People often innocently make comments or ask questions that they do not intend to come across as rude or hurtful, such as asking the cervical cancer survivor why she doesn’t have kids yet, or asking the pregnant woman whose last child was stillborn if this is her “first pregnancy” or “first baby”. My journey over the past several years has done much to create an awareness of just how much of our day-to-day “small talk” can trigger feelings of sadness, shame, and inadequacy for those of us who do not fit neatly into the box marked “normal”.
In the past few weeks I have been part of a number of awkward “mommy” conversations. Women have made comments or asked questions which have made my stomach churn. I know that none of them were purposely trying to upset me, and I have asked the same kinds of questions in the past. So, while I am not angry at them, I still feel the sting of their words and of the assumptions underlying their small talk.
“Oh she’s so beautiful! You should definitely have more. [to Willow: Tell mommy and daddy you want a baby brother!]”
“So you’re enjoying being home with her? Haha, I remember that. Just wait until you have another one. It won’t be as easy then.”
“So when are you having another baby?”
“Good for you for getting a gender neutral stroller. You never know what the next kid will be.”
“Don’t worry. Once you have more kids you won’t even notice the barf on your shirt.”
The assumption is that I, like many other women in our society, will have more than one child. The assumption is that I CAN have more children. The assumption is that our family is not complete with “just one”.
Before we were married, my husband and I spoke of having two or three children and filling our home with love and laughter. As the years went on, and the medical complications piled up, I started to realize that if we were ever given the gift of just one baby, I would thank God and be grateful for our miracle. We would still be able to fill our home with love and laughter. One child could and would be enough.
There are days when I feel great sorrow over the fact that we cannot just “decide to have another baby” and make it happen. On these days I need to remind myself of the gifts inherent in our situation, and of the beauty I have in my life as a result of our journey.
I have been told by some other parents that when they assumed they would have more children, they didn’t take the time to really appreciate the little things about their last child or his/her development. They didn’t take enough photos. They saved boxes of clothing, being sure not to let children wear a fancy outfit except on special occasions, lest it be ruined for a future sibling. They may have moved without mindfulness through certain developmental stages, rushing to get the last child out of diapers or weaned so that a brother or sister could soon be on the way. They missed out on drinking up every precious moment… appreciating, loving, and cherishing even the time spent cleaning up various bodily fluids.
Willow has baby memory books, countless photos, and a year long calendar with something written in each square about what she did each day. She gets to wear her fancy outfits just for kicks, and I don’t get upset when she vomits on them or a diaper explosion renders them rag-worthy. She fascinates and delights me with her every movement and sound. I don’t find myself desperately wishing for more alone time, reminiscing about life before baby, or fantasizing about my freedom when she moves out of the house or starts school. I don’t get upset that she will continue to spend some time every evening screaming until her digestive system fully matures. I fully experience the quiet moments of her night feedings with her and don’t resent their frequency. I enjoy watching and celebrating the fact that she is getting stronger and learning more each day, but I don’t feel the need to push her to quickly reach milestones or to move into a new stage of development before she is ready. I have the privilege of soaking up and stretching out every delicious moment that we have together, knowing that these moments are fleeting and I will never have them again.