The train track setups on our hardwood floors never stay the same for long. With access to dozens of short and long straight tracks, curved tracks, curved switch tracks, ascending tracks, T-switches and supports, my son and daughter may choose to modify the previous day’s setup, or completely destroy what has been built and begin work on a fresh new track for Thomas and his friends. Their tracks curve around table legs and toys. Bridges are constructed, and repairs are made when Wreck-It Ralph makes an appearance. Rarely are all of the track pieces accounted for or put away at the end of each evening. The tracks are put together, taken apart, and put back together. Each track evolves. New paths are created, and others are destroyed. The train tracks grow and shrink. The tracks never stay the same. Each piece added, moved, or removed creates a new journey for Thomas and his friends. Each track evolves some more.
They’re two, they’re four, they’re six…wait, stop. No, they’re four.
We are a family of four. After almost two and a half years of discussions with my husband, we may never be a family of five. There, I said it. Now, I know there may be a slim chance of another pregnancy in the future, because after all, God works in mysterious ways. However, my husband and I have reached an “agreement” that we are not going to “try” to have another child. We have made this decision together, but I would be lying if I said that I am content with this decision.
WTF? Why in the world am I telling you this? WHY in the world am I telling you this?!?!?!
Let me begin with saying that my husband already knows how I feel. He knows that if he was open to trying to conceive another child that I would be right on board. He knows I get sad sometimes when it hits me that I may never be able to experience pregnancy again, or experience holding another child of mine for the very first time. He is gentle with me when I express these revelations. But I also know that my husband is content with our family. I know that he loves our children and would do anything for them. I know this because I can see and feel how much he loves those kids when he is with them, and this comforts me. This “agreement” does not affect our marriage. I do not and will not resent my husband because he does not want to have another child. Making this decision has made the foundation of our marriage stronger because we deeply respect each other’s thoughts and feelings about this topic. There are many logical reasons for keeping our family just the way it is. If we had a third child, at least one of us would need to purchase a vehicle that could fit three car seats in it. If we had a third child, we would have another three years of buying and changing diapers. And in about five years, my husband and I would be escorting three children to different activities and trying to find a way to attend all practices and events so our kids would feel equally loved. The financial resources my husband and I could put toward our children would need to be spread out more if we had another child. And we only have one bathroom in our house, which is already starting to become an annoyance with only one child who is potty-trained. Oh, yeah, I would have to give birth again, too. Ouch.
Even though the first years are exhausting and chaotic, part of me still wants to have another child. My babies are growing up fast, and I am not quite ready to let go of their first years. When my son and daughter want to snuggle me, I remember how they used to rest their cheeks and bellies on my chest with their legs curled under their warm bodies. When I wake in the middle of the night and check to make sure my kiddos are still sound asleep, I remember how I used to pump and then give my son a bottle at 3 a.m. because he refused to be breastfed. After his bottle I would caress his ski-jump nose until he fell asleep. I remember how my daughter would scream and flail her skinny little arms about until she found the boob. During her 3 a.m. feedings, I would have to tickle her feet and take her out of her sleep sack or swaddle so she would stay awake and nurse long enough to fall back asleep for a few more hours. I am so glad that I can simply check on them and go back to bed now, but I do miss those moments because I may never be able to experience those moments again. I will always hold on to those powerful and breathtaking moments with my son and daughter. Those moments flood my heart with joy. But it is also painful to think that I may never create new moments like the ones I experienced during the first days, weeks, months, years and beyond with my son and daughter. The onesies I have packed away in the basement will never be taken out and used again for my own children. I will never feel the rush of excitement and fear at the same time from taking a pregnancy test. I will never. After all of those sleepless nights, after everything my body has been through, after all of those overwhelmingly happy moments with my babies, that part of motherhood may be over for me. How do I accept this? Will I ever accept this? Why is it so painful to acknowledge that such a significant part of motherhood is being taken away from me?
I am writing this because I need to. I am sharing this because I don’t like how this part of motherhood makes me feel vulnerable. This is a part of my experience in motherhood, and this part of motherhood is worthy of a dialogue.
We build new paths and tracks every day. We destroy what is not right, we make modifications, and we rebuild something better, or different. These tracks take us from here to there. Sometimes our tracks make loops. Sometimes our tracks stop for a bit while we decide which piece to add next. Maybe that is where I am at right now. Maybe it’s okay to be stuck here for awhile. Maybe it will take a little longer for me to be able to say goodbye to that part of motherhood.
While thinking about all of this today, I decided that I needed to listen to “Motorcycle Drive By” by Third Eye Blind. Every time I hear this song, I am filled with excitement and sadness all at once. This song reminds me that we can’t have everything. We have to make choices. Some choices are easy. Some choices offer great opportunities, but not without painful consequences. Even though some decisions are hard to make, and some realities are difficult to accept, there are other exciting adventures to be had. Moving on may be painful, but moving on may also breathe more life into one’s soul.