What the fuck do I do now?
When nobody wants you to have another baby but you.
On the last day of January of the longest winter I have ever known my baby, our baby, turned 2. When his brother had turned that age the new baby was already snuggled patiently in my belly. Like a caterpillar awaiting its metamorphosis, the definition of perpetual motion. Promising that this phase of my life was constant and present. And in that moment it seemed to me, much like the perpetual promise of my 20’s, that I would always be in this stage of my life. Eternally found with small chubby hands pulling at my pants, motioning to climb back inside me, to when we were one once before. But when we blew out the candles on the babies cake that dark winter night I thought to myself, all powdered sugar and empty uterus, “What the fuck do I do now?’.
Everyone I know it seems got together without me and decided that two babies was quite enough babies for me. ‘It doesn’t even make evolutionary sense Caroline’ my friend says, the one whom without Motherhood would have seemed like much more of a mistake. She wants us to be together, like we are right now, drinking cocktails and making each other laugh so much that the rest of the restaurant kind of wants to be at our table. And she knows, just like I do, that I wouldn’t have been able to make it if there was yet another human taking up residence inside me. ‘What if two is enough’ my Dad says, all kind eyes and a love that I recognize to be the aching desperation of a parent who just wants you to be OK. ‘More? You’re out of your mind’ another friend says, Rosé in one hand, a love that spans more than a decade and my best interests in the other. And really I don’t know what to tell them. It doesn’t make any sense.
Some days, like today in fact, I am so unspeakably tired from the toddler that still wakes in the night and the preschooler who refuses after years of an excellent sleeping career, to sleep in his own bed anymore, that I google such unstable sentences as ‘Mom young kids, so tired, is normal?’. I tell my husband as we lay in bed our limbs touching for the first time that day (that week? that year?), having carted the sleeping body of the eldest from our bed to the guest room where he will re-animate from mere hours later like he’s propelled by a tightly wound spring, that I am worried that my brain is breaking. That it hasn’t had an uninterrupted thought in at least 2 years now and I’m worried, like really actually worried that it just doesn’t work anymore.
And yet still. Maybe it’s a glitch in the matrix, but every time I look at them I think oh there’s supposed to be another one. There’s one missing. Like I absentmindedly left something behind at the supermarket when I picked up our grocery order and I really just need to go back and get it, because it’s waiting for us right now, right this minute. The recipe depends upon it.
‘You want more of this?’ says the man who used to pick me up for dates in a button down shirt and a look on his face that told me I’d met my match in every sense of the word. He gestures loosely at the purple reddish face of our toddler who is sprawled out on the floor screaming after we committed the cardinal sin of trying to put pants on him. Next to him our soon to be Kindergartner is telling us at length why he doesn’t want to do the thing we asked him to do, even though he actually really does want to do the thing we asked him to do, but contractually his almost 5 year old angst means he’s required to take a stance of defiance at every possible moment.
Yes I want more of this. I do. I want more of him, of them, of all of it. I think in fact maybe I want it never to stop? To consume it so hungrily that I might not know when enough is enough. But also for it to look completely different. I think I want it to be what I thought it would be. All suppers made and gleefully eaten. Eternal summers with warm peaches, fading light and kisses on their round pink cheeks. And somehow too, I want it to be exactly as it is. Frenetic, manic even and without peace. I want every minute of them needing me well beyond my capacity because when it’s gone, and it will go, I can’t imagine what purpose could ever take its place. What could ever fill the eternal void their love will leave. I want to build something bigger than me, that feels like it can’t be taken apart by the whim of a single human. Something that can be returned to. Year after year. Like holiday decorations pulled from the basement, all forgotten and familiar, distant but yet so present. You can’t build that of course. You can only hope.
‘Please just book a vasectomy’ I tell him, the man with the face that made me know this would be the start and the end of everything that had come before. ‘Please’ I beg. Because he can’t decide. Because he is a good man and wants me to have what I want and to protect me from what I maybe don’t really need. ‘Please just do it’ I go on. Because I am desperate to know my fate. Desperate for the stalled rollercoaster to whir once again, for I can sit here dangling no longer, waiting for the force of it to throw me from my seat all over again. Because I feel lost. Because what is my body and whom does it belong to if it’s not making or sustaining my children? I mean I think I’m actually asking you? What are my days if they are not punctuated by the buckling and unbuckling of car seats? Surely not the career I left behind physically and geographically almost a decade ago now? What is my place in the world if not beside them?And what if the end of this period of my life, of rounded bellies and leaking nipples would always feel like this? No matter how many of them I made? What if I’m trying to find a purpose in them that I can’t find in myself? Or trying to fix the past by building a future that looks so different than what came before?
What if there are no answers, the reply comes from the deep. Just questions and their hands at my legs.