The other day while Olive napped I sat down with six cardboard file boxes and some 75% off Valentine’s Day chocolates, and I boxed away all of her baby clothes. I had rotated them out of her dresser on a fairly regular basis as she grew out of them, but the boxes were haphazardly filled and improperly labeled. Organizing, sorting and labelling them was one of those tasks that had been lurking toward the top of my to-do list just waiting for the perfect storm of supplies (boxes, chocolate), a long afternoon nap, and the emotional wherewithal to get the task done.
I cried. Let’s just get that out of the way first.
Obviously I cried, it’s cliche for a reason.
The tears came first when I felt the soft fabric of the onesie Adam and I dressed her in in the hospital – the two of us bending her newborn limbs with the terrified delicacy of newly-minted parents.
It was the first item of clothing she ever wore.
They filled my eyes again when I pulled out her bear snowsuit. I was flooded with memories of how excited Adam was when he picked it out, how the sight of our little bear would make people smile so big.
I felt it first, then. As the boxes filled up with neatly folded and sorted onesies, sleepers and socks, Olive’s babyhood comfortably ensconced within six cardboard boxes. I felt a low sort of emptiness. A soft, strong pull.
I have felt it every day since. Friends with babies the same age as O have begun to eagerly announce the arrivals of #2, and I pore over their ultrasounds, their positive tests. I stare at pregnant women in a way that can only be described as borderline inappropriate. I lie awake at night scrolling through pictures and watching my life pass in reverse, Olive slowly morphing back into that tiny dark creature they first placed on my chest that sweet fall morning seventeen months ago, my belly in the pictures growing then shrinking back into nonexistence.
I miss it. Oh god, do I miss that feeling of fullness, of being – just for a few months – the physical embodiment of a wish fulfilled, a swelling bursting sort of happiness.
In the months after Olive was born, and even up until that rainy day last week, I couldn’t have identified any specific desire for another. I thought it was strange. I’ve always wanted a large family, coming from a rambunctious brood of six kids myself. I have watched Olive take her first steps, laugh so hard she falls over, learn how to blow bubbles; I have sat with these moments and more times than I can count I have thought to myself, This is enough. If this is all I ever have, this will be enough.
It still is. It still would be. But as Olive grows and becomes less and less a baby, and more and more an individual person, I also want more and more for her.
Most of all, I want for her what I had growing up, and what I have now. The crush of siblings who love and hate and amuse and tolerate you in just the right measures. I want her to know that unique, irreplaceable bond made up of shared rooms and tight hugs, overflowing anger, secrets kept and betrayed, reluctant apologies, clothing borrowed and never returned. I want her to know what it feels like to look into someone’s face and see pieces of you reflected back – in the shape of their lips or the colour of their eyes.
I want her to live in a house bursting with people who know her almost better than she knows herself, who love her as fiercely and unrelentingly as we do.
There is nothing like the feeling of wanting a child. It is different from the wanting I have felt for anything else in my life. It’s so deep and so strong that it seems to physically ache at times. It’s a sense of needing to be filled up, expanded, and it is so overwhelming that sometimes it’s all you feel.
It can take you over, if you let it.
It also feels different, this time around. The first time I felt this it was such an abstract desire.
I wanted a baby like some people want to win the lottery, or be a bestselling author. I wanted it in a no-brainer sort of way, Of course I want a baby. Who wouldn’t? But what that meant, a baby, it was so fuzzy. Blurred and distant. I wanted it, and looking back I don’t doubt my wanting, but this time I can capture its meaning so much tighter.
I know what this want feels like, tastes like. I know the heaviness, the fullness. I know the moment of hearing the heartbeat and knowing you are holding another life inside your own. I know meeting your child’s eyes for the first time, that strange dual sense of familiarity and strangeness. Hello, little one.
I know the sleepless nights and the breastfeeding, the feelings of pride and helplessness, success and overwhelming failure. Knowing all of this, this desire feels more authentic somehow. I know what I’m getting into. And I want it even more.
I feel greedy admitting to this want, like I am shoving my way to the front of the line to receive a second helping when some are still patiently waiting for their first. I wonder if it’s a betrayal somehow, if I should feel like one is enough.
This is what I keep turning over and over in my head, these thoughts that have become worn and smooth as stones. I imagine the pregnancy, the birth, the name, the days spent with a newborn against my chest. I imagine watching Olive become accustomed to her new brother or sister, I envision teaching her to how to be gentle, how to manage her hands and her volume and her jealousy.
I do this and I let myself get carried away, I think these thoughts all the way until Olive and #2 are both toddling around holding hands giggling at some private joke before I remember the most crucial point in this whole matter: I am not pregnant.
Furthermore, I am not trying to become pregnant. I will likely not be pregnant for six months at least, if not later.
I had always imagined having children close in age. I remember our midwife telling me that because of my full placenta previa I would need to wait until January 2014 to get pregnant again in order to try for a VBAC. I remember doing the math, thinking “They will be two years apart. Perfect.”
But it won’t be two years now. It will be three, or three and a half even, and something small inside aches when I think of this gap. None of my siblings and I are more than two years apart. Is it too much? Will they still be close? What gets lost in that extra year? What -if anything – is gained?
Where I always end up, in this circuitous rambling swirling mass of of babies and wanting, is with the realization that children are incredibly effective at teaching you how very little you truly have control of in life.
My pregnancy with Olive taught me that lesson again and again and again until I finally submitted. I finally exhaled, and I lay down everything but my hippie vision board and I just let life happen. I am trying to remember that lesson, and how it felt to exhale.
I am trying to remember how my pregnancy with Olive was everything I didn’t want – the gestational diabetes and the placenta previa and the hospital and the c-section – and yet I still look back on those months as the being the best, the unequivocal, hands-down best days, weeks, months, moments of my life. I would re-live them again and again and again if I could.
So this was not in the plan. The flat stomach and the stack of maternity clothes lying wait in a musty box. The age gap that just keeps getting wider and wider. The creepy pregnant-lady stalking.
But, they say life is what happens when you are busy making other plans, so I am trying to stop. I am trying to let go and sit with these moments, watching Olive climb and run and learn to do butterfly kisses. I am trying to ignore the tears that well up when I look at these pictures, and instead think to myself, “This is enough. If this is all I ever have, it will be enough. ”
Because it might be.