When I was at HUF (spring '97), I saw a mosiac of the Slaughter of the Innocents on the floor of a cathedral--it may have been Siena, but I don't really remember. I can, however, still see the depiction of the soldiers spitting babies on the bayonets, weeping women reaching out vainly for their children. It was a shocking thing to see and it disturbed me so profoundly that I ended up trying to process the experience by writing it into a short story.
In Matthew, where the story of Herod's decree to kill the male babies under two is told, Jeremiah is quoted: "A voice was heard in Ramah, wailing and loud lamentation, Rachel weeping for her children; she refused to be consoled, because they are no more."
This pregnancy has been nothing but joy for me. Even the weeks of muscle soreness, constant urination, and low level but chronic queasiness were a mark of something special, something happening that set me apart and gave me a reason to be happy. Getting pregnant was like falling off a log. I have those fears and anxieties that everyone has, but there's no special reason to worry, or particular thing to fear. I have every reason, my shelf-full of preggie books tells me, to assume that things will turn out perfect.
But I know some Rachels. Some Rachels who are desperately hoping to someday have what I have, what I have and have taken for granted. Some Rachels who, despite their own inconsolable grief, can still say to me, I'm happy for you. And now that I have some inkling of what it means to have, imagining suddenly not-having wrecks me. Now that I understand that a pregnancy, from the moment you see that dumb little blue line on your generic test from Target, changes your whole life because now, now suddenly, there's a new human being in your life, whose presence cannot be ignored or denied, whose presence has changed absolutely everything.
So I wonder why. Why are there Rachels? Why me? I find myself so grateful for this wonderful thing that has happened--but I shudder to call it a gift, because it means that there are others who don't receive this gift, and that begs for explanation. Even worse to call it a blessing: why me, why not Rachel?
In the midst of my joy, I am sad. I am sad for the Rachels I know, and I am sad because I know that no matter how happy they may be for me, truly, that my joy makes some part of them sad. The bigger and rounder I get, the more obvious my own good fortune becomes, the more the question must haunt them: why her, why not me?