“It’s a boy.”
The news came through on Facebook – telegraph of our generation – and my heart plummeted.
As gloom settled over me I honestly thought that it was sadness for her that brought me down. My friend had so desperately hoped for a girl, I was heartbroken for her. A boy. Her third.
And then, later, after receiving a gushing text, overflowing with love for her new baby boy, and noticing that my gloom only deepened, I realized that my sadness was for me, not her.
A boy. A third baby boy. And here I was filled with just empty longing for my own third child, for the boy I carry in my heart.
It’s a complicated issue my longing. I’ve wanted a third child from the moment they placed my second daughter in my arms. I couldn’t fathom that this could be the last time I would ever experience that first meeting with a baby who had grown in my womb. When she latched on for the first time, again I was struck with the agonizing dueling emotion of the rush of love for this little one and the heartbreaking agony of knowing there might never be another baby with which to share this bond.
I lived my baby’s first months in that weird painful space. I savored all her milestones and the little moments in between all while bracing myself against the sharp jabbing reminders that this was it, the last time I’d see these firsts. Celebrating her and mourning her brother all at the same time.
Because yes, it is a brother for my girls that I covet and dream of. A little boy who would look just like his dad.
And why does this make me so sad, you ask?
Well, simply because as each day goes by, that dream becomes more and more nebulous, more and more unattainable.
My husband never wanted the second child. It’s harsh, but really he was content with just the one. A second would just rock the boat, make our lives more complicated. Life was already overwhelming enough. I was undaunted. I wielded my charms and my persuasive arguments until he caved. And so the second was born. And he was right. She did rock the boat. She did make life more complicated. She did overwhelm us.
She never slept. She cried whenever I left her line of sight. She needed us – me – in a way her sister never demanded.
But she also filled our hearts in ways I never expected. She completed our family in a way we hadn’t anticipated.
And so you’d think I’d be able to once again wield my charms and display my persuasive arguments and win the fight for the third. But you’d be wrong. Because two months before that little second one was born the game changed. One of my husband’s cervical discs ruptured and our life was altered. Chronic pain and all it entails came to live with us and overwhelmed us more than even the squalling infant could when she really put her heart into it.
I never gave up hope. Not then at least. Discs heal, and if they don’t they can be removed. Necks can be fixed. Lives can be reclaimed. So our garage overflows with bouncy chairs and bins of baby clothes. I hoarded every outgrown item… just. in. case. I loaned out baby things, but I never gave anything away. just. in. case.
This past April, while undergoing pre-operative procedures for the surgery that would give us our lives back, my husband was diagnosed with a lifelong, chronic illness, one that postponed the surgery indefinitely. One that stripped me of my hope for that third child.
Oh, hope didn’t die right away. It lingered. It stayed. It was there the day I bought a micro-van with 6 seats… just. in. case. It was there the day we started looking for a bigger house and I would only entertain one with three bedrooms just. in. case.
Hope lingered until this weekend when it finally died. Ironically it only died after being bolstered to its highest point by weeks of relative good health and the rescheduled appointment to discuss finally scheduling that disc surgery.
A new symptom arose, seemingly overnight, and took with it my dream.
It’s not a bad symptom as symptoms go. In fact, it might not even be related to my husband’s illness. It could be something run-of-the-mill that a short course of antibiotics will clear up. But I saw him react to this new development and I knew in my heart, that while I might, one day, get to that place where the challenges of a newborn don’t phase me, he’ll never again get there – no matter how convincingly I plead.
Last night I accused my husband of being in denial about the nature of his illness. I told him that he needed to face the fact that he’d never been promised a particular life, he’d just been promised a life and that this was the one he got. A life filled with uncertainty and unpredictable challenges. I told him that accepting the nature of this life of his would be the key to getting through life relatively unscathed. It’s like being on a roller-coaster; if you fight the movement of the train you get hurt, if you let go and relax into the experience you can enjoy the ride.
I may have been right, but I wasn’t fair with him. I’ve been in denial too. Heck, I’ve been in denial and fighting reality for four years now.
I agreed to marry the man come hell or high water. I was not promised a perfect life with three children in a cute little white picket fenced house. I might have wanted that and hoped for it, but I was not promised any of it.
I am angry and I am sad. I have been robbed of my dream, but it was just that, a dream, a vision, a hope. The sooner I can let go of that ideal the faster I can get on with living and loving the life I did get. The life I do have. The one with a husband who loves me so much he’d face his fears to have the second child I coveted. The one with two beautiful, amazing daughters, who fill my heart with laughter and joy. The one where the only thing missing is a little boy named Max who only has ever, and will ever, live in my heart.
It’s time to clean out the garage. It’s time to move on.