The two weeks before Christmas, I thought I was pregnant.
After a messy bedtime of screaming and bad behavior on all of our sides, I lay on the floor of Silas and Eden's room imagining a third child in our picture -- what it would be like to be spread thinner, pulled more taut, the exhaustion of night waking, the return of back pain from hauling a big fat baby around. I turned over all the reasons two made sense -- the travel, Ben's travel, living without family. We live in the promised land -- no naps, diapers, baby food -- and would have to press reset. We've given all of our baby equipment away. I drive a prius.
I am pretty good at reasoning my way through things. But despite my pep talks and distancing tactics, ever fiber of my body bent into the question -- what if?
I told a few friends about the waiting. As my mouth glossed over the immensity -- we probably aren't, it's so unexpected, Ben's been great but we're planning on two -- tears welled in my eyes each time I named the possibility. Finally one friend looked at me and said, you are hoping for this so much. I can see the hope.
It's painful to name things we are hiding.
She was right. Despite the fears of exhaustion and dagger-like impatience, bodily aches and pains, I involuntarily was envisioning the whole next year pregnant, a September infant, another sibling for Silas and Eden, the beauty of a tight full belly, labor one more time, and the sweet-smelling softness of a newborn, another person to discover.
Naming the hope made the waiting more excruciating. Hope means danger. I hoped reluctantly, constantly flinging up reasons why it would be best not to have another, why biology would fail, why we wouldn't be, couldn't be pregnant. The persistant sharpness of my hope surprised me.
Right before Christmas, I took a test and it was negative. And though my period didn't come for three more days, I wasn't pregnant.
It was a weepy few days combined with the hormones of a period, Christmas celebrations, and travel back to California. Sitting at my kitchen table now on January 1st, I am now surprised by how little I can access that disappointment, grief.
We love to save face. We love to feel in control, to make it seem like all the elements of life we move in are of our choosing. There are many reasons why Ben and I love having two children -- a tape enumerating these reasons is playing in my head a lot these days. The tape is true. There's even relief in being "done."
But that's the only part of the story I seem to be letting myself access.
Building a family is a strange process, different than most things we build. We can plan it, yes. We can make choices, yes. But we don't exactly build it, even when we choose the number of embryos implanted. Even when we track ovulation. Even when we pray.
Sometimes we can't get pregnant. Sometimes the partner we love doesn't want any children, or wants fewer or more than we do. Sometimes we miscarry. Sometimes we have triplets. Sometimes our baby's heart doesn't develop in utero. Sometimes we have all boys. Sometimes we have a much larger or much smaller gap between children than we'd entertained. Sometimes our baby dies before he's born. Sometimes our adult child is diagnosed with a disease. Sometimes we've harbored a picture of "family" and realize our reality doesn't mesh with it. Sometimes we can't have biological children. Sometimes adoption takes ages. Sometimes our children are so stunning they take our breath away. Sometimes we don't get married. Sometimes our family is more full than we'd imagined. Always, we're surprised.
I have friends who have lived each of those sentences. We all have stories.
When I was talking to my mom recently she said, you may grieve not having a third child your whole life on some level. But that's the spiritual life, isn't it, not to let that grief dominate you, but to grow in gratitude and hope, too, to be able to hold both at once.