Day Two

October 2, 2008 at 7:51 pm 6 comments

The decision to have a third child was made hastily.  Somehow I felt ready.  We were settling in to life in Ukraine.  It had taken me two years of full-time language study to put myself out there and stumble around conversations with child-like Russian.  Learning Russian was like looking at a really blurry photo, straining to see, finding all the colors and lines but still not being able to make out what I was looking at.  And then one day the picture came into focus.  I wasn’t just listening to a bunch of sounds that didn’t make sense.  I was hearing words, then sentences, then full, albeit basic conversations that I understood.  I became an avid eaves-dropper. 

No longer did I crave obscene amounts of Coca-Cola because it reminded me of home or gulp down Tylenol every day because my head ached so badly from language classes.  My girls were dressed in thick tights and turtlenecks any day that was under seventy-five degrees like all the other children playing outside our apartment on the chipped, old playground.  They happily played at my feet in the evenings chirping away in Russian.  Words in their father’s tongue came as easily to them as breathing.  I was getting used to the idea that fish could be served at any meal; breakfast, lunch or dinner in one hundred and one different ways.  I hardly ever made eye contact with people in public anymore. 

The first year in Kiev was extremely lonely.  I was a young mom stuck at home with little kids (Elaina was two-and-a-half and Zoya was nine months old).  I couldn’t watch television or listen to the radio because I didn’t understand Russian.  We did not have internet access.  One cold winter night I remember sitting in our quiet apartment, kids tucked in and asleep, listening to the elevator go up and down or nine story apartment building.  “Maybe next time it will be Sergei”, I said out loud to myself.   

Finally, after two years, I had friends.  Not acquaintances but friends who actually liked me in spite of really knowing me.  Who knew it was possible to be friends with women on a deep level in a different language than my own?  Even though it was exhausting, life in Kiev was starting to seem a little magical.  Our family was settled.  I was happy.

Looking back it feels like I mentioned the idea of another baby to Sergei and did a quick nod to God regarding the topic and the next day there was a little white stick sitting on the bathroom sink with two pink lines.  I got pregnant the first month we tried for a baby. 

Shortly after I took a pregnancy test, my husband brought home another stack of books for me to read.  Once in a while he stumbled across a book vendor on the street that actually had books in English.  Usually they could be found at the outdoor markets along with any type of vegetable you can imagine and others you’ve never heard of. 

One book in the pile caught my eye.  It was a book by Bret Lott called Jewel. Jewel’s story took place in the backwoods of Mississippi in the 1940s.   Taken from true events, it is about a woman whose sixth child, Brenda Kay, was born with Down syndrome.  I read the book in one sitting, completely ignoring my husband and kids, my usual practice when I actually had a new book to read in English. 

While reading Jewel I thought about my baby, the size of a lima bean, growing inside me.  The day I finished the book, I was sitting on the bed in our room.  The sun setting, it was the kind of evening when life around you feels hazy. It was summer so the kids were already in bed even though it wasn’t dark yet.  The air was tinted green. “I just couldn’t do it”, I told Sergei.  “I could never be the mother of a child with special needs.”  And instantly I wished I could take those words back.  I felt threatened.  There was a little life in me, paddling around, growing fingers and toes.   God was knitting her together in my womb.  All I could think of was “what if there is something wrong with this baby?” 

My mother knits.  I still can see her sitting in a chair in my childhood home.  Already in pajamas, her hair wet from a bath although usually it was just after seven, a Coke sweating on the side table next to her on top of a napkin.  I see her hands moving, click, click, click, click.  Sometimes she’d unravel a sweater or a scarf that was nearly done.  I didn’t see the point after coming so far to start over because of a few little mistakes.  “Who wants to wear a sweater with mistakes?” she’d say.  Later on in her life, she’d ignore them more often.  I guess by then she wasn’t afraid of a couple mistakes. 

A lot people think something that isn’t what they consider perfect is a mistake.



Entry filed under: 31 for 21, Books and Writing, Coca-Cola, Culture differences, Disability, Down syndrome, Family, Former Soviet Union, Friends, Gillian Marchenko, Having a baby, Jewel, Kiev, Knitting, Loneliness, Mothering, Parenting, Polly, Russian, Special Needs, Ukraine.

Day One Day Three

6 Comments Add your own

  • 1. AEG  |  October 2, 2008 at 8:12 pm

    Amazing writing… I feel like I’m there! Can’t wait for more updates.

  • 2. Jennifer  |  October 2, 2008 at 8:14 pm

    I am HOOKED. Thank you for sharing this story. I look forward to tomorrow’s post.

  • 3. crickl's nest  |  October 2, 2008 at 10:13 pm

    You write beautifully Gillian! I’m devouring each word!

  • 4. Sergei  |  October 3, 2008 at 3:12 am

    Good writing. Can’t wait to see what happens next. Will the main character have a baby with special needs? How special? How will she deal with that? Will the writer develop the husband character? I guess I will stay tuned. Get it down — 31 for 21.

  • 5. qdawg  |  October 3, 2008 at 4:48 pm

    i hink sergio brings up some interesting questions that have me rivited and anticipating your every written word. i myslef am wondering if friends from america will be metioned. i think tying that guy Q into all of this will make for interesting reading. on a serious note, so far you are keeping up your reputation as an incredible writer. i feel like i am watching the whole thing unfold. maybe you should write sergei’s sermons fo now on…..

  • 6. denise  |  October 3, 2008 at 5:07 pm

    wow!…you leave me speachless…incredible, really incredible and i love you for putting this out there.


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