Mom and Elizabeth and I piled into the car on Monday for the long trek to Boise. It's a 65 minute drive to get to the city from here, and so we left an hour and a half before Elizabeth's scheduled ultrasound.

We met George at the clinic. Mom and I waited in the reception area reading back-dated pregnancy and motherhood magazines for about half an hour, then the nurse came in and escorted us to the ultrasound lair. It was showtime!

The tech squirted a dollop of clear conductive goop on Bit's belly and turned out the light. We were riveted to the big television set that was mounted near the ceiling. The tech turned the machine on, and suddenly the room was filled with the whoosh and thump of Lucy Grace's heartbeat.

She's breech, as she's been from the beginning, her legs prissily crossed at the ankles and her arms tucked over her face as though she's shielding herself from an oncoming basketball. Because of her positioning, her feet are always poised to kick Elizabeth squarely in the bladder. (Bit says it feels like there's a fairy in there tap-dancing.) Her kidneys and heart were fully visible, but we could only see her mouth and nose peeking out from between her arms. Lucy appears to be camera-shy.

Her fingers are perfect. They're long and slender and slightly curled. Piano hands, doctor's hands. She moved around a little bit while the tech pressed on Bit's tummy. It reminded me of what happens when you poke a sleeper - Hey, stop, I was asleep, go away!

We watched in silence as the friendly tech outlined Lucy Grace's organs, her tush, her feet. We listened raptly to the whoosh THUMP, whoosh THUMP of her heart pounding out 150 beats per minute.

I watched the baby inside my baby sister, this little person, my niece. Such a strange thing, to carry a child, to have a person living inside of you. Someone who kicks and rolls and (according to the doctor) dreams its own little dreams. Dependent but separate.

The news was on the whole very good. The placenta is stubbornly refusing to move away from Elizabeth's cervix - a condition known as placenta previa - so it's likely she'll have to spend some time on bed rest if there's any spotting at all. She probably won't be able to deliver normally, and the doctor is cautiously advising a c-section. They want to do an amnio in a few weeks to draw some fluid from Lucy's lungs and to check lung development. If all goes well, they want to take Lucy Grace out on Halloween day. (Now that's a treat.)

Bit doesn't care what they have to do; all she wants is to hold her daughter.

After the ultrasound, Elizabeth had several more minutes alone with the doctor, who checked the thickness of her cervix. The average thickness is 4 inches, and Bit's is holding at 3.7, which is excellent news. One of the main reasons she'd lost the triplets is that her cervix was thinner than normal; she just wasn't able to support the weight of three babies.

So we all breathed a collective sigh of relief.

Up until now, Elizabeth hasn't quite allowed herself to get excited about Lucy Grace. She's graciously accepted the gifts of baby and maternity clothes from her friends and relatives, but the fear of miscarriage has weighed heavily on her.

When we were done at the clinic we went out for lunch and talked. All of us were simultaneously limp with relief and zinging with excitement. We had plans for a Costco run after lunch, and Elizabeth said Well, I think it's time to stock up on diapers. Mom had an appletini to celebrate. I grinned until my face hurt.

It was a good day.

Living at home with my mother has been like having a personal cheering section. Some days are harder than others.

I want to be unreservedly happy for both my sisters. They're at pivotal and joyous places in their lives, places that I know I'll never have. I'll never be married for the first time ever again, and I'll never know what it's like to carry a child. Most of the time I'm joyous right along with them. I can remember the first weeks of my own ruined marriage, and those weeks were some of the happiest of my life.

But sometimes I get sad. It isn't jealousy, not exactly. It's more akin to self-pity, which is a limp and lonely and fruitless and shameful state.

Mom always listens to me when I get teary, when the day is done and I feel empty and lost and used up. She lets me say what I need to say and lets me cry for a little while. But then she always reminds me of one spectacular detail:

My life is my own.

I am no longer responsible for the happiness and welfare of a husband. I no longer have to discuss my decisions or explicate my actions. I'll never be a mother, but that's my choice, and it's a good one - bipolar disorder is outrageously genetic, and passage to children is as high as 80%, which is a significantly higher rate than schizophrenia. (Ask the Hemingway family about that.)

I get to start dating again. I can pick and choose who's allowed to be in my life, and I can weed out the ones who are shut down emotionally. I am at leisure to look for a companion if I want one, and to be alone if I don't.

I can write. I can go back to school. The money I make from now on can go to the things I want, to a future that belongs only to me. Mom always reminds me.

I get to be the cool aunt. I get to be single. It isn't the end of the world.

As a matter of fact, it might just be the beginning.