We are a comfortable family of four, and we plan to stay that way. However, that does not change the fact that I want another baby. At least, my body thinks I do. Sometimes, I feel my body asking for a dozen more babies – craving them, the way it craves a glass of wine around 4 o’clock on, oh, every Tuesday. I think if I lived in a futuristic dystopian novel, where the government doled out roles to everyone, I’d be content to be assigned a breeder: just growing babies and nurturing them all day long, passing them off to the pre-school teachers when they learn how to say no. But, no. I know. There’s a difference between wanting a baby and wanting a baby.
I want another baby to grow in my belly, to change the way I walk: to make me lumber slowly, shifting the enormous weight, carrying him first in my abdomen, then in my hips, then in my back. I want to recline on the couch with swollen ankles and feel the rise and fall of neo-natal fists punching my uterine lining, watching the alien-like features of elbows and ears pressing through the surface of my taut skin, teasing me with anticipation. I want to feel my womanly curves in every step and sway of my body, loving the strength and sexiness of it all.
I want to give birth and witness the miracle of new life. I want to hold the newness of this child to my body, knowing him immediately, because I’ve always known him, and yet marvel at his mystery.
I want to nurse until I feel skinny(-ish). I want to be able to continue to eat for two humans, many months after delivery, thanks to the daily caloric expenditure the new one sucks away.
And I want to hold the softness and weightlessness of an infant, swaddled and immaculate, to my heart. I want to breathe him in and let all the emotions wash over me – the tears, the joy, the fear, more tears, and the gratitude – as I just sit there, quietly. I even want to hear the cries of a newborn: their tiny, meek mewling, as their balled fists reach and thrust toward the warmth of their own face in frustration, hunger, or exhaustion.
There, I said it. I’ll take the life-changing, body-wrenching, sanity-sucking sleepless nights of a newborn over the nonsensical demands of my toddlers. I simply want to think in my mind “hey, it’s morning, let’s eat breakfast,” and not, when I express that verbally, be met with a tear-stained outrage from a three-year-old who believes vehemently that it is, in fact, the exact opposite of whatever I just said, goddammit.
Because seriously, this conversation happened:
“Mommy, is your tummy big?”
“Well, yeah, I guess.”
“Oh, and then the baby is going to just pop right out?”
“Umm…that’s not exactly how it works…”
“Because your shirt has a sticker on it and that means we’re gonna get married?”
“What? Who’s getting married?”
“Mommy and Dylan. We’re gonna get married and then the babies will pop right out.”
“You have Rummy in your tummy and I have Moose in my tummy and Okar is our baby.”
“Oh, I see. And who’s Daddy?”
“Daddy? He’s just Daddy.”
“Oh. Lucky him.”
“Yeah, and we’re Super Heroes! Creature Monkey Power!”
(toddler punches the air, runs into the couch, turns around, tackles his brother, falls to the ground)
Two seconds later:
“Dylan, are you listening to your body?”
“I JUST DON’T HAVE TO GO POTTY RIGHT NOW!”
“Ok, I just want to make sure you’re paying attention to your body.”
(toddler hides in corner, pisses his pants)
Five minutes later, following change of clothes:
(toddler runs into the living room wearing rain boots, holding wooden flute like a billy club)
“We’re the bastapo!”
“No, no no Dylan. You don’t want to be the Gestapo. They’re the bad guys. You want to be Captain Von Trapp.”
“But I’m Ralph and we’re the bastapo!”
“Dylan, what do you think the Gestapo does?”
“They kill bugs!”
“Dyl – you don’t want to kill – or hurt – anything. You’re a good guy.”
“No, I’m the bad guys!”
Later, while driving in the car:
“Go, Mommy, drive! Drive!”
“I can’t go right now, Dylan, we’re at a red light.”
“Dylan, we’re at a red light. We have to stop at a red light.”
“But it’s not red, it’s green.”
“No, it’s red. Let me know when you see it turn green.”
“Go Mommy, goooooooo!”
“Dylan, we obey the traffic lights.”
“To be safe.”
“Mommy I see a school bus! Do the school bus obey the lights?”
“Because the school bus carries children and they want to keep the children safe.”
“Because children are the most important people. Everyone loves children and wants them to be safe.”
“Because…” and I stammer, with the sinking realization that I just lied to my kid.
Not everyone loves children, and not everyone wants them to be safe.
As my mind trails off, to the horrors of child abduction, I stop gripping the steering wheel so tightly. I don’t continue to answer the incessant barrage of questioning from the toddler in the back seat, but I don’t attempt to squelch his curiosity either. Let him ask. Let him wonder. It is in answering him that I’m just now figuring out the answers to so many things.
“Mommy, what do the clouds look like?”
“What do you mean? They look like clouds.”
“No, I mean what aminals do they look like?”
“Oh, I see. Umm, I think that one looks like a hippopotamus. What about you?”
“No, that looks like a elephant.”
“Oh, well, to me it looks like a hippopotamus.”
“Yeah, but to me that one looks like a elephant, not a hippopotamus, silly Mommy.”
Touché, Dylan, touché. It’s just a matter of perspective, I guess. And in longing for another baby, I’m really just longing for a different perspective – one where I’m (seemingly) in control again. But it’s futile, because eventually my toddlers will grow up and stop asking millions of questions a day, and it’s possible I may long for the chaos of this moment once again.
Eventually, too, that tender-cheeked newborn of my longing – the one who sleeps every two hours, the one I could strap to my body in an empowering, funky wrap, the one who lets me kiss him endlessly – that one, would eventually turn into a toddler too and join his brothers in their regular protest: “No, mommy, don’t sing!”
And I’d find myself defeated again, in this wishful reverie; the only way out: a minivan.