Left Behind

I called my friend Dorothy tonight, who just had her second child about two months ago. We hadn't spoken since Mardi Gras when she was last in New Orleans, hugely pregnant and ready to get the whole damn thing over with.

We've played phone tag for the past couple of months and I haven't tried too hard to follow up, to be quite honest. I've told myself that I've stayed away and haven't tried to track her down because I can only imagine how busy she is, mothering both a newborn and a two-year-old. And that's the truth. But there has been a deeper truth to it, an uglier truth, to be quite honest, in that I've been somewhat reticent to call her for fear of finding that my old friend has changed and moved on into a world I will most likely never inhabit. And she has moved on into the world of two children, but I'm greatly relieved to find that our rapport seems unchanged.

It's stupid, I know, but a part of me looks at it as a loss. A friend has moved on to something I probably won't experience, and my mind and heart prepare for the distance that comes from it. Like when I was still single and childless and all of my friends were getting married and having babies. They had moved on into the world of motherhood while I was left behind. They knew things I didn't, had feelings I had never felt. And then we all joined this club together, the one where you know what two-year-olds are really like (and the one where, once you have a three-year-old, you long to have the two-year-old back).

Anyway--it's silly, and stupid, and somewhat petty. But I guess I grieve sometimes for the second baby I will most likely never have.

Do I want another child? We've covered this before--yes, I do, but not enough to have one. And why don't I want another baby? God, I do. I want another baby, so badly I sometimes can't stand it. But I don't want it enough to actually do it.

Why? Because I'm married to a restaurant manager who's home two nights a week and who has been told that he shouldn't expect to have a life outside of the restaurant. I spend all of the minor holidays--Halloween, Mother's Day, Easter, etc.--alone. My life is a whirlwind of getting up at 5:45 every morning and getting my daughter dressed and ready for school each morning, including packing lunches and snacks, reviewing progress reports, praising artwork, and making the hour-long drive to get Emmeline to school and me to work on time. My evenings are taken up with an hour-long drive home, emptying lunch bags, cooking dinner, running baths, reading bedtime stories, cleaning, laundry, and on and on and on. I do all of this alone (and my respect for single mothers knows no bounds).

At almost 42 years of age, I have a hard time giving Emmeline the energy she deserves. How in the hell would I be able to give myself to Emmeline and a newborn, all while doing it by myself?

Why? Because, as mentioned above, I'm almost 42 years old. If I were to have another baby right now, I'd be 60 when he or she graduated from high school. And that just seems selfish, to me, to deprive another child of a mother who would be young enough to really fully devote myself to him or her.

Why? Because by having only Emmeline, we are able to devote the little disposable income we have to her. For dancing lessons. For trips to the beach. For doing little things that make her feel special.

And I tell myself that it's enough. But I look at the relationship I have with my sister, and I can't imagine what it will be like for Emmeline to grow up without a sibling, without having someone who will not only know her entire history but have lived it with her. I tell myself that it'll be fine, that she'll grow up not knowing anything different. But I can't help having my heart ache for her that she won't have anyone when Kenny and I are gone.

And so here I sit, wanting another baby and not wanting one at the same time. Wanting to experience that sweetness one more time, but not daring to do so. This, too, shall pass, I guess.

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