30 Oct Three-Person Family
“There, there,” my three-year-old son Henry said, patting my hair. I was crying all over his cheek. He’d just suggested that I throw the pillow out of the bed and use him as a pillow instead, and so I was tucked up under one of his arms, and a bear I had crocheted for him was nestled in the other one. Clutched in his hand was a wooden clothespin in my likeness, complete with crazy yarn hair; a part of our three-person family I made for his toy house last Christmas.
He let me soak him with tears for a moment, and then got out of bed. Half annoyed since it was pushing 9:30 p.m., I asked him where he was going. He came back with a single square of toilet paper and dabbed my face. I cried again. He explained in a serious tone that I couldn’t cry any more, because he just used all the tissue.
But it was hard to hold back the emotion. That morning, nearly 39 weeks pregnant with Baby Two, I woke at 2:46 a.m. with sharp, unrelenting abdominal pain. It was just a stomachache, but the rest of the day felt like a second chance to enjoy life before labor.
For nine months, folks have asked me how I’m feeling. I never know what to say. Do they want to know how very deeply I hate wearing pants right now? Are they expecting me to tell them about my awkward turtle-on-its-back attempts to roll out of bed 23 times each night to use the bathroom, my struggles to remember about Kegel exercises, or the shocking head butts to the cervix during work meetings?
The obvious reply these days is: Ready! I’m ready for no more heartburn, waddling, or backaches. But if we’re stopping at two kids, these are the very last days I’ll be asked how I’m feeling. The last days to enjoy those kicks and hiccups. To dress up my round belly and pat it lovingly, or rest bowls of ice cream on top of it.
(Side note: Henry loves the belly. Last week, my parents put Henry to bed while we went on a date. Henry protested, “Nonna is not good at bedtime cuddles. She doesn’t have enough skin.” Eventually we figured it out: There’s a lot of extra skin surrounding his baby bro. Henry loves to snuggle up to my belly at bedtime, blow raspberries, and smack it around — probably much like he’ll do to his brother after he is born.)
But ready or not for pregnancy to be over, these are the last days of our three-person family set. It’s a cliché, but I wonder how it’s possible to share this focused beam of mama love with anyone but Henry. As I ask how my belly can possibly stretch any bigger, I also wonder how my heart can stretch around this new baby, too?
Mothers of multiple children everywhere look at me the way a butterfly looks at a caterpillar. My grandmother Mimi said, “Your mother’s heart will expand… You’ll see.”
I can’t stop thinking of the story Cathy DeDe told me: “Maybe a few weeks after Madeline was born, I was nursing her in a rocking chair and Anna, 15 months or so, was playing contentedly on the floor next to us. It occurred to me — she would never remember the time when it was just her. Without thinking I put it in words: Anna, do you remember what it was like before Madeline was born?
“Her sweet and emphatic answer: Yes. We were not a FAMILY.”