May is motherhood memoir month

The Blueberry Baby

Prompt- Have you ever told stories that later came true? Or have you ever listened to other people’s stories and felt you somehow absorbed them, changing your life forever?

The winter I accidentally got pregnant with our sixth child I’d been riding the ski lift listening to people’s stories of longing for babies. A friend and I were skiing laps, training for the Master’s Ski Race team. As we rode back up the mountain Laura talked about her husband, 12 years older. She was in her late 20s when she married him, and he’d promised to reverse his vasectomy when she was ready to start a family. But for the past several years he’d dragged his feet, saying he’d already done the family thing with his first wife.

Mark, a ski instructor I worked with on weekends had been married three times but had no children. He desperately wanted one, before he “gets too old to enjoy his kid’s life.” He was 46, my age at the time. I listened to his tales of woe all winter between teaching ski lessons together.

I often stayed in the mountains overnight during that winter, rather than making the drive home to my family. I sometimes went out with my ski buddies after work, leaning further into their stories that began to seep into my skin.

Sometimes the whole family came up to ski together. We rented a cabin for a week at Christmastime. Our oldest daughter and her husband joined us. They too were thinking about having a baby.

At home that spring, we were out picking blueberries on our little U-pick farm, begun as homeschooling venture. The younger kids, ages 7, 10, and 13 needed some cajoling to keep picking the continually ripening fruit. My husband started a story about a blueberry baby left in the field by fairies. The children listened while they picked, content to be entertained by a tale. The baby disappears, he told them, whenever the family tries to take her out of the blueberry patch. When the boys picked up the story thread, knights battled dragons to protect the baby.

“I really want a baby,” my oldest daughter said one day when she came to visit and pick blueberries. “We’ve been trying.”

“What’s your hurry?” I asked, pausing to pop a handful of ripe blueberries in my mouth, remembering her rush to get married. “Once you have children, they’re yours for the rest of your life.” This wasn’t the answer she wanted to hear from me, the prospective grandmother. But I was busy filling out applications for grad school, thinking, finally, I can begin.

Sometimes it seems you are living everyone else’s dreams. As if my body had absorbed all the stories of desire for babies, I found myself pregnant even though we used birth control and I was 46 years old. I thought of all those blueberries I’d consumed by the handfuls every day and wondered if in some cosmic-comic economy anti-oxidants override contraceptives. I thought also of the prayers I’d shot heavenward on behalf of my friends and daughter. I looked up and exclaimed, Great sense of humor… wrong house.

Be careful the stories you tell, we sometimes say to our children. But now, looking back over 16 years with this “blueberry baby” who came out with the biggest, bluest eyes, plus radiant health and a robust love for life and learning, I imagine that some part of us must have desired this. Of course we can’t imagine life without her, at least not without thinking how bereft we’d be. I think about the stories we told of the blueberry baby who miraculously materialized, changing our lives forever. We can’t imagine a better story, or life.

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