Eight

2010-2011: Learning about Delight

The seventh time we get pregnant will be the last, whether it sticks or not, and this one does. Every moment of this pregnancy is treasure. This is the last time in my life I will carry the promise of a child, feel the interior pressure of kicks and movement, use my belly as a TV tray. Pregnant with this final child I feel holy.

The weekend before Christmas we travel together to Muscle Shoals, Alabama for an ESPN gig and then to Nashville for the rest of the time. The man at the counter of the Verizon Wireless store loves the car I pull in with (Dodge Charger, it’s a rental) and attempts to help me get a new smartphone, but his accent is so thick it sounds like he’s got marbles in his mouth. Somehow, I leave the store with my very first smartphone – an iPhone with a touchscreen – and a world of new technology opens. So many games of Candy Crush, hours spent scrolling through Facebook, and dropped work boundaries await me.

While Brandon works I walk around the local mall and shop for a sexy maternity shirt. We’re a week away from knowing whether we’re going to have a boy or a girl, though we suspect it’s a boy, and at 18 weeks I’m already feeling wobbly. Weekends away with Brandon are heaven – I talk to no one, soak in the hotel tub, read and write, eat lunch by myself if I remember, and take long walks or drives into the countryside. When he’s done with work he’s stressed but coming down.

We drive from Muscle Shoals to Nashville and settle in the hotel, then go to dinner at Morton’s Steakhouse and eat the most expensive and best steak and asparagus we’ve ever had. At the Wildhorse Saloon we listen to great music, and even in heels and an off-balance body, we dance together, Brandon’s cheek pressed against mine, his voice and breath warm against my ear.

The next morning we tour the Country Music Hall of Fame, visit the Hank Williams Family Tradition exhibit and decide to name our unborn child Henry—Hank for short. Afterward we hear a band whose bass player literally climbs the upright as he plucks away. Every song they play is better than the last. We sing along, smile broadly, keep the beat with our feet. Each song is a track off of our marriage’s soundtrack. We want to stay in the bar forever, walk the streets of Nashville alone together. But the weekend ends, and it’s time to fly home to family.

And then Henry comes, and it’s the easiest gift of a birthing experience possible. We take the extra day in the hospital just to be together, me and him. Having Henry is a family affair – Lydia and Elvis are 5 and turning 4 when he’s born – and everyone dotes on this chubby one, this final addition that completes our immediate circle. He is a child born of love, born into a house of love, nurtured and adored.

We’ll raise Henry unlike the other two, and he really will grow up in a different home. All that summer and into the fall we are a family unit. We are together in our small town, on maternity leave, barbecuing with friends, visiting extended family, going to Lydia’s soccer and T-ball games, wearing Henry in a Baby Bjorn and later a backpack. Being right down the street from work, Brandon brings Henry into my office to nurse, and for a full year he never takes a bottle. Something is different here. We know how to do this now. We’ve got this. And it is good.

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