My five-year old daughter is captivated at the thought of a new cousin in the family. Each time we ride out to my sister’s house she asks me,
“Mom, how big do you think Aunt Cindy’s belly will be?”
“Probably not much bigger than it was last week, Honey.”
I survey her eyes of wonderment in the rear-view mirror and marvel at how her comments are such an innate part of her girl-ness. Her fascination with gestation is unique among our kids; our two boys offer no more than a passing acknowledgment of this new life, followed quickly by something along the lines of, “Can I have some more Cheetos, Ma?”
But Avery, she ponders it. Rolls it around in her cute little head and tries to calculate when the doctor will be able to hear the pulsing miracle of a new heartbeat in my sister’s womb. During our last pregnancy I got a full-color magazine from my O.B. that detailed the month-by-month changes that God orchestrates while He weaves together muscle and ligament and organ, bathes it all in life-giving blood and puts flesh on the newest member of a family. I gave this booklet to my daughter and she pours over it. My oldest son just laughs hysterically at the 9 month birthing pictures that make it look like the baby is “coming out of her butt.” Poetic, huh? That’s a boy for you!
Instead, my daughter asks, “How many weeks is Aunt Cindy’s baby? Because ya’ wanna know what mom? If her baby is 12 weeks it has eyelids and fingernails!” It’s amazing to look back through the pages of actual photographs and realize that I was three-times a helpmate to Heaven in this growing and developing.
Every time I read Jeremiah 1:5, the depth of this God-woman partnership astounds me: “Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, before you were born I set you apart.” To think that it’s not just the length of each femur or the color of each eye, but the personality, the likes and dislikes, the talents and interests of that person that God knows. Intimately. And to think that He asks me to be a part of it! Intimately! The reality of it is so profound that I have lately been feeling more and more a shade of sadness settling over my heart when I think that I will not be part of that reality again. My husband and I have decided that if we have anything to say about it, three children feels pretty complete, and let’s not try for gravy. I’m satisfied and full of peace with our decision, yet…there is something…unsaid.
In talking to other mothers who are also staring at a complete picture, I’m discovering there is a grieving, a releasing, a pulling away. While I don’t like to go through life Kleenex in hand, sobbing over “lasts,” it needs to be confessed that there are days that seem to close the door on certain chapters I’d like to leave dog-eared. Like snuggling with a little one that so perfectly fits in the crevasse of your elbow in the dusk of evening. Like hearing the coos that come from a sweet, milky, toothless mouth. Like baths in the kitchen sink.
About two weeks ago our youngest son started riding a two-wheeler without training wheels. My baby, at 3 1/2, is helmet-clad and tearing down the street like a bat out of hell yelling, “DIRT BIKE RIDER!!” I’m sorry–what just happened? Was he not in diapers just last summer? Was he not safe in my arms only a second ago? Where did that time go?
I’m thankful that this time it’s Cindy who’s pregnant. I’ve got bad knees and I like my new jeans too much to go down that road again—and don’t even get me thinking about how I could barely sleep for the entire last trimester! Still, it’s something that I’m acknowledging is a loss for me. My stage of mommyhood has more to do with explaining sperm and eggs than it does with that sperm + egg combo needing to be fed at 3 a.m. The little fingers are losing their dimples at our house, and the little toes are growing out of their shoes.
So to all you sisters out there who are not yet mothers, those of you busy building a baby right now, or those of you with very little ones at your sides, here’s a reminder to treasure it. I know you hear it all the time from the old ladies in the grocery store…but here’s a not-so-old lady telling you the same thing. Pretty soon you’ll declare your womb closed for business, and you’ll be raising your family while the world swirls around you. Pay attention. The little moments are the things that fill up your heart; the heart that started beating inside your own mom when the miniature fetus-version of you was just 18 days old.