Babies.

My children are far beyond baby age– one is 11 and the other is 20.  While it has been some time since I’ve had itty bitties at home, when around friends with little ones, I still recognize their exasperated expressions, and empathize with their dark circles and exhaustion, too.  I sometimes hear myself saying, “I remember those days, and I am so glad I’m past that stage!”

Just so you know, I am SO lying when I say this.  First of all, anyone who knows me will tell you I still have dark circles, and I’m still exhausted.  What they won’t tell you, because they probably don’t know, is that I do miss those baby days, and I would really love to have another.

I started thinking about this topic the other day when I was holding the 6 month old son of my co-worker.  He was a beautiful boy, and seemed to take to me right away.  He cooed, he drooled, he smiled and he laughed.  When I blew raspberries on his cheek, he squealed with delight.  I lifted him high, and with that high-pitched, syrupy voice only suitable for babies, told him how gorgeous and sweet he was (“You’re such a handsome boy, yes you are, yes you are!”).  I was simply in heaven, until a comment was made that swiftly smacked me back to earth.  Another of my co-workers, after seeing me in the zone with cute little baby boy, flashed a big toothy grin and asked me if I were ready for…GRANDCHILDREN.

What the freak?!?!?   Toothy co-worker didn’t mean to hurt my feelings, but she was unwittingly referring to something that I wasn’t prepared to deal with.  I AM old enough to have grandchildren.  I’m not ready to have them, but it certainly is possible.  At the same time, however, I am still capable of having babies (thank you very much).  For a number of reasons it may not be advisable, but it certainly is possible.

I generally don’t have a problem with getting older, ’cause you know what they say:  it’s better than the alternative.  You do have to come to terms with certain things as you age, however, and that’s what’s difficult.  Women know that their childbearing window is a relatively short one.  While many men can father children well past middle-age, a woman’s fertility is greatly decreased by the time she has reached her forties.  The idea of this is perfectly fine for many of us.  (After all, a lot of other stuff comes with the gift of fertility, stuff that I’ve been ready to leave behind for years– PMS, anyone?).  And I thought it was okay for me, until I got all gushy and sentimental while holding that baby.

I’m not sure what else to say about this topic other than I’m pretty sure it’s universal.  I will say that none of my close friends have admitted to these feelings, but I do remember an old “Waltons” episode when Olivia was pining for another baby (and she already had seven!),  as did Clair Huxtable on “The Cosby Show”.  Some like-minded person had to write those storylines, right?   More seriously, the  poignant lyrics of the Bonnie Raitt song, “Nick of Time,” speak to this:

A friend of mind she cries at night, and she calls me on the phone…Sees babies everywhere she goes and she wants one of her own…She’s waited long enough she says and still she can’t decide…Pretty soon she’ll have to choose, and it tears her up inside.  She is scared, scared she’ll run out of time.

I thought that perhaps I shouldn’t write about this, because it seemed a little too personal.  But maybe the theme here is not having one more baby, but of running out of time to do the things that matter.  And there are so many things in life that matter, and many of them concern the people that are already in our lives.

I’m going to keep thinking about this.  Feel free to comment if you have any thoughts on this topic.

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6 responses to “Babies.

  1. I remember the finality of folding the maternity clothes and putting them away after Miryam was born. “For the last time.” Most simply went off to the Goodwill store. But those few special items my mother made for me that had seen me through three pregnancies… well, they’re still in my cedar chest. My daughters will likely not be able to use them (wrong size). It’s so hard to let go. It is about mortality, I’m sure, the sweetness of life, not wanting to say goodbye yet.

    • It is about mortality, like you said. What makes this so hard for me is how quickly I have gotten to this point! It seems like I was just diapering and burping them, and the next think you know, they’re off to college or working! Alas, the cycles of life…But what memories we have! Thank you so much for commenting, Mother Paula.

