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January 07, 2006

Waiting for Seth

One of the most difficult things my wife and I have had to face was several years of infertility. In the middle of that difficult time, after several In Vitro interventions, we thought that Karen might finally be pregnant and we were so excited. We were going on a canoe trip with my parents and planned on telling them. Then several days into the canoe trip Karen began her period and our nascent hopes were dashed. I wrote this poem in our tent the day after. Karen didn't get a chance to read it until we were back in the city - I gave it to her one morning just before she headed off on the metro. She read it in the metro and, surrounded by strangers, began sobbing. (When she got home later that day, she told me she could have killed me!)

To Seth, who was not yet meant to be
August 12, 1997
Wilderness escape
for the four of us that summer:
Me, wide-eyed by the wilds,
my sweet wife of two years
and my parents-for-life.
Sun-spangled days and
rain-speckled nights,
The benediction of campfire smoke
and the green-healing of pine forests.
One afternoon a little family passes by in their canoe,
Two children ensconced like small jewels in their seats.
They camp next to us. In early evening the father teaches his little girl to paddle,
with calm patience and clear visions of distant canoe trips in his eyes.
Lying watching on the flat rock, my eyes cannot escape.
Thirty-seven and counting,
my back sorer from portaging this year than it was last year,
gray hairs, more than before.
The news came this morning - no child for us
nine months hence.
Another cycle of prayers shattered and splintered,
Another cycle of hopes deferred,
with heart-sickening finality.
O Seth, Seth, my son,
You were not yet meant to be.
Naming you has brought the sweetness
and the hurt
Too quickly home to my far-traveling heart.
A loon calls distantly, mourning your unborn possibilities
As we sleep again under sizzling rain.
Tomorrow the trip continues
by paddle and portage,
A trip of sweet sadness, of healing waters.
A long trip that you will never know.

"Hope deferred makes the heart sick . . . " (Proverbs 13:12)

Would you like to hear the good news? In 2001, just under four years later, we adopted a wonderful little baby of Inuit origin, who is (along with his brother!) our pride and joy.
And yes. . . we named him Seth.

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