Nico was the first to know, as per usual.
She tried to tell me all day, but I wouldn't listen.
It was late summer and the city was awash in deep greens and yellows. Clothing was scarce, sunshine plentiful, and downtown felt both brewing with chaos and hazily stagnant at the same time. It was the season of the streets, the best time of the year for walking, and walk we did- up through the labyrinthine of west village alleys, under the shadows of the Highline, down along the Bowery, popping in to run errands here and there, stopping for coffee at a sidewalk cafe, scouring the farmer's market for the perfect tomatoes- always with Nico at our side. When we'd wake in the morning she would leap towards the door, ready for adventure, ready to pull us towards all of her favorite places- the dog park and the basketball court and the Spanish bodega where they let her put her paws on the counter and gave her treats. Except for that day. That day she didn't budge.
As we lazily attempted to roll out of bed that morning, Nico planted her head and paws firmly on my stomach and froze, refusing to let me rise. We thought it was the cutest thing. When Gaby called her to the kitchen and she ignored him, we laughed, amazed at her sudden fondness for me. When he poured food in her bowl and grabbed the leash for her walk, and she stayed pressed to my belly like a protective statue, we were bewildered. As the day passed and she kept within a foot of me at all times, we knew something was ajar. That's when we decided to buy a pregnancy test.
We didn't really believe anything would come of it, not really. It was just another night like all the rest, he and I, dancing and scheming and dreaming in our apartment. A night like all the rest, except our dog was acting funny.
We read the test. The universe shifted. We stood together, amazed.
We would ride a wave of firsts over the coming months- when we found out she was a she, when we heard her heartbeat for the very first time, the jolt of that first kick from within, and the accompanying realization that behind it was a strong and willful person who would eventually be full of her own ideas and opinions and experiences, the moment the contractions became regular and we understood that the time was now, and that finally, after all of the waiting, we would meet her.
But that first naive moment when that second blue line appeared, the rest of the world fell away and suddenly the only two things left that mattered were us, and our story, which we were continuously piecing together in our little apartment filled with paintings and books and dreams bigger than the Chrysler. That moment was ours alone. It felt like floating. It was as if we momentarily zoomed out, the city with all of its lights became smaller and smaller below, the perpetually elusive clouds suddenly felt all within reach, and we saw, for the first time, all that we had to give. This city would be hers. This love that we'd leaned into and fostered would be hers. The deeply hued oil paintings hanging on the walls, relics from my mother's days in art school, would be hers, and would carry with them the magic of her late grandmother. The notes of music that filled our apartment night and day, streaming from the dusty records that we'd carefully collected at flea markets and long-shuttered shops, would be the soundtrack of her childhood. When she would be born, we would hold her and love her and memorize the curves of her tiny face, and we would give her our beloved world.
When she grew, we would walk together through the village and tell her the stories that the city held. That cafe over there overlooking the park- the one with the pretty flowers in the glass vases- that was where your Papa and I met every week for years on end to talk about our dreams late into the night. That corner table under the window is where he nonchalantly rolled up his sleeve one night over coffee and dessert, sometime after midnight, and revealed his first tattoo- my name "Belle"- scrawled across his arm, and I nearly dropped my coffee mug in surprise. And that block right there, baby, just past the subway station, is where we all met during the blackout of 2003 and took care of one another, bringing instruments from our apartments and food from our fridges and candles from our pantries, and held an impromptu block party well into the night. Because when the world gives you lemons, you gotta make the best lemonade in town.
We lied side by side in bed and the magnitude of our Great Secret slowly sank in. We couldn't really know the immense joy that parenthood would bring, nor the unfathomable challenges that would accompany it and balance it out. We could not know the specific fiery and protective love that we would feel for her. We could not know the hastening of time that, from that moment on, would forever be present as the days flew by.
All we knew was that suddenly a new world, waxing and waning and burgeoning silently somewhere deep inside me, had been born. The universe had shifted, and a new adventure lay before us.
It was the beginning of a great adventure.
We snapped these pictures the other day just a block from where this all took place, down by our old apartment where Biet was born. My dress is from Fabrik. The carrier is from Ergo.
This post is the second in a writing series I'm collaborating on called #TogetherWeMother with a few other amazing women. Check out their blogs below: