A friend of mine is pregnant.
To be honest, I can't remember when she's due or how far along she is -- I vaguely remember her telling me the news over the summer. I know of other people who are pregnant as well -- some on their first, some on their second, and I'm genuinely excited for each and every one of them. As crazy as the whole thing is, creating a life is a truly magical experience and I'm so thrilled for my friends who choose to take the path to parenthood.
And I'm equally as stoked to be someone who is told in confidence, sometimes even before family members, because I've been down this path twice now and had just about every experience under the sun (save losing one or having a C-section) in the process. I am a fount of knowledge in comparison, on nearly everything as it pertains to baby baking and birthing. I'm honored that my friends trust me so much, and I love the opportunity to help out in whatever ways I can.
For most, that's meant disbursement of my own and my kids' stuff to other people who could use it due to ages and growth spurts and trimesters. And I'm glad to do it, because these times are hard, and people have gone out of their way to help us out however they can, so the best thing to do it pay it forward (since it shouldn't be about tallies and tit for tat, but just spreading goodness in the world, in my opinion).
But there's an underlying current to my generosity -- one that's really hard for me to talk about.
Right after Tova was born (like LITERALLY, I'm not even sure I'd birthed her placenta yet) as I snuggled her up to me with her petrified face smooshed against my chest so she could hear my heartbeat and know it was okay, she was just outside now, I looked at Kyle dead in the eye.
"We're not done."
After verifying he'd heard me correctly, he shook his head and laughed and told me that was fine, but let's concentrate on the one we just had and the toddler at home for a second. Which, YES, I certainly needed a break longer than eight months between births and conceptions, and obviously we already had our hands full with Kiedis, and adding Tova to the mix wasn't going to be an easy task, especially considering the hell Kyle and I had been through (and are still going through to an extent) a year prior.
Then we had some serious conversations about more permanent methods of birth control, and a couple of months postpartum I was very OH GOD NO MORE BABIES but when I began a questionnaire about sterilization and it asked me if my child(ren) were to die, would I be okay not being able to have more and all I could see was Kiedis' blue little body in the NICU when he went into SVT and his cardiologist had me leave the room "just in case" -- I burst into tears and knew then, no, I might not be done having babies. Or at least not willing to completely take the option off the table, so to speak. So I talked to my doctors and got an IUD since I can't handle hormonal birth control anymore and at that point, another oops baby might have just snapped my mind right into a million pieces, and I've been very happy with the situation as it rests.
Except for periods. Three years of being pregnant/nursing pretty much straight? Yeah, I forgot what those were like, and then felt like a newb every time one caught me off guard (and unprepared). It was a rough few months there before I got my menstruation groove back.
So that brings us up to present day, where it occurs to me on a regular basis that when Kiedis was Tova's age, I was already pregnant with Tova. While I still see that as more than slightly insane, it does feel a touch weird to not be planning for another right away. With Tova, we were very lucky that I have the hoarding tendencies that I do, because we really didn't have to start from scratch as most do with a first. We still had a car seat and all of Kiedis' clothes -- when we found out she was a she we kept most the gender neutral stuff and sent the "boy" stuff to friends with a boy her age. Of course, after I cried over it all because (1) they were my firstborn's clothes, (2) I painstakingly picked out nearly every single item for him, (3) I have a slightly unnatural attachment to things, and (4) see said hoarding tendencies. But I loved these friends very deeply (still do) and while I mourned the loss of the baby Kiedis once was, I couldn't think of anyone better to pass them to than their son, who was already so loved before we all even knew his name.
Taking that step has made it easier to let go of things to other people, and allowed me to see that the benefits of passing things on far outweighed the benefits of a tower of Rubbermaid totes in my basement of baby clothes and an entire maternity wardrobe that wasn't anything to thumb a nose at, either. I've learned to enjoy being able to pay it forward, and the appreciation I receive in return is enough to keep me feeling at peace with the universe for a good while.
My hang-up, however, lies in the maternity clothes.
I've been dealing with the very solemn realization that I may, in fact, be done. Not necessarily because I want to be, but because a lot of outside factors seem to be pointing to the fact that I have my two, my boy and my girl, I should be grateful and enjoy what I have.
I do enjoy them, endlessly so. And not having to brace for another has allowed me to slow down a bit and actually revel in them and how amazing they are, which nearly breaks my heart that it's taken me so long to get to that place.
I enjoy having my body to myself, to be able to just be one person in one skin. I remember the chaos that comes with newborns and amalgamating them into an existing unit and the thought of doing it again makes me tired and leaves me craving alcohol (because I CAN DRINK AGAIN). And as I get older I know my eggs aren't getting any younger, and with every passing birthday my personal risks for complications due to my health issues (both physical and mental) and I've already done the unhealthy-baby route, leaving me trepidatious about taking that risk again.
Yet, there they are, these phantom babies who are wispy shadows reminiscent of the children I have. They have names and sometimes I can almost see their faces, and they just linger there on my periphery, waiting and watching the life I have now. I can't tell if they're separate beings or personifications of what I hope my actual children to be as they grow, but there they are nonetheless.
I really don't know how to feel about them anymore.
I don't want another baby right now -- I need some time to be myself in this skin and to work on my family and to figure out exactly what all my life is going to entail in the foreseeable future. But that doesn't mean I'm necessarily done, however.
I stand on this precipice of being a complete unit (I grew up with only one sibling) just the four of us (or, if this relationship proves nonresuscitable, the three of us, myself and the two I birthed) and being okay with that, but on the other hand seeing having more (whether they be Kyle's or my imaginary second husband's) and having that be complete as well.
As the drive to pass things on surpasses the drive to hoard "just in case" it strikes me that maybe this is the end of a very short era in my life. And that makes me a little sad, to be honest, because of those phantom children I'll never meet.
Of course, I can't see the future and all of this mental gymnastics I'm doing weighing the pros and cons of further reproduction could very well end up being a moot point. But it's a weird place to be, to feel in charge of such life-changing decisions instead of just leaving it up to chance, and to not really be preparing or planning either way.
So this weekend when I see my pregnant friend, I'll take a box of maternity items I pulled out of storage that might come close to fitting her and will tell her to pass them on if they don't because who knows if I'll ever need them again or not. I'd like to think that were the time to come that I did need maternity clothes again, I'd just be able to get new ones, though the constant financial uncertainty of just everything doesn't really help to soothe my anxious mind.
It's still not worth hoarding them, though. Mostly because I'm sure styles will change and I don't want to be potentially stuck in out-of-style clothes and feel frumpy and crap for it. So it's better they're worn now, by other people, so they get as much mileage out of themselves as possible.
And trust, I still have a singular tote of my absolute favorites, so were an unexpected friggin' MIRACLE to happen, I wouldn't be completely screwed. And we won't even start to talk about the tote of baby clothes I can't quite part with.
SHUT UP, I know I'm not the only one who does this.