(broken) promise

Shiny, taut and round like a basketball: my pregnant belly. Old photographs of it make me sad, particularly the one taken a few days before Calvin's birth. As I regard the picture in which my hand is placed flat atop my live melon, I can imagine Calvin cradled inside: our four-and-a-half pound, 34-week old fetus that had held so much promise for us just two weeks prior.

At that point, I carried what I thought would be a healthy baby who I’d deliver naturally, who’d have near perfect Apgar scores, a robust appetite and who we’d excitedly bring home days later to a house full of sunshine, plush and joy. Our boy would be sitting up by summertime, propped in soft grass or on a sunflower blanket in warm sand at the water’s edge. Perhaps by autumn he’d be crawling and within a year he’d be getting around on foot, playing with kitchen gadgets, exploring his world, riding on his father’s shoulders and maybe even saying his first words.

Our child would go on to devour the world with a fierce curiosity inherited from his parents. We’d teach him to be humble yet assertive, gentle and kind and confident. We’d take him camping and fishing and swimming in lakes. He’d have lots of friends who I’d watch him play with as I gazed out the kitchen window. We’d teach him the joy and benefit of reading. Perhaps he’d pick up music or art or sports. He’d have sweethearts and heartaches, psych-ups and letdowns, hookups and breakups. We’d trust and empower him and teach him to be compassionate, open-minded and honest. He’d love others, even if they were different from him—perhaps more so—and he’d grow up giving back to the world, making it a better place.

All this promise was contained in the small warm globe held tightly in my body. I felt it, dreamed it.

Then, in a blink it was crushed, toppled like a house of cards, our delicate nest of dreams spirited away in a single wretched moment. Now, I see only ghosts of the dream, brief moments, often months apart, when Calvin walks requiring little assist, or when he might look into my eyes and appear to register—visually—who I am.

Yesterday, as Calvin teetered along in front of Michael, who held his harness tightly, I watched on from inside the North Creek Farm cafe waiting for our pastries. I tipped my head against the window peering out onto a frosty backyard strewn with picnic tables weathered grey from rain and winters plus a half dozen laying hens sprinting to and fro. I imagined Calvin letting out his birdie noise and I thought of how much he looked like a little chicken out there. My throat tightened when I saw a faint smile creep across his face as he navigated around tables and benches in the grass of the unfamiliar yard.

We moved on to a nearby beach where the sand was too soft for Calvin to walk in with any skill, even while holding our hands, and further hindered by his constant contortions attempting to stare at the sun. So, we quickly abandoned the venture. As we hobbled hand in hand back up the dunes to our car with as much difficulty as pushing a wheelbarrow full of rocks through deep sand, I glanced back at a family with two small children half the size of Calvin running and playing as free as birds and—again—thought of the promise that, to us, will be forever out of reach.


  1. Christy, thank you for sharing the memories of your and Michael´s dreams for Calvin´s life and experiences before he was born. I understand that the promise his birth held out for you is different from what has been received - and is broken in that sense. What is not broken is the promise you and Michael made to take care of him, undoubtedley also made when you were preganant. That promise you have kept, many, many times over. David

    1. dear david, you are so kind to write and tell me such wonderful things. thank you so much. xoxoxo, christy