I’ve got two important anniversaries coming up: The 5-year anniversary of our daughter’s death, and the 2-year anniversary of my father’s death. Early September just doesn’t have a great track record for me.
But even though I’m very aware of the anniversaries… life is good. Not only good. Life is amazing right now. I think I’m now removed enough from having lost my three pregnancies that their main impact on my everyday life is to make me grateful for the two amazing sons I do have. I’m sure everyone is grateful for their children. But the last five years have taught me so viscerally about how fragile life is that I do think I soak up the moments with my two babies in a way that I would not have otherwise. My relationship with my father was so fraught and complicated, but now that he’s gone, its main impact is to make me appreciate what an amazing father my husband is — he is the father to my children that I never had, and his father, my father-in-law, is the grandfather that my father could never have been to my children. Having them as part of my family heals me in a way that I didn’t know I needed.
Yesterday was a perfectly ordinary — but somehow remarkably perfect — day. When I woke up my older son, I snuggled with him in bed and told him “I love you more than chocolate,” and as he was waking up he said, “I love you more than chocolate AND frosting AND sprinkles!” Then I went to work, where there was an internet outage, so I spent the morning playing with a new digital planetarium that my department acquired last year — this fall I’m teaching a course that involves teaching students to use the planetarium to give presentations to elementary school children. And I was just thinking, “How cool is my job?! My work for the day is to play with this amazing planetarium!” Then I picked up the baby from daycare — it was hotter than heck, so when we got home I drew a cool bath and just let him splash around. Let me tell you, there is no better way to appreciate a deliciously chubby 8-month-old than to watch him play naked in a little baby tub and splash and giggle. I read to him for a while, put him down for his nap, folded laundry, loaded and started the dishwasher, whipped up some banana bread to bake, and sat down to do some writing to help my masters student turn his thesis into a published paper. When the baby woke up after a 2-hour nap, I nursed him and we went to pick up the big kid from preschool. After preschool, I played with both kids on the floor, building with Duplos, and there wasn’t even any squabbling over pieces. Then we headed over to a friend’s house for dinner, banana bread in hand, and the kids were mostly well behaved and I even got to have a somewhat uninterrupted conversation with my friend, the math professor. Home, snuggles, bedtime, packing lunches for the next day, and doing a crossword puzzle in bed with my husband, and we turned out the lights. Perfect.
I am so aware of how temporary all of this is. The baby is growing at an alarming rate. Soon he won’t be a baby anymore. Someday, my kids will be out of the house. Someday, life will be over. I just feel so fortunate every day to have the family that we have. To have the job that I have. To be the parent and professor that I wanted to be. I think the last time I felt this content and happy and excited for the future was the summer before I left for college. I remember that beautiful glow, appreciating everything I had and eagerly anticipating everything to come, and it’s the same as the feeling I’ve had this summer as the baby has been turning into a little person and as the reality of tenure has sunk in. I know this won’t last — nothing this perfect ever does — but for now, I’m soaking it up.
The one thing that makes me sad and wistful is that… I want another baby, and my husband doesn’t. I think I’m OK with that. I recognize that more children means more divided attention and time, and I want to spend as much time as I can with my two existing children. I think I’m more at home with the chaos of dealing with small children than my husband is — it stresses him out more than it stresses me out, and I don’t want to risk his mental health or our relationship by adding more stress than he can handle. At the same time, when we talk about why he doesn’t want another baby, for him it mostly boils down to immediate things. He says maybe if his parents lived closer and could help, and maybe if we didn’t have a dog, but he’s just feeling like he’s starting to get enough time back for work and exercise and he’s not ready to give that up again. Which I get, but I’m also thinking 10 and 20 years down the road, when the kids will be in school and what our family will look like in the long run. We both come from small families, and I worry that my kids will feel alone with no cousins and only one aunt — they’re basically it for their generation. Plus, I admit that my current baby is so wonderful and perfect that it’s hard for me to accept that this is the last baby. And I still haven’t quite given up on my dream of having a daughter, although I’d also be happy with another son. And when I consider my husband’s reasons, what I hear underneath it is that he could use more support. And I think… I could take on more of his responsibilities around the house (we split things pretty much 50/50 now), and we are also fortunate enough to be able to hire out some of the work, like dog-walking or cleaning or cooking (we tried hiring someone to clean and cook a few months before L was born, but it didn’t work out particularly well so we stopped when my husband’s parents came for the month of December). I think this decision is a “two yeses, one no” case, so I will ultimately defer to my husband’s wishes — I just can’t imagine pressing such an important life change onto someone else. When I asked him how sure he was recently — like, should I start giving away the baby clothes, or should we revisit in 6 months — he said he’s pretty sure, but we can revisit in 6 months. We obviously can’t wait forever — I’m 36 now, and given our history it seems unlikely that the process would be smooth, and biology might just decide “no” for us. So I’m waiting to bring it up again until our little one is a little bigger, and not holding out much hope, but there is a little spark of hope there.
And that’s the full update. I don’t know if I’ll keep updating the blog very much beyond this point, especially if we don’t have another baby. But maybe I’ll check in every once in a while — I do still read all the blogs that I’ve followed over the years and love to read the occasional updates there. But the immediacy of needing a place to write out my experiences has mostly passed, I think, and more recently it’s been a way to maintain the wonderful relationships that have sustained me through some of the worst experiences of my life. So thank you to anyone still reading. I’m sending my love to you all.