I am wide awake at 6 AM, which isn’t an unreasonable time for some people but since I was still up at midnight, singing lullabies and scratching your sister’s back then arm then leg then back again while you also wiggled to get comfortable in my belly, I know I could use the sleep. As tired as I am, I have come to savor this pregnancy insomnia. It seems like the only quiet time in my day, which as an introvert, I crave. It’s also the only time I seem to get to spend quiet time aware of only you.
I remember when my girlfriends started aching for second babies. I’d watch them, watching new moms with new babies and I’d see how the very sight of soft, chubby hands and burp cloths draped over shoulders made them turn over inside with anticipation. I knew what they were feeling because I was consumed with that urge, something I called the “Mommy Lonely,” when we were trying so desperately to conceive your sister. That feeling became the norm for me in those days when we found ourselves in a vicious cycle of filling a waste basket in the bathroom with negative pregnancy tests and looking for answers in sterile, white rooms and it hurt down into my bones when another friend would announce her pregnancy or I’d see a woman walking hand-in-hand with her child. It nearly suffocated me at times and once I had Ada in my arms, I didn’t want to ever feel that ache again. I didn’t know if I could survive it.
Motherhood is funny though and I’d still catch myself looking at those new moms, thinking, Really? You’re not ready for another? Ada is almost one or Ada is two now. Isn’t it time to have another baby? Timing. That was my reason for looking, as if bringing another human into the world should be a decision made on when your friends start Round 2. But even your dad, who was still very unsure about the whole baby thing while we were painting your sister’s nursery, started to get that “Mommy Lonely” look in his eyes and was occasionally found sitting quietly at family gatherings or parties with friends, holding the smallest baby in the room as if it was his own. But I just couldn’t make myself want another baby. I couldn’t allow myself to go there to that place of wanting to conceive.
Yet, I’ve always felt you and sometimes, I even tried to ignore you. Try as I might, you were always there in the corner of my mind, waiting for me like we were in a dressing room and I was just trying on bathing suits instead of trying to decide on becoming your mother. I couldn’t ignore you, not really, and I remember the summer after your sister was born, I bought a pair of overhauls that just looked like you, which I know makes absolutely no sense because how could I possibly know someone that doesn’t yet exist? But I did know you. I knew your sister, too. In the Bible, Jesus says he is going to prepare a place for us and I’ve always thought that feeling of knowing you guys was sort of like that; like long before either of you were conceived, a place was being made in my heart for you.
Back in high school, long before we were someone’s mom and dad, when we were just two tan kids trying to find quiet places in the world to kiss and dream of the life we’d build together, I used to talk about how sassy and independent our daughter would be. This sweet, 18-year-old boy (your dad) sitting next to me would just laugh and say he couldn’t wait to meet a girl like that. I think he thought I was daydreaming but I wasn’t. I knew her, knew her deep down in my bones, and that’s what made infertility so shocking. Facing the possibility of never having that girl I had always known and dreamed about was as final feeling as death and she literally haunted me. Once she was here, I realized all of the dark and scary corners of your mind you wander into once you become a parent and have your heart walking around outside of you couldn’t be as terrifying as the possibility of never having that child at all. Maybe this sounds crazy but your sister’s birth felt more like a resurrection; I felt like I had lost her and got her back again. A second baby has always felt like too much to ask of God when your sister’s first moments were like watching Lazarus breathe again.
So even though I’ve always felt you, I couldn’t allow myself to want you. Not the way I wanted your sister, and since mothers love to find new ways to feel guilty, I began a mental checklist of all the ways my heart wouldn’t be big enough for the both of you which made it easier somehow to see chubby baby hands and burp cloths draped over shoulders without the Mommy Lonely setting in.
The truth is, I get your sister. God gave her to me because she is 100%, undiluted me. She is creativity and energy and determination unleashed and I can see already the struggle she has to harness those things instead of being tortured by them. I know it because I live it, too. Sometimes I think I am her mother because no one else would have been as patient and intuitive to raise her and sometimes I think God thought I deserved a dose of my own medicine. Either way, as I watch her force her way through life (which is exactly why I nearly went crazy through infertility because my body wouldn’t do what she wanted and she was demanding even then) I often feel like we were put together to guide each other through life. There’s this passage from The Double Image by Anne Sexton that describes it better than I can: