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Kira Martin

What He Left Behind

Illustration by Brittany Molineux

Kira Martin | Longreads | January 2019 | 13 minutes (3,412 words)

When a woman is pregnant, cells from her baby cross the placenta and enter her bloodstream. From there they sink into the tissue of her body where they live for decades, and perhaps for the rest of her life — they’ve been found in women in their 70s. If you were to capture one of these cells and sequence its DNA, it would be different from the mother’s. It would be half her and half the baby’s father, tangled and assorted in all the complex ways two people come together to make a new person.

When I was 20 weeks pregnant with Max, I had an ultrasound. On the drive there, my husband and I argued about names. I was a fan of traditional names, while he preferred the flamboyant.

“If it’s a girl, how about Krystal?” he suggested. I looked out the window, refusing to dignify that with a response. The landscape scrolled by, trees and houses and the flashes of telephone poles. Then I heard it in my head, and said it aloud like reciting a prayer.

“Maxwell. After my grandfather. His name is Max.”

My husband glanced at me, curious.

“Yeah, okay, I like it. For a boy. But if it’s a girl, you’ll consider Krystal?”

“Sure,” I said, “but his name is Max.” Read more…