Let Me Know When I Am Done
I think that, maybe, I am done having children.
Very possibly almost certainly.
I've been thinking about this for weeks. I've been thinking about the fact that our family of four comprises a tidy little unit. I've been thinking about the fact that my daughter and my son make such a lovely pair, and about the fact that even though he is still so small they are becoming fast friends and about the fact - the fact - that this is just so lovely. I've been thinking that our happy little foursome is so balanced. There is something about us, it seems - it seems - that is complete.
And that completeness is bittersweet. Bittersweet because, I don't know, who's to say that we wouldn't be even more complete with another member to love? I can imagine - albeit in only the vaguest, fuzziest outlines - a future that includes someone else, another girl or another boy who would throw her or his weight into our tidy little apple cart and knock our happy unit delightfully off-kilter, out of balance, wonderfully, joyfully askew.
But then I look at my boy and my girl and my husband - I look at us - and feel something that I imagine is a feeling of completeness and I ask myself, isn't this enough?
Of course it is enough. Of course.
I don't want to go through pregnancy and childbirth again. That is, at least, I think that I don't. Bringing Jasper into the world scarred me, literally and figuratively. You don't want to go through that again, says my mother when I say - ill-advisedly - that I'm not one-hundred percent sure that we're done. You can't go through that again. You just can't. But she's wrong, in part. I could go through that again. I don't want to, but I could. If you'd told me before Jasper came along that his gestation and birth would be so difficult, so emotionally and physically difficult, I would certainly have said that I didn't want to do it. But were I then to grasp Jasper in my arms and press his soft, chunky self against my chest and feel his little hands explore my hair, my neck, my cheeks, feel his breath on my face, hear his giggle, his coos, I would say to you, I would do it all again. I would not hesitate to do it all again.
And I would not. Hesitate, that is.
But I wonder: do I lie to myself, when I tell myself that I do not want to close off the possibility of a different future, a future with a third? Do I lie to myself when I concoct stories of some hypothetical child, some ghost child, some spirit waiting to be given life and welcomed into our family in a future that I cannot yet comprehend but am loathe to disavow? Do I hold out the possibility of that third child as a means of forestalling my own future, a future that I've lost touch with in this, my tenure as a new mom times two? Am I stuck in this identity - this identity that I both love and resent - as a mommy, to the extent that I am compelled to suggest to myself, over and over and over again, that this is who I am, all that I am, all that I can do? By which I mean: am I holding out for the possibility of a third child for the simple reason that there is some part of me - some deep and vital part of me - that is afraid to let go of the mantle of Mommy and march forward in life as me first, Mommy second?
Obviously, I haven't lost my sense of myself as Catherine - I do identify myself beyond 'Mommy;' I do have (fragments) of a life that is not defined by my care of and love for two small children - but my 'mommyness' has been a lodestone for me. It has been the thing that directs the compass of my life, that which points here, there, hither, yon and tells me where I am and where I should be headed (building a life with and for my children; building a future with and for my children; changing a diaper; looking for diapers; shopping for diapers). What will I do when I am no longer essential in meeting the minute-by-minute needs of these creatures? What will I be?
There are things that I want to do, versions of myself that I want be, all of which have little or nothing to do with being a mom. It is possible that I am afraid of leaping headlong toward these things, unencumbered by diaper bags and swaddle blankets and slings. It is possible that I am afraid of trying. It is possible that these diaper bags and swaddles blankets and slings are so much security for me: I cannot jump, see, because my hands are full. I would jump, but I can't. Oh well. C'est la vie.
(It is possible that this is what happens when you go without sleep for over half a year. You start to believe that there are no other worlds beyond this one. You start to fear that you could not not survive in any world outside of this one. You start to go a little - what's the word? - crazy, and you become attached to your own craziness. Maybe.)
I have a seven and a half month old baby and a three year old girl. I'm going to be 'Mommy' for a while yet. It is silly to be nostalgic for this stage of my life, this stage of their lives, when we are still so very much in it. And it is, very possibly, sillier still to fetishize the idea of more children as a means of clinging to this stage. I will, we will, have to be done with it sometime. I can't be Mommy forever.
So, am I done? I think so. I don't know.
How do you ever know?
Still hoping for contributions to this. It won't save my nephew, but it will, someday, save some other child, some other nephew, some other mother's son, and that will make all the difference.
Also, if you're so inclined, I wouldn't - as I explained here - object to nominations for one of these. If you're so inclined.