I’m holding my newborn nephew, not yet a week old, his stunning smallness tucked in the crook of my right arm, as I follow his mother, my sister-in-law, out to the backyard where my husband and his brother are sitting on the picnic table with a gun cocked.
My husband is quick to yell “BB gun,” knowing I can’t tell the difference between a BB and a real gun. He yells “BB gun” just before he catches our two-year-old daughter bumbling between the gun and the target, scooping her into his arms a second before his brother pulls the trigger. The pellet whizzes invisibly, hits the beer can perched on the remnants of an old brick chimney at the property’s perimeter and sends it flying.
My sister-in-law cheers while my eyes sweep the situation I can’t control. I glance down at my nephew, yellow crust sealing his sleeping eyelids, mouth forming a tiny O and then closing again. With my free hand, I reach into my back pocket for my cellphone to check the time and tell my husband it’s getting late. I feel bold, daring to interrupt the fun.
My sister-in-law leans in and nods toward my other nephew, her 8-year-old son.
“He found out how babies come out.” She gestures below her waist to ensure we’re both on the same page. “So he wanted to know how babies get in. And you know what I told him? Watermelon seeds!”
I stand there staring, maybe smiling, knowing I’m supposed to laugh and unable to muster it, not a thing coming to mind, or maybe too many things.
She says, “I told him not to worry. It doesn’t happen to boys. Only girls grow babies from eating watermelon seeds.”
I say, “He’ll never think of watermelons the same way again.”
Finally, my husband walks over with our daughter, the baby I waited three years for. The baby I searched for like someone lost. The baby I coaxed from the ether. Prayed to my dead grandmothers. Consulted clairvoyants. Took a road trip to the shrine of St. Gerard. Magical realism as real as the doctor ordering test after test only to conclude “unexplained infertility.” He never said it directly. It was later, after the insurance money ran out and I requested copies of my records, that I saw the diagnosis.
My husband, he had a sperm count you could “frame and hang on the wall,” according to the doctor. My husband, who attended every dull appointment on those early mornings before heading to his office, was always able to decipher the orbs of my ovaries on the black and white ultrasound screen, where I saw only a Rorschach test. I doubted what I couldn’t see, but he remained optimistic.
If there was suppressed frustration, my husband saved it for the ice. He played in an adult hockey league some evenings. There was a Russian team they played against, old-timers who relished a fight. I never knew if it was a puck to the face or the Russians, but he didn’t call until after he’d left the ER. He warned me it looked worse than it felt, his lip split and stitched, both eyes blackened. I looked at him and thought, Yeah, this is exactly where we are right now.
A month later, I took the hundredth pregnancy test over the course of three years, and it was like God or the Virgin de Guadalupe or most likely my dead grandmothers showed up that morning with harps and stardust for the smiley face beaming from that piece of plastic. I jumped around the bathroom like my feet were on fire. My husband, he pulled back the shower curtain and said, “I knew it.”
I know it now as our daughter smiles up at me and tugs my sweater. My brother-in-law puts down the gun and ambles over, tickling her until she tumbles to the ground. He picks her up and holds her sweetly. I’m still holding my newborn nephew. We start saying our goodbyes. As I hand him back, I make a wish for one more.
Sarah Bousquet is a writer in coastal Connecticut, where she lives with her husband, daughter, and two cats. She was named Brain,Child Magazine’s New Voice of the Year 2016. She is currently at work on a collection of essays.