I was digging in my plate of tempura and maki when I felt little hands touching my back. I turned around very slowly. Behind me, a little girl, probably around two years of age, poked the hello kitty figures in my shirt, mumbling “one, choo, chee, one, choo, chee.” She counted as she touched them, oblivious to the fact that she knew how to count only to three. I didn’t want to let on that I noticed her until she poked a little too hard and I laughed out loud. I couldn’t help it; it tickled. I heard her scurry away.
My husband, a plate of sashimi from the buffet in his hand, noticed that the amused look on my face. “What are you smiling at?” he asked.
“Oh, honey, you didn’t see the little girl playing with my shirt,” I laughed as I scanned the room to look for her.
“That little girl?” He pointed discreetly to a pigtailed girl in a pink Dora the Explorer outfit, perched on a high chair, chewing loudly on tempura.
“Yes, that one. She is so cute!”
“Uh-huh,” my husband conceded. I could sense he was losing interest quickly, so I decided to surprise him with the following question.
“How would you like to have a little girl of our own?”
My husband stared at me uncomfortably, shocked at the sudden turn in our conversation.
“Where’d this come from, honey?” Of course, he wanted to know.
I suppose I’ve been thinking of it for a time now. It must be why “Jon and Kate Plus 8” (even with all their new troubles) is a prominent feature in my daily viewing fare. Or why I get caught up in the ongoing media frenzy on Nadya Suleman, mom of 14 children, all of them conceived by in vitro fertilization, eight of them octuplets. Or even why the recent news of Elizabeth Adeney, the 66-year-old woman who is dubbed “Britain’s Oldest Mother,” fascinates me. What they all make me painfully aware is that I am not getting any younger. Midlife has set squarely upon my shoulders and the faint tick-tocking of my reproductive clock reminds me that I have only a few more childbearing years left.
I’ve mulled over this issue seriously, and, in truth, I have not yet reconciled myself to the idea that I have only two children. I come from a large family of five kids and I have always wanted my children to be part of the same. And so, for many years, my husband and I tried to have another baby. Four miscarriages after Alphonse (the last one endangering my life), after all sorts of medical tests to determine that neither my husband nor I were incapable of having another child, and even after a short-lived attempt at fertility treatments to increase our chances of pregnancy, he and I arrived at the conclusion that it was simply not going to be as easy as having children in our twenties.
My last pregnancy ended in a devastating miscarriage, and had our child lived, he or she would have been seven today. As it turns out, I am now the mother of two teenage boys and no longer a young mom of little kids. But, ah, I miss having a small one in the house. I miss baby smells and soft, smooth skins, and even a baby’s smallness as he cuddles close to my body. I have a bad case of baby lust, I know, perhaps made worse by my pre-menopausal hormones going awry.
Over the last few weeks, however, I’ve been given a test of resolve and commitment. With the entry of two young boys in our lives (see previous post), a five-year-old and a two-year-old, I’ve had a preview of how my life would be as an older mother with two small children. Here in my home as temporary guests, they call me Mama P.
This past month has been an eye-opener, I must admit. So used to having only Alphonse as my sole concern, I now oversee their welfare as well. Are they fed? Are they bathed? Is someone watching them? Why is the older one left in front of the television all day? The two-year-old is particularly difficult to care for, as he remains wary of us and cries constantly for his mother. Alphonse, ever the tyrant and determined to impose his own rules, wants his old nanny back and grabs her by the hand, even as her little one wails for his mother.
I like that the five-year-old now kisses me and greets me in the morning. I like that I see them smile when good food is set before them. I like that they’ve lost their gaunt looks, and grime and dirt have been washed off their cute faces. I even like it when they ask me for chocolate milk and eat all the bread in the house (well, okay, okay, I don’t like this last part so much). But while their laughter fills my heart with joy, their cries, shouts, squeals, their constant demand for attention, their bickering and squabbling have cured me of any notions of wanting a bigger family. Add to this the extreme jealousy Alphonse feels whenever we give these boys any attention, and I am absolutely done with any fantasies or illusions that I can deal with another child. My body may still be able to do it, that I am positively sure, but my emotions and my state of mind tell me that I am simply too old, or too sane, for it.
Tonight, as I readied myself to turn in bed, Alphonse tugged at my night shirt to sing him a lullaby. This is a constant ritual. Every night, wrapped in his dad’s and my arms, my husband and I take turns singing him lullabies. As I sing softly, I am reminded of how much this child needs so much from both of us. True, love is never ever divided, but time, money, and attention often are in big families. Or in families with special-needs children. Perhaps the time to have another child has passed, I thought soberly, as I patted Alphonse gently to sleep.
Alphonse sighed as he fell into deep sleep. I kissed him on the cheek and whispered a prayer of thanks. I have two children, and that should be enough for me. After all, if it’s a baby I want, I have this one for all time.
Originally published in Herword.com
Update: The little kids have moved out of my home, their parents wanting to be near their own relatives. My home is now silent most days.