  2. Lynn,
    Great post! It is definitely not too personal. I wholly identify with your sentiments on this topic! I too shy away from admitting (aloud) that I really wouldn’t mind having another baby. I keep this longing to myself to avoid incredulous looks and tongue lashings from those who feel the four children I have should be more than enough for me. Only more recently does this longing within me stem from mortality issues. It seems as though men have the luxury of easing into the second half of their lives, while women are forced to jump in headfirst. As women, we often find that our forties hit us with a vengeance. It rages in like a storm and we must find a way to gracefully grapple with vision changes, skin changes, weight changes, hair changes, hormonal changes, and the list goes on. These changes barrage us with the message that perhaps our best days are behind us–and this thought fills us with fear (well me anyway…). Somehow, just knowing that I am still capable of conceiving, carrying, and producing life is a comforting thought. In my mind it is something that keeps me firmly rooted in the first phase of life and that somehow make me feel younger.
    You certainly hit the nail on the head when you said “maybe it’s about running out of time to do the things that matter”!! A few years ago I was struck by the realization that for me, motherhood has served as a safety zone of sorts. Motherhood has defined me for so long that I lost myself and I had no idea what I wanted out of life. I actually thought it was too late to even try and figure it out. Over the years I had grown comfortable being known as “the woman with the four little boys.” Motherhood became a place where I did not have to set personal goals for myself or face up to a past where I was afraid to reach for my dreams out of fear of failure. For years, I never associated each itch for another baby with each child reaching a point of relative autonomy.
    Don’t get me wrong, motherhood has been rewarding (Thankless, but rewarding…) on many fronts! In fact, I truly love it!! However, I definitely found it easier to stick with this one thing at which I knew I excelled, than to step out of my comfort zone, try new things, and grow as a person. Thankfully, when I recognized this several years ago, I took action. I found that as I began to face myself and my fears about my shortcomings in other areas, my world did not crumble as I imagined it would. I began to set small goals for myself that had nothing to do with my children. As I met those goals, I set bigger goals. I even went back to school and discovered that I have a passion for teaching. Interestingly, as I grow into the woman I should not have been afraid to become years ago, I feel so strong and proud that I am now my first priority. Amazingly, my children are no worse for wear.
    My true test came several weeks ago when I had lunch with a good friend who recently had her third child. As I cuddled her three-week-old bundle of joy and inhaled that heavenly new baby smell, I felt that old familiar pang deep inside. I will confess I held him for two hours straight! But when I finally relinquished him to his mother’s arms, I was fine. As I drove home from lunch that day I actually felt sympathy for her over the added stresses the new baby has brought to her somewhat stable life. That is when it hit me; my baby fever has broken. Yes, I still melt at the sight of babies—that will probably never change. However, I am definitely ready to move on to the next phase in my life—whatever that is…. Gratefully, I am no longer filled with fear, only excitement and hope for my future…and grandchildren.

    • I want to thank you for your beautiful and thoughtful comments! I knew that other women had to feel similarly. This blog post is the only time I have expressed my desire to have another baby. You mentioned that you keep this desire hidden for various reasons. I did as well, until this post, however my reason has more to do with the fact that I’m single and in no position to have or raise another child. In other words, if my mother read this she might start hyperventilating! Regardless of our individual circumstances, I think it’s important for us to honor the fact that this gift that we’ve been given has been a constant in our lives for so long, and it’s only natural that we might need to grieve the loss of that opportunity. Maybe there needs to be some sort of ritual or ceremony. It probably already exists, and I just haven’t heard of it. I know in our community (African-American) there are sometimes “coming of age” ceremonies for girls who are just entering puberty. Maybe we need something like that for this next phase of our lives! Maybe you and I can work on that, Kari!

      Thank you so much for your honest and poignant reply (and you are quite the writer)!

  3. I smiled as I read this because, my dear friends and high school classmates, I am a grandmother! Here I am, almost 45, with one grandson and 3 more on the way (my son is having one and daughter is having twins, all due in January) and I am so delighted. I get to hold and smell and teach and read books and give baths and take to the zoo…and fall out exhausted! Don’t get me wrong, I love it, but I quickly learned that I do not have the energy I had when my kids were small. But I also learned that what I have now is wisdom and discernment peppered with a patience and calmness I didn’t have as a young mother.

    I divorced when I was 30, so in my early 30’s, I used to think that if I remarried, I would consider having another baby, but as I reached 40, and then turned 40, any thoughts of baby cravings seem to have evaporated. Perhaps it’s because I was a young mother ( I had my first child the year after we graduated from high school) or maybe it’s because I became a grandmother before those yearnings kicked back in. But as I hold my grandson in my lap and read his favorite Elmo book, or play the Backyardigans theme song over and over as he dances and claps and tries to sing the words, or hear him as he runs in the house and calls out, “Gigi!” and then runs into my arms, I feel a little ovarian tug that serves as a reminder of the wonderment of giving birth and new motherhood.

    As I neared 40, I was ecstatic. I wanted to celebrate big time. I had a party at my house – something I had never done – and let everyone know. I’m approaching 45 with little fanfare and a bit of trepidation. My mortality issues, it seems, stem from insecurities about what I haven’t done and may not get to do. But, I have decided to grab the bull by the horns – I am making a career change and look forward to a long-lasting relationship, even marriage if that is in His plans. My youngest is a junior, so in two years she will be off to college and I can be off to…wherever I want to go!

    • Thank you for your comments, Kamia! I am glad to hear that you are enjoying your (relatively) new role as grandmother! And with three more on the way (and all in January, no less), it’s good that you already have some experience! I am so happy for you and your children.

      Like you, I was very excited to turn 40. In the past couple of years, however, I’ve started to dwell more on the things I haven’t yet accomplished. I’m a pretty positive person, but it’s tempered with realism. But I still have big dreams for the future, and I’m working on making those happen. It sounds like you’re doing that as well!

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