Before marriage my husband and I met briefly and then spent twenty one months living either across the country or across the world from each other. Actually most of our lives were spent that way when I think about it, but twenty one months when we were in knowing of each other, and in wanting of being closer.
Nine of those months we were friends who emailed each other occasionally (well, I practiced restraint and wrote every two weeks; he usually responded within six hours) and as we grew in our knowledge of each other through letters strung together on a computer screen, we grew in love. I was in India and East Africa most of the time, the last few weeks at home in Pennsylvania to visit my family. I loved those months - as we expressed no intentions towards each other, nor affections for each other, there were no expectations. We were free to write and converse and explore and question and our answers held no consequences for our future because our futures weren't connected. He was a mystery that I was growing in knowledge of - but would we ever become anything? Did he feel the way about me that I felt about him? The ambiguity was thick, it was challenging me to stay there in the grey, not to push us into conversations we weren't ready for. It was hard.
One morning in May I woke to a very long, beautifully soul-baring email (of course) from this Canadian boy whom I was pretty sure I could love. All of sudden, he came out with it, his truest thoughts about me and his heart and it was all so honest and I was overwhelmed. He told me, "Everything I know about you, I love. And everything I don't know about you, I project choosing to love." He loved me! We talked on Skype pretty quickly and I said, 'Yes, I would like to get to know you more'. The next day or so he wrote and said, 'Does this mean that we're dating?' He likes language that's more accommodating than I care to use sometimes.
A few weeks into our dating (living on opposite sides of Australia) Chris mentioned the possibility of coming to visit me. "Why? Isn't it a bit soon?" We didn't even really know each other ... did we? We hadn't even seen each other in nearly ten months.
That was a silly response which I quickly recanted and he came. I remember it pretty clearly, picking him up at the airport. He was sitting in a chair with his bag, I was running late. He smiled wide at me and gave me a hug. And then we could barely look at each other for the next six hours at least. We took a long walk to a park and got very lost, neither of us caring one bit. We did cartwheels, had a picnic I had prepared of peanut butter, banana and raisin sandwiches, sat in the grass together and talked in real time, no electronics necessary. Chris gave me a journal he had written in on the flight over, one that we would share for the next year until we would vow to live side by side day and night. It was the perfect gift. He knew me. I would have nearly married him on the spot.
There was this incredible familiarity in being with Chris that first time after so many months of learning and loving him from a distance. And there was also this awkwardness in our togetherness, a newness, he was unfamiliar. I didn't know how to look at him, how to walk next to him - we hadn't held hands, yet were (on some level) committed to growing whatever this was together.
I'm remembering this first 'date' with my husband because of the moments after my daughter was born a few weeks ago. For nine months she was part of me, on the inside of my body, my heart, my thoughts. Her every movement I felt and even anticipated the way she'd stretch her legs, wriggle around when I was laying down nursing her brother, respond to her dad's touch on my belly. I knew her well. But she was still a mystery.
But then I actually met her. On the outside. And she thoroughly surprised me. As I was pushing her out the midwife said, "I can see her dark hair." Dark hair?! What? Her brother had been bald and I full expected another hairless offspring. When she was finally born, her cry was the sweetest, most relieving sound. I took her onto my chest and stared at her, astounded. This was the little person I was growing? After a few minutes someone said, "So what did you get?" We hadn't even thought to look. I lifted up her tiny body and looked at my husband in joyful disbelief. "We had a girl!?!" We both had felt fairly certain we were having a boy, although we had left the gender unknown. We were wrong.
The most wonderful things often grow in darkness; we know, and we don't know. We are familiar and confident, we are surprised and even a little confused. I loved the last days of my pregnancy, knowing the rich ambiguity of face and name and gender would be gone soon enough. She was a mystery, and yet I knew her. My husband (to be) was so familiar, and yet he felt so new on that first date. I still have moments of surprise with Chris, but there's nothing like those months of long-distance loving, full of anticipation and wonder but so many miles apart. And I'll never reclaim those months of womb-secrets with my daughter. She's here now, we see face to face.
I often want it all to rush by, so I can know, see, and understand fully. But there's something precious and fleeting about the dim mirror, the unknowing of the womb, the black of fertile soil as we wait to see if seeds with sprout. We don't have to know outcomes to commit ourselves; our hearts can grow like pregnant mamas who love fully in the waiting, ripe with hope and future, stretched thin with love for someone very present, but still unseen.
I'm not sure what I'm really trying to say here, but in the spirit of this post, I think I'll just let it be. ;)