The day began innocently enough as far as epiphanies go. After a slow start due to a late night the evening before, we were finally all up and moving—moving tubs and bags and boxes up from the basement to be dug through and sorted and stored or gotten rid of. I was nearly jubilant as I plowed through the last ten years worth of stuff (which had heretofore been accumulating en masse all over my basement, already a pit to begin with) trying to determine what were keepsakes and what was simply not worth keeping. Baby clothes, teething rings, books, baskets, tennis shoes, clothes out of date, out of style, out of size. Three carloads to Goodwill later, I was nearly finished.
Laid out before me were the remnants of babyhood to be sorted and stored, and then my work would be finished. I perused the items carefully—which child did they belong to? Was this handmade? By whom? Would they want this for their own children? I tried to identify all the important information one would want to remember but would never be able to in twenty-some years. It was at this point I picked up the dog.
He was cute—a soft, shaggy brown mutt about the size of a webkinz. I couldn’t remember for the life of me to which child he belonged. I noticed he had stitching on each ear—one ear read “record,” the other, “play.” Easy enough, I figured. I’ll press play and see if it gives me any clues.
I pressed play and out came my own voice. “Hi Buddy! I love you!” I crooned. Problem solved. It was my son’s. I was not prepared for what happened next.
The recording wasn’t over. After my own “I love you,” there was a second’s pause, and then an 18-month old voice echoed back, “I yuv you!!!”
If this afternoon in my life were a scene from a movie, that moment would look like the scene in Ratatouille when Anton Ego, the food critic, takes his first bite of Remy’s ratatouille and is sucked back through a wooshing vortex of memory to his mother’s kitchen some thirty or forty years earlier. I could almost feel my hair swoosh around my ears as I was transported instantly back to chubby cheeks and cherubic faces and wet kisses and infectious laughter. I lost it.
I sat there in the middle of what will never be again, and I couldn’t pull myself back together. And that’s when it all finally came clear in one heartbreakingly obvious moment. It was more than just mourning the passing of these stages in my children’s lives, though I am wont to do that ad nauseum. No—it was something more, something deeper, something I’ve never spoken. Something I’ve ignored and stifled and stuffed and shrugged off but could never quite get rid of. And there it was, all messy and snotty and out in the open. I. Want. Another. Baby.
There. Will. Be. No. More. Babies.
There will be no more babies. After two difficult pregnancies, one of them with multiples, I couldn’t have dreamed of putting my 34 year old body through that, let alone my nearly-40 body. I knew, when my son was born, we were done. I simply couldn’t do that again. The nine months of terrible pain, the destruction of my body, the disruption to our lives, the months upon months upon MONTHS of screaming, diaper changing, screaming, sleepless nights, and did I mention the screaming? No. There will be no more babies. I knew this six and a half years ago. I know it still.
But there is a difference between knowing and knowing, and my heart began to understand that difference this Saturday knee-deep in blankets and bears and binkies and baby books. I grieved on and off all afternoon. I grieved lying awake in bed, unable to sleep with pre-meet nerves. And I grieve it now, wiping tears between paragraphs, putting it all into words for the first time and perhaps the last.
There will be no more babies. Surrounded with what remains, I closed that chapter yet again this weekend, flipping forward once again to the school-aged years where I will continue to suck every bit I can out of each and every moment available to me. As Buddy listened with curiosity to his younger self, he crawled in my lap, wrapping his slender arms around my neck. “I still love you, Momma,” he reminded me. I held him too tight for a little too long, and I told him I loved him, too.
And then, yet again, I let him go.