This has become my husband’s go to to reply to my hints that, lately, I am uncertain of whether our family is complete and it’s a good one. No matter what angle I’m approaching the issue from or what platform I’ve mounted for my argument, this question always stumps me into silence. Conversation over.
While I don’t have an answer to this yet, here’s what I am certain of: I miss my babies. Yes, I know that my 3- and 5-year-old are a far cry from the angst-filled, hormone-driven, teenagers embarrassed by my mere existence they’ll be in a decade, but I can’t really call them babies anymore, can I? They walk, they talk, they can operate an iPhone. They memorize the lyrics to Black Eyed Peas songs and pick their own movies on Netflix. They change their own clothes and put on their shoes. The other day Danica even successfully put the straw into her Caprisun pouch without my help.
And now I am officially and completely useless to them.
Gone are the days of rocking and nursing, of milk drunk smiles, of onesies and fuzzy heads with that sweet fragrance that all newborns seem to possess. This is where my husband would step in and remind me that gone are also the days of middle of the night feedings, colic, and diapers, followed by “Do you really want to start that all over?”
Again, I’m unsure. Here’s what I do know: fostering a sense of autonomy in Anders and Danica is the single most natural and unnatural thing I do in my daily life. I rejoice in their milestones. I cheer them on. I encourage them in every step.
Look, mom! I can write my name. I can brush my own teeth. You don’t have to lay with me. Just turn off the light and go downstairs, mom. I don’t want to ride in the cart anymore, mom. I can walk.
I don’t want to hold your hand, mom.
Every day they grow more independent, develop a better sense of who they are and what they want from life. Every day they need me a little less. Emptying the dishwasher, reading a magazine, writing, these things are far from a state free of interruption, but I find the time spent tending to their every need is on a gradual decline. This is thepart where I’m supposed to breathe a sigh of relief and I do on some days.
Then I pass a pregnant woman in the grocery aisle and it dawns on me that I will never again lay in bed with my husband watching my belly dance from the movements of a person we spend months anticipating, dreaming of, planning for. Never again will I see that look in my husband’s eyes when he hands me our new baby swaddled in hospital blankets. Never again will I lay them in my lap and unwrap them for the first time from the tightly tucked layers so that I may count each finger and toe, to marvel at this person unknown to me moments before.
My children are here now. I know them. I know the birthmark on Anders’ scalp and that he loves all music with a strong beat. I know that he is cautious and observant, that he loves super heroes and possesses an unmatched imagination. I know the freckle on Danica’s right hand matches the one on her right side. I know that she has a sweet tooth that rivals my own and is capable of climbing great heights to satisfy it. I know that she is nothing if not determined and has a sense of fearlessness that terrifies me.
My babies are here now, but babies they are not. At times it feels like every inch they grow is mirrored in the growth of a void in me.
Do I want a baby or do I want another child? It’s a question which succinctly cuts to the center of the issue and is one that could only be formed by my husband who knows me better than anyone ever has. Perhaps, it is one he has asked himself, though I’m certain he’d never admit to this.
At the end of this all I really know is that we have time and in this I find comfort.