Friday, March 11, 2016
When Phoebe turned 18 months old - the age Lorelei was when I got pregnant again - I had a vivid dream that we were pregnant with a third child. Another sweet baby girl, named Maeve. For a week or so, I thought a lot about that maybe-baby, dreaming of what it would be like to have her in our hearts and arms and home. And then I said goodbye.
I've said it lots of times, here and out loud to anyone who wants to listen, but I am not a baby person. I am not overcome with longing when I see little hands and feet peeking out of blankets in a stroller and I almost never ask to hold anyone's newborn (except as an offer of assistance so they can eat, or nap, or just be off duty for five whole minutes). I loved both our daughters intensely when they were babies, but I don't yearn for those early, sleepless moments. Jason and I felt confident and happy with our choice to have two, and only two, children. I boxed up and shipped off my maternity clothes within days of giving birth for the second, and last, time. The older they get, the more I enjoy being a mom to two girls.
And yet I clung, even for a brief time, to the idea of a third baby. Maybe it would be different this time, a little voice said in the back of my head. Maybe you'd love it - and what if you missed that chance? I've been watching with interest as Elise Cripe (of Elise Joy fame) has embraced the baby stage so wholeheartedly with her second daughter - after a very difficult birth and postpartum period the first time around - and I feel in awe, and a little jealous, of how much she loves it. I wanted to love it, too, and I just couldn't.
Reading Joanna Goddard's recent(ish) post, however, made bells go off in my head (it helps, too, that she has struggled just as much, if not more so, during the baby phase with both of her children, even though she desperately loves being a mother). There's an allure to thinking of yourself in the group of "young mothers" as opposed to "done having kids": one feels youthful, the other as if a page has been turned and there's no going back to the previous chapter. And her other explanation for the romantic notion of another baby - the desire to stop time with your already-existing children - rings true for me, too: I found myself teary-eyed last week after browsing back through my board of "to-make" projects (ha ha) on Pinterest and discovering several patterns for sweet rompers I never got around to sewing for either girl.
I mentioned those rompers - with slightly teary eyes again - to Jason on a very rare date night last week, and he responded, "I guess I don't feel that way because I don't really make projects." Womp womp. But then he went on to say that he has been feeling similarly. For him, it's been a realization that, over the past 13-15 years, he's made all of the significant choices he can probably ever hope to make in his life: which career to pursue, whom to marry, where to live, whether or not to have a family, when that family is complete. And though there is comfort and ease in having those choices made, there's also a poignancy in knowing that, barring great misfortune or tragedy or major life upheaval, from here, the path is an increasingly narrow one.
In her role as advice columnist for The Rumpus, Cheryl Strayed (aka Dear Sugar) wrote a beautiful response to a man questioning whether he should become a father in a column titled "The Ghost Ship That Doesn't Carry Us." It's a wonderful read, but here's a nice summary of it from Cheryl Strayed herself, later, on her podcast also titled Dear Sugar: "One of the beautiful things about life is loving the things that you've had to let go...It's about waving to this ship that you're not aboard, and acknowledging that there's beauty on it, and you're not there for it, but because you're not there for it, you're there for another kind of beauty."
I've been waving at a lot of ghost ships lately: one where I have a third baby girl named Maeve and love her intensely, one where I have no children at all but a magnificent career doing Meaningful and Important Things, even one where I have only one child and life is a little slower, and little less chaotic, a little simpler. But I've also sewed three skirts for the girls in the past two days and just downloaded another pattern to try, because I'd better sail this ship before I'm waving at it, too.