“Surprise!” screamed the subject heading. I already knew what the email from my sister-in-law and brother-in-law was going to say, but I was still so excited to see it. They were having a baby. I was ecstatic for them, of course, but there was an odd twinge of envy that I was so not expecting to feel. I didn’t want another kid, did I? How could I? I already have the best family, replete with husband, 4-year-old boy and 19-month-old girl. I had even recently dreamed that I’d had another baby and tried to leave him at the hospital. So why was I jealous that my sister-in-law was pregnant?
I thought maybe it was just a passing feeling, like dying my blonde hair red. Something I think about for a second and then nix because I know it won’t suit me. But no. This feeling was sticking around. Trips to the pharmacy became slow strolls through the baby section past the bottles I no longer needed, reverently touching the tiny pacifiers and bibs, giggling when I saw the breast pads. What the hell was happening to me?
I began to long for those magical three months of smelling my newborn’s deliciously sweet head and cradling a soft-as-velvet tiny body next to my breast. But then I thought, Magical? Was I insane? Had I completely forgotten the frantic juggling of two young kids, almost zero sleep, and leaky boobs? The longing ache for another baby was clear proof that I had lost both my memory and my mind.
I’m not yet 39, but I feel like I’ve aged 10 years since I had my daughter. The long months of broken sleep, bending down to pick her up, reaching this way and that to get her into her car seat and letting her ride on me like a horse have often made me feel like a 60-year-old. My back aches, my knees creak and I can hide snacks in the bags under my eyes. And getting two kids to various appointments and programs, and rushing to get my son from school while lugging a diaper bag, stroller and toddler through the daycare doors at the end of a long day can leave me totally frazzled. How could I possibly consider adding a third kid to that mix when I only have two hands?
And like one tends do when they want to get pregnant, I began noticing swollen bellies and watching the women with three kids who always had a smile on their faces and a spring in their step. I didn’t quite have the same warm and fuzzy feelings about being pregnant again because really, I’ve been there and done that. Although there’s nothing like that plus sign on a pregnancy test, it wasn’t the pregnancy I wanted. I didn’t have babies anymore – and I wanted a soft, sweet, tiny baby to care for again.
I love my mommy-son dates with my 4½ year old when we go to movies, plays and out for lunch just the two of us. I relish our long talks, and the brilliant and funny things he says. I adore listening to my daughter learning to talk as she repeats every word I say, crawls into my lap and says, “Mommy.”
I’m not sure what I was missing because life was exactly how I wanted it. My daughter had finally begun sleeping through the night, and I could go out again. Drinks, dinners and adult conversation all became a reality. I started my own writing/editing business and was truly living a dream I didn’t even know was possible. I had it all, which is why I wanted more. No matter how busy and happy I was, nothing could beat the joy and excitement of a new baby.
My husband thought I was certifiable to even be considering a third kid when we could barely handle how busy we were with two. My friends who had two kids also thought I was nuts. They totally got the ache of wanting a new baby, but had no desire to do it all again.
I went so far as to start calculating when the baby would be born if I got pregnant right that second. I figured that my breasts had already lost their former glory, my stomach would never be the same, and sleep, well, it would happen one day. Then, following another restful night, I bounced out of bed when I heard my kids calling for me.
I went to my daughter’s room, expecting the same toothy grin I get every morning. Instead, she had snot all over her face and her cheeks were flushed. I kissed her forehead and, yup, she was warm. Oh well, she had a slight fever and cold. No big deal. She’s so easygoing that I was sure it would pass quickly. And though she was still her sunny self for most of the morning, the snot was flowing, and she was getting warmer. I called my husband to let him know and tell him he’d have to pick our son up from school that day when he finished work.
I had just put my daughter down for her nap, usually a painless and easy task, and was about to start working. Because I’m home with her full-time, I work during her naps and at night. I was sure I’d figure it out if we had another kid. But this time, she wouldn’t sleep, and just as I was about to go and get her, the phone rang. I checked call display. Hmm, it was my son’s school. Heart racing (those calls always get me scared), they assured me it wasn’t an emergency, but could I come and pick my son up? He had an earache.
Having dealt with many ear infections in his life, I knew that this required a trip to the doctor and antibiotics pronto. But, I couldn’t take my snotty, feverish and no napping daughter to the school, and my parents, who always help me whenever I need it, were on a Caribbean cruise. My husband had to leave work early. I felt guilty for asking him to come home when I’m the one who’s home for this reason, but I had no choice. Oh well, not a good day, but it would be fine, I thought.
My husband and my son arrived home, armed with antibiotics, but my daughter’s fever was still hanging around, and her normally sunny disposition had gone to hell. My son went to bed, and so did my daughter. For an hour. And I went to her. She went back to sleep. For another hour. And I went to her. This continued on for a few more hours until I gave up and got into bed with her. Neither of us slept.
The next morning, exhausted and cranky, I sent my son back to school, feeling quite confident that he’d be fine. My daughter still had a fever, though, and having not slept well the night before, all she wanted to do was lie in my lap and say, “Juice.” All day. I elevated her crib, turned on the humidifier and held her in a steamed up bathroom. I was sure that it would all be better by that evening.
Ring, ring. School? Again? Yup. The earache was better, but could I come and pick up my son because he had just puked all over his clothes, shoes and classmates. Seriously?! I called my poor husband again. This time, he had to come home and take care of our daughter so I could run my son back to the doctor to make sure that it was the stomach flu and not the meds that had just made him vomit all over his classroom.
On the way to the doctor, he puked all over the street. And then he decorated our front hall when we got home. And my daughter still had a fever. A bucket in front of my son, and Tylenol for my daughter, the kids were finally in bed. Ah, I thought. An hour later, my daughter woke up. Again, I trudged up the stairs, got into bed with her and lay there wide awake. Now, this might not be so bad if she didn’t like to sleep draped across me. So, with her legs cutting off my air supply and her upper body smothering my face, I was over my baby ache. My kids still need me so much, and they are my babies. Neither new nor tiny, my kids are enough.
I will go without sleep, a shower, sex and food for my kids. I will hold my daughter all night and cuddle my son while he throws up, but I’m also happy to be me. I love building a business I’m proud of, having drinks and dinner with good friends, and I have the two most hilarious and loving kids. And when they’re sick, they become babies who need me. All of me. And I have nothing left to give anyone else. Now that they are finally better – and I am sleeping, going out and working again – my husband worries that the baby ache will be back. I know it won’t. I am truly done.
Instead, maybe I’ll dye my hair red.