"Peyton's birthday is in a few weeks."
My husband says nothing, only letting out a heavy sigh and looking off into the distance. I wonder if he sees her there, in those moments when the grief takes him away.
It is an awful reality to face. Another year without her here. Another year that she should have grown and hit milestones. Another year of wondering what, if anything, we can do to appropriately honor her. Another year of knowing that as soon as the anniversary of her birth passes, we face down another long hard month before that of her death.
My town has decided that now, during my first trimester, is when they should chip seal and perform work on all of our roads. The smells, and my fears of exposure, have had me on various days heading for the hills. The "hills" on one particular day last month, was the air conditioned respite of Barnes and Noble. I took some time to work on my novel, crafting and re-crafting bits of chapter 7. It is a funny beach read, a little romance, a lot of adventure, and a book that has been a welcome place for me to escape to over the last year.
As I write this now, I am missing that book. Morning sickness has made reading, typing, and editing it nauseating.
So there I was in Barnes and Noble. I had just found out I was pregnant, and though I knew in my heart it was twins, had not yet had an ultrasound to confirm it. When the battery on my laptop died, I started thumbing through the sections of books.
I love books. I love the smell of them. The feel of them. The fresh crack of their spine when you open a book for the first time. I could never own a Kindle, or other reader. I would miss the way the pages draw oil from my fingers, the awkwardness of holding them open. I need the physicality of books.
I find inspiration in running my fingers along their titles. I like to think of all the other authors who have come before me. I like to think that they, like me, started by writing and re-writing with no connections in the industry beyond the deep desire to one day be published. I like to think that if they made it, I can too.
I walked aimlessly through Barnes and Noble that day. I found myself going past self help books, sex books, and finance books. I meandered over to the YA section where I learned that Lauren Conrad, from "The Hills," is now a best selling author. I found my way to the memoirs, reading the back pages, and moved through the cookbooks. Before I knew where I was, I looked up to find myself in the Pregnancy section, and that easy feeling I had all around me disappeared.
My heart caught in my throat when I realized where I was. I looked around, half expecting someone to come along and tell me I didn't belong there. That I was trespassing on private property. I wondered if I could safely take a peek at those books without feeling pain, or ever again truly be a member of that club.
I had joined the blissfully pregnant club once. I had put my whole heart into it, and I had been burned.
The titles called out to me like a series of flashbacks to a different time. A simpler time. A time where everything in life felt possible. The Girlfriend's Guide to Pregnancy, What to Expect When You're Expecting, Your Pregnancy Week by Week.
Like bullies reminding me of all I had lost, they taunted me and I stepped back, wimping out, too afraid to peruse the possibilities contained within their pages.
I didn't want to read them and get my hopes up. I didn't want to see drawings of developing babies. Those expectations were meant for someone else. Someone naive. They were not for those who have learned with heartbreaking detail that there are just no guarantees in this life.
My anxiety pushed me further and further down the line of books, ready to move to another place, a safer place, when a title stopped me. It seemed harmless enough. Fun even. I reached up and touched its spine: 10,001 Baby Names.
Okay, I thought. We'll start here. That's not too scary. I'll just flip it open and point, and wherever I land, that is the PERFECT baby name.
The book creaked with newness as I flipped it opened and pointed. I peeked to see where I had landed. There, beneath my finger, midway down page 198 was a name and it's definition that took my breath away: Peyton: Village of the Warrior.
My warrior. My perfect, little warrior.
10,001 names in a book, and it was that of my lost child that I had been called to. A sense of calm washed over me, as I felt her spirit surround me. She had, in her own little way, reached out to me, and I felt in that moment that all would be okay.
"You're right little girl," I nodded, "you are right. Your name was perfect. And so were you."