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I’ll never be over it

standard September 2, 2014 6 responses

I don’t think I’ll ever be over it. The whole no more babies thing. I can sit and look at my life and marvel at how wonderful it is to no longer be tied to an infant’s schedule or needs. I can sit and watch my children play and thrill at the fact that they no longer need me to hold their hands as they explore their world, test their limits, become who they are. I can sit and enjoy the fact that I am, once again, in control of my schedule, my days, my needs, my wants.

In every abstract way possible I can take stock of our lives and think “We have it good. We have enough. We are blessed with what we have.”

And still, I can hold a day old infant and feel heart-rending sobs threaten to break through.

I will never again feel a baby move within me.

I will never again experience the wonder of creating a life and carrying it to term.

I will never again whisper “welcome to the world” into a tiny ear I’ve been waiting to whisper into for 9 months.

I will never again hold my own newborn up to my breast and feel that deep recognition settle into my heart.

I will love on my friends’ babies.

I will love on my own existing children.

But that thought that I will never again be pregnant, never again give birth, never again nurse a baby, never again bring home a new member of our family… that thought breaks me.

99% of the time I can function happily in that space where I know I have enough, where I know I have been blessed beyond what many others get. I’m grateful for what I have, grateful for what I wake up to every day.

But sometimes I need to wallow in the “what if” and the “why can’t I too.” I hold a friend’s newborn infant in my arms and I wonder what my third would have looked like. What we would have called him or her. What it would be like to welcome another into our lives. And I struggle to breathe, crushed by the weight of missing someone who will never be.

This was taken 7 years ago when Little L and I met for the first time. She still makes that face sometimes.

This was taken 7 years ago when Little L and I met for the first time. She still makes that face sometimes.

For the love of Max

standard November 3, 2011 24 responses

“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.

Where’s my baby?

standard March 14, 2011 3 responses

The coughing startles me, sharp staccato burst after sharp staccato burst. I listen to see what kind of cough it is.

Pure asthma? Post nasal drip induced? Simple cold cough?

After five years of nursing two children through asthma exacerbated colds I can distinguish coughs so well that even at work I can tell when my coworker needs her inhaler even before she’s noticed.

Tonight Little L’s cough isn’t wheezy or scary. She’s reacting to a stuffy nose and some serious post-nasal drip.I try to let it go, but the bursts increase in frequency and keep me from falling back asleep.

I have a last ditch remedy, one that really shouldn’t work, but for some reason does, when nothing does the trick. Vicks VapoRub… on the soles of the feet.

It’s crazy. I know. But even snopes.com can’t completely debunk the myth. Fact is, it works. Despite having no scientific reason behind it. And who am I to turn down a solution that allows me to get some sleep?

I tiptoe into her room and find the little jar of salve. She’s curled into a tight ball, sweaty and hot to the touch.I untangle her from her blanket and loveys and smooth the hair out of her face. Then I gently ease my hand up her shirt to smooth some vaporub onto her chest. Hopefully breathing in the menthol will clear her nose a bit.

Then I turn my attention to her feet. I rub first one sole and then the next with the stuff, remembering how I used to do this when she was a baby, coughing late at night. In comparison these feet are huge in my hand. Still soft and sweet, but huge.

I ease her socks over her now sticky feet and tuck her back under her covers. In my minds eye I see her, small, feverish and sick, in her crib in our room. She was so small and vulnerable. This little girl though, in her big girl bed, with her pillow and comforter is no baby. She laughs, reasons, makes jokes, tells tales. She skips and hops, she can reach the light switch and even the sink.

Somehow, overnight, my baby stopped being a baby. And in just a few months she’ll be four. A four year old desperate to read like her sister. And even as my heart bursts with pride at seeing her become her own person in vibrant technicolor… my heart also clenches.

She’s my baby. My little one. It’s painful to see her outgrow her babyhood.

The vanishing belly

standard April 26, 2010 6 responses

Four years and change ago C was all belly. All belly and sweet cherubic rolls of fat. For the first four weeks of her life she was a skinny little thing, then overnight she chubbed out.

I was the cutest thing ever.

I’m not sure how, but until last week I hadn’t really noticed that she has shed most of that baby fat, growing into a lithe beautiful little girl. I can at times spot a trace of her toddler self in the dimples on the back of her fists or in the roundness of her cheek, reddened after a nap. For the rest, she’s all little girl.

It makes me sad at times to realize that I can’t stop time, hold her back. She starts Kindergarten in the fall, and while that’s still for little ones, I know that middle school and then high school are just a hop, skip, and a jump away from that.

I see her bright smile and trusting eyes and I want to hurt the first person who will break her heart. I want to shield her from all the harshness and unfairness of the world because I know how trusting and loving she is. I don’t want her to ever see the ugly before the beautiful. I want her to always see the good in people, to believe that anything is possible, to trust that being happy is all that matters.

Yesterday she slipped on a two piece bathing suit which I had thought would be cute with all its ruffles and bows. She posed for me and I froze. It wasn’t one of those cute toddler bikinis, showing tons of adorable baby belly and baby fat. It was… a bikini, that looked like a bikini, and it made me want to rush out to the store to buy her a slew of one piece suits to keep her a bit more covered up for the summer.

I’m glad I didn’t ask her to take it off though.

Because as I slathered on the sunscreen I had to cover that bare belly and under my hand it was still rounded and soft and felt exactly like that infant belly that I so lovingly coated in lotion after her bath.

She’s tall, she’s lanky, she reasons, analyzes, and questions like an elementary schoolgirl, but she’s still my baby. She’s still little.