I took Sawyer for his Last Ice Cream of the Fives and while his feet dangled under our chairs at just the right height to repeatedly scrape my shins he asked the deep questions of an almost six year-old.
When did you know I was in your belly? What was it like when I was in there? Did you know it was me?
I told him about my intense love for processed cheese and root beer and my obsession with the home doppler that wasn’t around for his siblings before him. Somewhere mid-sweet story I froze at the realization that I was looking back on my last pregnancy fondly. Never in a million sleepless pregnancy nights did I imagine myself sitting with a brown-headed boy, eyelashes tickling his glasses and smiling over his time in my belly.
The majority of my pregnancy I spent wracked with paranoia over my baby’s possible death. If he didn’t die during pregnancy then he might days or weeks after. It had happened to us once when I never expected it, it could happen again.
By 27 weeks I got incredibly sick at the same time H1N1 was appearing in the United States. The nurse taking my blood wore a hazmat suit and I was sent home on strict bed rest once they decided I wasn’t carrying anything deadly. I had two one year-olds and a teenager at home and I cried (and cried and cried) as I wondered how we would survive my weeks of bed rest.
My hormonal self was sure I had stunted the emotional growth of my toddlers by being unable to pick them up and would never be able to recoup the time I’d lost of involvement in my oldest’s school year. There was nothing warm and fuzzy about my pregnancy. I even cried over knowing I would not look back fondly.
But here I am, ignoring my issues with lactose and memories, telling my youngest about his hiccups in utero and how hard he could kick at 3 am and how lucky he was to have my belly all to himself, over milkshakes and a sticky table. When I’m in a miserable moment I’m not good at telling myself one day I will love it. The eye roll I give to people who tell me this fact actually hurts my eye sockets but I’m going to say it anyway.
Whatever tough space you are in right now, whatever big thing keeps you up at night and drains your energy during the day, I promise, promise, promise one day it will turn small. You might be sitting knee to knee with your almost six year-old or you might be sharing a coffee with your grown child or you might be soaking your dentures. I don’t know how long it takes things to change shape in your heart. But I promise it will happen.
Every time we leave for something new or better or different or maybe worse, what we leave behind or fiercely carry with us gets smaller. Whether we cling to its curves or try to bury it neatly, it still shrinks. Somehow our memories are left holding the pieces we need.
The memories will be right there when you need them. But they will look different when you try to go back the next time.
After all, you’ve come so far.
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