I’m eating tangyuan with my husband as fireworks explode above and around us to mark the last day of 2013′s Chinese New Year celebrations. I roll the deceptively tasteless glutinous ball in my mouth before biting into it, relishing the delicious, hot sesame paste that burns my tongue but fills me with a childlike joy. This is it, I think as we stroll home afterwards. The new year has truly, fully begun.
Last Chinese New Year wasn’t so blissfully uneventful. The Year of the Dragon, the Chinese zodiac’s most powerful, dramatic, unpredictable sign, surprised me with an unexpected pregnancy and an even more unexpected loss. I remember the bewilderment when we found out we were pregnant, the troubled first month when my then-fiancé and I went back and forth, reeling from shock, jumping from option to option. In the end the choice was simple, and though not fully accurate, the way I explained my decision to friends was: “How can I not keep it? It’s my dragon baby – my lucky accident, my blessing.” I tapped on my stomach nearly every morning, imagining that I was communicating with my daughter through an infant Morse code. Tap tap, how are you this morning, kiddo? Tap tap, thanks for not making mommy throw up. I was probably one of a small handful of expectant Dragon Mamas who hadn’t set out to have a lucky baby, but nonetheless I felt proud and auspicious.
That feeling didn’t last long.
To miscarry at any time is difficult. There’s something about being a Chinese woman miscarrying in the dragon year, however, that seems especially cruel. With baby fever so extreme, you are constantly reminded of dragon children. Like at the neighborhood hospital where I had my final ultrasound, the waiting room so packed with pregnant women that I waited three hours to confirm my empty uterus. All the “dragon baby sales” at the mall, proud fathers-to-be grabbing up clothes and cribs and strollers for their unborn dragon spawn. So many websites and newspapers and magazines reminding couples to conceive by May 15th to ensure their baby would be born before February 10, 2013, the start of the Year of the Snake – because who wants a snake if they can have a lucky little dragon? Lucky, dragon babies are lucky – I heard this so often that I became superstitious, suspecting my miscarriage meant I was cursed. If dragon children are bringers of good fortune, surely the loss of mine was a bad omen, all my good luck wrenched away.
Maybe it’s because dragon year is over, or perhaps it’s just because time has healed most wounds, but my tenseness has faded. Holding my friend’s year-old dragon baby the other day, I felt love and tenderness with no trace of the bitterness that’s clung to me for far too long.
“We can really move forward now,” I say to my husband as we’re getting ready for bed.
He smiles and pulls me to him. “But dragon year wasn’t so bad, was it?” he asks. “We did get married, you know.”
I think back to our April wedding. Did you see us, Dragon Baby? Kissing and hugging, laughing and smiling, proudly holding up the certificate stating we were “joined in lawful wedlock in Limo, Las Vegas”? Did you see the shadow beneath our joy, hear our fleeting thoughts of how, minus a few letters, ‘miscarriage’ becomes ‘marriage’? Do you see the rose petals we’ve saved from my bouquet and his boutonniere? Twelve petals, for each week you were with us.
I look at my husband now, the man who has weathered everything with me. “No,” I agree. “Dragon year wasn’t so bad.” I snuggle against him and close my eyes, saying goodnight, goodbye to whoever she would have become, and planning for tomorrow as fireworks continue celebrating the new year right outside our window.