It seems sort of ridiculous to have a swimming pool when the house sits on the beach. For several years in a row my large extended family would gather in the Outer Banks for a week of board games, surf lessons and gin and wine on the deck. We found a house that was perfect- four stories of bedrooms, game room, Jacuzzi, pool, beachfront- and even a motel next store for the overflow of guests. Then my generation became grown ups and we did things like getting married. Our weddings became substitutes for the annual reunion. Our parents’ generation wanted the fun to continue so they would move the reunion to England or Ireland, trips that we newly minted grown ups could not afford. But this year the Outer Banks trip was going to be resurrected.
We sat around the Thanksgiving table with some second cousins on Skype. I was visibly pregnant and my cousins were announcing their news about their pregnancy to the relatives who couldn’t make it to Turkey Day. We all knew that my sister was expecting too and so we joked that we’d have two houses at the Outer Banks this year- the main house and the baby house. Stick all the screaming infants far away from the elders, so they could have their vacation in peace and quiet. I looked forward to the trip as the time when I would be introducing my baby to my extended family.
Two weeks before Christmas, my phone rang and I could see it was my second cousin calling. It was the middle of the day, but I was home on the couch watching tTV because my work had kindly given me some time off when we received the news that Mabel’s prognosis was poor. When I saw my cousin’s name on my phone, I assumed she had heard the news and was calling to talk. She is the wife of a pastor, so I feel like she has an almost natural calling to minister as an extension. When I answered the phone she started talking about the Outer Banks- confirming we were coming. There would be two houses, she informed me, so we really would have a baby house! I tried to respond, but I was at a lost for words. Through tears, I was finally able to say “Have you talked to my mom?” She could hear the choked back sobs in my voice. After I explained about my baby’s lack of fluid, her failing kidneys and underdeveloped lungs, I said “there might not be a baby!”
On Sunday we will be arriving in the Outer Banks. Showing up to this long awaited trip with empty arms will be painful. Seeing my sister with her baby, the one that was supposed to be Mabel’s playmate, will make my heartache in so many ways. I asked not to be in the same house as the baby- I had to ask. I hate asking for things like that because it makes me feel like a jerk (I know, I know, I’m not a jerk. But admitting that I can’t separate the feelings I have about my baby from the feelings I have about others’ babies makes me feel like one). I feel like I’ll be under the spotlight while there and ignored all at the same time. I’m not sure which I’d rather.
I’ve debated not going on the trip. We decided to drive there so we have complete freedom over our schedule- what we do each day, when we leave. I want to go on this trip, because, frankly, I feel like I’ve given up enough. I don’t want to have to give this up too. It’s not the vacation I want- one where I’d have my baby (or heck one where there would be no babies)- but I’ve already learned we don’t always get what we want. If nothing else, it is a week off of work. There is something that still doesn’t quite feel right about it- vacationing and having a good time, all when my baby died. But this is life; I learn how to do the normal things. I will learn how to vacation.
So in a few days we go to the Outerbanks. I will stay in the baby house… without my baby.