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The First Baby

R. L. Fox

“Mommy,was I the first baby born in this family?” The question jolted me. I had been unlocking the stroller from its spot near the gate under our apartment building, and I straightened up. My four-year-old son looked at me, face round and innocent. I was surprised to feel a pang of something deep inside me. Pain that hadn’t visited in a long while took a step forward. “What do you think?” I asked. “I think I was,” he answered quickly.

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

shoeOf course. Why would he have a reason to suspect any differently? He is the oldest of our three boys. I nodded my head slowly, smiling at him, as he added triumphantly, “So that means that they put me on the table!”

Ah. So that was it. He must have just learned about pidyon haben, and wanted to check that such a ceremony had indeed been performed in his honor. I struggled to think of what to say. By the time coherent words had been formed, my precious little boy — my oldest but not my firstborn — got distracted and went off to play. I was left with memories.

December 2005. We had been married for two and a half years, and I was due to give birth to our first child. It had been a tough two years, full of the difficulty of a new marriage, the often seemingly impossible task of molding two people together into one. The impending birth gave us something to focus on other than our differences. A baby was hope, a future, something we could share.

My due date, December 8, was a Thursday. That day, I spent several hours out of the house with my mother, and when I got home, I was eager to eat and drink to trigger the baby’s movements. I ate a sandwich and drank orange juice, but the baby did not move. I lay on my side, as I had done so often done throughout this pregnancy, and drank more juice. I poked and prodded my stomach, trying to elicit a response from the little one within. Nothing.

A panicky feeling made it hard to think, but I called my husband’s cell and waited for him to come home. When he got home, he reassured me, pointing out that we had been through this before, telling me the baby was fine, everything would be fine. But I felt he was wrong, and the sick feeling would not abate. Something felt different inside. We went to the hospital.

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