First comes love.
Then comes marriage.

You remember that old nursery rhyme, don’t you?

My life followed the order of the nursery rhyme, thought I am not entirely certain that this is currently in vogue.

Norm and I had moved a second time in our three-year marriage. We were on our way to his new assignment – Philadelphia, Pennsylvania – to set up a new household in a new state, knowing nary a soul in the Northeast.

Change was difficult for me the first time – moving from Louisiana, where my family had been since Iberville claimed the territory for France in 1699, to Virginia. Virginia seemed almost like a foreign country to me. Where was the cayenne pepper? Where were the French surnames? I missed my family and friends. I missed home.

I adapted. We spent three and a half years in Virginia, making and collecting friends along the way. Though I knew I would miss our surrogate Virginia family, I was ready to go. Norm and I had become a family. Moving was not as frightening the second time.

While Norm was establishing himself in his new office, I took a trip to New Orleans to visit my mom and sisters. While I was there, the traditional New Orleans coffee and chicory tasted really, really bitter to me. After a few attempts to drink it while at home or out with my mom, I gave up. I couldn’t even stand the smell of it, and it had always been my favorite beverage. I had a sinking feeling that I was carrying a child, but I didn’t want to say anything to anyone. If I were pregnant, I wanted Norm to be the first one to know.

It was difficult to leave my family again – that never became easy, even with the passage of time – but after a month of visiting, I was ready to get home to Norm. He was still living in temporary housing until we could close on the house we had contracted to buy, and while we were there, I took a test. The stick turned blue. We were so excited – and I was so sick.

It was a good thing that we were in temporary quarters and I was unemployed. I slept all day, could only stomach saltines, ice-cold milk, and tomato juice, and certainly could not stand the smell of any kind of cooking, especially coffee! Poor Norm ate more meals out that month than we ever had or have done since, I think. But he didn’t complain. He could see that I was always on the verge of vomiting.

After a few weeks, we moved into our house and started making a home for our expected one. I had so much fun planning for a child, but I missed my mom and wished I could share my happiness with her. Skype, internet, Facebook – those were non-existent in those days. We communicated by phone and snail mail, and that was lonely for a Louisiana girl who wanted her child to be near family. But that was the best we could do at the time.

Then late one night, a storm blew in bringing wind and snow. I woke up. I went into the dining room and looked out the  picture window overlooking our yard. The trees were swaying wildly to and fro; leaves were scurrying about as though in an attempt to escape the bitter zephyr. I felt funny, but thought it was just the weather.

It wasn’t the weather. It was a child’s attempt to make her entrance into the world – thirteen days early. Eleven hours later, she did just that. Oh no! We hadn’t agreed on a girl’s name! Norm brought me the baby-name book, and while our nameless child slept in my arms, I landed on a name that we had been pondering: Jillian. Our little girl was born with a tuft of black, curly hair covering her tiny head. We decided that Jillian was her name, which means “downy-haired child” in Latin.

I had so much fun with a little girl – sewing fluffy dresses for her, crocheting pretty things, playing Barbies, reading the stories I had loved as a child. And of course, pushing that proverbial baby carriage.

Life took on a different “normal” after Jillian became part of the family. But that was what we wanted – to complete our family’s circle. Jillian did just that for me and Norm.

Jillian made us whole.

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