I’ve been getting rid of things.
Last week I sold the high chair. I had it for seven years. Someone gave me some money, and I gave them the high chair.
This week, I took some of Mia’s clothes and baby toys to a consignment sale. The worker who was sorting through them remarked on how beautiful all the little outfits were. “Thank you,” I said, then, “It’s kind of painful to part with them.” But she was busy and didn’t have time to counsel me on letting go.
I could have easily not had children. After Mark and I were married I suggested that we consider not having children, but he was certain that he wanted them. I was fine with that too.
And when, four-and-a-half years into our marriage, I gave birth to our son, I loved him more than I thought possible. Those first few months of holding and rocking and nursing were more precious than I would have ever imagined. He was often not a content baby, but the sense of wonder I felt as I became acquainted with Nolan trumped every challenge that was presented to me.
Four years later, when I became pregnant with Mia, I wondered if I could possibly feel the same with another baby that I felt with Nolan. I need not have worried, of course. My pleasure in those first months with Mia came from confidence and the hard-won knowledge that I should embrace each and every stage, for they are fleeting.
I was thirty-eight years old when I gave birth to Mia. For many reasons, including our age and our finances, we knew that two children would be it for us.
I am normally ready and prepared to move on to the stage to which our life has brought us. But each time I have to part with the relics of those early months and years, it is painful. When I am purging the house of bottles and baby toys, of precious clothes that they can’t wear anymore and gear that we will not use anymore, the simple fact dawns on me that, if all goes according to our plans, I will never bear another child.
I will never again spend months with a tiny being inside of me, sheltered and nourished by my own body. I’ll never lay, hand on my belly, feeling tiny movements and imagining what is to come. I won’t give birth again.
I won’t nurse a baby ever again. Not in my lifetime will I ever again fumble at my clothes and straps while the baby in my arms roots and pecks in search of food. I won’t fall asleep with my baby on my chest.
I wonder exactly what it is what grieves me in all of this. Sometimes, I have a sense that my ability to create life feels like the very essence of life itself, the pinnacle of my own experience on this earth…that everything in my life leading up to giving life to another was, unbeknownst to me, an uphill climb, and everything after that is downhill, and beyond that lies my own morality.
Don’t misunderstand me. I know that there is life still to be lived. There are good times to come today, tomorrow, and in the years ahead. In a blink my children will be increasingly independent and my husband and I can turn once again to each other and find adventures and quiet moments. I look on our family’s years to come with relish.
But sometimes, when I am sorting tiny clothes, I stop and remember sleepy, hazy days and nights with a baby in my arms, kissing a little bald head, and loosening my clothes for feeding time. Such sweet, sweet memories that I will carry in my heart through all my days.