Ava wants to make sure I put everything on the list – “if I don’t make a list, Santa won’t know what to get me.” “Will you give it to him? I don’t want to see him because I don’t want him to hug me…. so I’ll just wait in the car.”
And, while we’re at it, Ava would really like a baby sister. (She’s asking us, not Santa, btw.)
“And she can sleep with me so she won’t be scared.” I tried to explain to her that I really don’t think there will be any more babies in this house, but she asks “why?” She asks because she hears the hesistation in my voice – she hears what I never say out loud, that I really did want another child, what feels like the missing piece of a puzzle I’d made up in my mind 25 years ago.
As I sorted out all the baby clothes two years ago from a collection of seven Rubbermaid totes in the attic, deciding it was high time I drove it over to the consignment shop, I felt nauseous and slightly dizzy. How could I part with my first born’s newborn sleepers? The outfit he wore in his first Sears portrait? Everything in those boxes contained a physical memory of the baby he was: the early, before-sunrise feedings by the Christmas tree, the lazy days spent on the couch cradling him in my arms, his first real foray in the snow outside our apartment in his $80 Gap snowsuit, the swimming trunks he wore while he clung to me in my dad’s pool, the clothes he wore at a Christmas Eve dinner where he charmed everyone around us and me – the joyful recipient of his newest skill – kissing.
The clothes had not only the sentimental value, I argued with myself, but economical as well – what IF we had another child? And we also had tons of girl clothes too – as my mother-in-law, the mother of only two boys, thought she’d died and gone to heaven and rushed right out to the Bon Ton. In the beginning of my purging exercise, though, it seemed easier to part with Ava’s clothes, so sure was I that if there was a baby #3, it would be a boy.
The eeriest part of all this came when I was sorting a box of Owen’s baby clothes with Ava – she was pulling out things and announced that “this is Mason’s.” I felt the hair stand up on the back of my neck. For those who don’t know, Mason was the first name we had picked for Owen, before we decided on the name he was given. We had figured then that “Mason” would come later. Ava never knew this.
Today, though, Ava is convinced that she will be getting a baby sister. The first time she brought it up, I just listened to her rattle on about how she would hold her and feed her, but not change her diaper because “I don’t really know how to clean up poop.” After two days I felt it was important to explain that while it would be nice, it is not likely. My cling-on daughter seemed undaunted by the idea of being separated from me for a few days, that “daddy can take care of me, ” if it meant she’d get me back with a bonus. I felt compelled to explain all the “cons” of a new baby in the house – including the incessant demands of a newborn (but hey, I’m already up all night, right?) a rather large and inquisitive dog who hasn’t yet mastered “down” (who, by the way, was insanely jealous of the baby kitten I once held), not to mention the very real possibility that she could end up a he.
What I do not say is what she cannot yet understand. That I worry about my “advanced maternal age.” I was 35 when I was pregnant with her and that seemed to be a big deal in the medical community. That the joy of discovering she was a girl was overshadowed with worry over the choroid plexis cysts she had on her brain (apparently not uncommon and resolve themselves) and her right renal dilated ureter (more worrisome) – all markers for outcomes we never hoped to ever think about. That I was knocked out by round-the-clock morning sickness for 16 weeks, seven longer than with my first child. That while I enjoyed the overall pregnancy experience, I still cringe with memories of her lightning-fast delivery. That I can never forget us standing over her bassinet just two hours after her birth, anxiously searching her face for reassurance that she was normal. That I can’t forget the 45 minute car ride home, the worry and the tears we shed over the news we’d need to see a CHOP specialist for her dilated ureter, now named hydronephrosis.
More than that, more than losing my body again or squeezing a third child into our loud and chaotic little family, is the fear of having another child with diabetes. Owen has a 5% chance of developing Type 1 himself and, while that percentage seems small, I’ve seen and met too many families online with multiple diabetic children. It took me way too long to let go of the fear of whether he too would get it. And, the risk remains, for life.
Time has a way of healing wounds, they say, like the loss of a loved one (jury’s still out on this one for me), the memory of childbirth or even a week of watching your 2 year-old scream her lungs out at Children’s Hospital. Life goes on. They may not be gaping wounds anymore, but they do linger.
Worry never robs tomorrow of its sorrow, it only saps today of its joy. ~ Leo Buscaglia