When you find out you’re unexpectedly pregnant with a third child (Seriously? The odds of that one time ending up like this…!), you think about how complete your family already feels. Your wildfire girl, your sweet boy. Your dog, your fence, your tiny kitchen with the rust-colored chicken tiles. Your husband, excited, asks when you can tell the family, and you answer, “When I can say it without crying.”
And, in a week, you do. You start to daydream and plan, and you move house, and your new kitchen has a brick wall and a copper splash guard and shiny black appliances. And you tell your boss without blushing even though you’ve been with the company less than a year. And you pick out paint and start collecting tiny hand-me-downs, spend your lunch break researching names. Eliot. Eloise. Elizabeth. You’ve always liked vowel names.
You swell and you stretch, and you dig out the old maternity jeans you were saving for your sister, and you watch your fierce body drama unfold again like it’s the first time – exquisite and terrifying – even though it’s the last. And when you feel those frantic kicks and whole-body flops beneath your skin during your final weeks of pregnancy, you read sensational blog posts and cry on your bathroom floor.
And you bring her home, to the big, beautiful house she inspired you to get, and you see how she turns your wildfire girl into a “little mommy,” and how she makes your sweet boy widen his enormous blue eyes with a new kind of joy. And you can’t imagine how your family ever felt complete without her.
You can’t imagine how this could ever be okay.
You can’t imagine how you’ll afford it or how you’ll put your body through it again or how you’ll tell your boss again so soon.
You can’t imagine how you’ll ever stretch your time and heart enough to fit another child.
Each of your three children began as a faint line. The palest of pink, a much softer echo of the stark test line. The kind of line that makes you stare and squint and cock your head to the side. Is it…? That sends you back to the drug store for another pack of tests. And then another. And you think about that now, as you wait that familiar three long minutes. You’re glad you got a digital test this time that spells it out without any confusion. You think about how you’ve been a mom long enough to see this evolution of pregnancy-test technology. You think about the likelihood of false negatives and the impossibility of false positives. You think about what it means to discover the first and how it feels to hold the last.
Please, no. Please, not this time.
And you know again, heavily and in the farthest reaches of your heart, how it feels to hold the last. What it means to let go of the beginnings of all of your mothering. And you breathe and run downstairs and hug your husband. And every part of you is happy and relieved, except that teeny, tiny, minuscule part that already knew it would have been okay. The part of you that feels, unexpectedly, empty.