I ache for my 40 something self. The one who sleeps mostly through the night with no warm footed pajamas suddenly sliding in bed beside her. The self who strolls leisurely through the grocery store, getting lost in the sheer volume of choices for cuts of meat, deciding on none and meandering away. I ache for my 40 something self who has no home crawling with fat baby feet, no walls streaked with the grime of toddlerhood, no clock pounding the minutes away of nap time, lunch time, school pick up, don’t be late. My 40 something self, that poor relaxed soul with no more babies squealing to be raised, I ache a chilling and lonely ache for her.
I can only assume I was a Duggar in a past life because I can’t stand to think of my life without babies. I’ll admit there are things I think dreamily about. One day I’d like to learn yoga without the worry of finding a babysitter. I’d like to see a project through to the end without being interrupted 73 times. Maybe I’d like to eat foods for only my own body and not fear what might be crossing my placenta or contaminating my breast milk. Those things do sound lovely. But not quite as lovely as a baby who fits in the most perfect way propped on my hip bone.
When people brazenly declare “We are done having children!” I want to cup their confident hands in mine and lead them to a cup of coffee at a quiet table and beg of them; “but how do you know?”
As a kid we went to a church where the preacher would scold from the pulpit, “do you know that you know that you KNOW you are going to Heaven!?” That is the kind of conviction I feel about babies. Do you ever really know you are done having them? Do you know that you know that you KNOW? Does that ache of fertility ever subside? Because closing the chapter on this part of life seems so final. When I let myself consider the idea that we have three children, and might never again have more, I have a haunting image of plump ovaries saturated with eggs. Eggs that are brimming with the potential for life; babies that could be snuggled, nursed, wiped clean, rocked to sleep. It’s really a beautiful burden.
My 40 something self will not cut a semi sized stroller through bitter wind to pick up children from school. The only nose that she’ll wipe will be her own. Her stretch marks will remain, but they might sag a little bit in newly loose skin because a few pounds were lost in a yoga class. She’ll eat raw sushi, and take cold medicine when she’s sick. She’ll take two uninterrupted hours to clean out a cluttered closet, try a new recipe, watch a movie while eating potato chips out of the bag without swatting away hungry, grubby hands…And she’ll thank me, that 40 something self. As painful as it feels now, she’ll thank me.
But as much as I don’t know that I’m done having children, I don’t know that I want more either. I’m not certain I want another baby, I just don’t want the babies we have to be our last. I’ve been stopped by enough old ladies in the grocery store to know that these are the best years of my life and they are going by too quickly. Even as I type this I have to stop and peek around the kitchen island for a riveting game of peek-a-boo. And I know, these years, they are going by too quickly.
For now, I’m just a twenty something mom with a slew of kids. It’s not glamorous, I’m rarely thanked, I haven’t slept in years. Though some days I slip into a dreamy coma where I’m 45 and everything in my life is slow and no one is crying for me to wipe their bottom. It does sound beautiful. But then I roll over and some warm footed pajamas have slinked into the sheets beside me and the chubbiest cheeks are rooting around on my pillow, searching for sleep and mama warmth. And I sigh. The only thing I know for sure is that right now is exactly where I’m supposed to be, with a baby on my hip and an ache brewing in my heart for the years when this is all over.
Read more from Jessica at bubandteebs.com