Part 25: The real stuff
Years from now, Kathy may remember it as "the laundry moment."
It was an ordinary day, and she was heading upstairs from the basement, lugging a basket of clean clothes, she says, when a feeling came over her, a sort of "large" feeling.
She saw, suddenly, that she and Joe and his brother Donny and the baby on the way are a "family."
It reminded her of when she was a little girl, helping her mother and having that sense, You do this for your family.
"When we cook a meal, we're doing it for a family. When we do laundry, we're doing it for a family. I know it sounds queer, but I'm coming up with the laundry, and it feels good.
"It's like there's a purpose in everything now. A new dimension in my life."
She described the sensation to a friend who has a child and the woman knew what she meant; she told Kathy that her nurturing sense must be coming out.
If any room in her house reveals that side of Kathy's nature, it's the nursery.
Tucked around a corner from the kitchen, it is a peaceful cloud of a room, with creamy white walls, and sunlight filtered through a blousy white curtain, and soft lullabyes emanating from various musical toys.
"Baby's not going to know what to do with itself, it'll be so happy," says Kathy, surveying her decorating work.
Joe contributed, too, by painting the room and installing the ceiling fan and assembling some of the furniture, as well as the baby's stroller and swing.
"It's all organized. I'm ready. If the baby came here today, I'd be ready," says Kathy, sitting down in the rocker (a gift from Wendy) and demonstrating with her empty arms how she'll feed the baby right here like this.
"I've got to show you," she says, rising and heading for the dresser. She pulls open each drawer to reveal orderly arrangements of bibs, T-shirts and socks. "Can you picture this on the baby? I can't wait," she says, holding up a "onesie" that has the words "bundle of love" scattered across it, then a bib declaring, "I love my Mommy."
She steps lightly across the room to point out some more treasures, including a small, smooth piece of bric-a-brac, a sculpted face. It is the face of a child, wearing an affecting, almost worried expression. Kathy spotted the piece one day in a gift shop in Wakefield during those trembly days when Wendy had not conceived yet, and she bought it as something to wish on, a kind of totem.
To think - in a few weeks, the wished-for child will be here.
* * *
For Kathy, Wendy's pregnancy has been a happy adventure, but bittersweet, too, at times, because it reminds her of what she can never experience herself.
Lately especially, with Wendy in her ninth month and complaining of "pains," Kathy's found herself wishing that things could be different, "that I could have that pain."
This is not easy for Kathy to talk about.
Sitting at her kitchen table, she looks down into her coffee cup and approaches the subject gingerly, worried she'll come off as ungrateful, but risking it for the sake of infertile women who may be considering having a child this way.
They should know "the real stuff," she says. They should know that "this is not neat. There's a lot of feelings that come up. It's not this nice little package, nice little fairy tale."
RESOLVE, the infertility support group, warned her early on that such feelings would arise, that "things are gonna come up for you that happened 24 years ago with your own body."
She told them, " 'I don't think so. I'm grateful.' And I am. "
But feelings did come, and wishes, and pain - "The pain of, why can't it be me having that pain?" - not to mention the irritation of dealing with jokers who say, "I'll bet you're glad you don't have to carry the baby. Ha. Ha."
Kathy expels a long breath. She knows people who grew bitter by dwelling on what they can't have and can't do. She would not let that happen to her.
After praying hard about it, she made a decision: She would stop trying to identify with all that Wendy's going through. She would let that part go. And when she found herself longing to be in Wendy's place, she'd stop herself:
Wait a minute. My sister's doing this as a gift for me. The pain of being pregnant - it's not something she's taking away from me. She's giving me something.
It can't be easy for Wendy. Kathy knows that and tries to be sensitive to her feelings.
For instance, when Wendy seemed reluctant to come and see the nursery, Kathy didn't press it; she remembered back to when the pregnancy began, how Wendy felt uneasy about shopping for baby things. And the other day, when Wendy expressed interest in a video Kathy had made for the baby, Kathy gently let her know, "The nursery's gonna be on here."
"Okay," Wendy said.
And so they both watched as the camera panned over it all - from the bunnies and kittens on the walls, to the books on the shelves, to the tiny clothes in the closet, and the Diaper Genie in the corner.
Wendy approved each detail with soft "ohs" and "ahs," says Kathy.
"She saw it and she loved it," says Kathy. "She loved it. Her sense was, Oh, how beautiful! Oh, you put that there? That is perfect.
"You don't know how good that made me feel when my sister said, 'That's a perfect place.' I want to be a good mother for the baby, but I want her to approve of it, too. She's giving me such a gift."