Every night the same dream: I am anxious and afraid and overwhelmed. The baby wails and then stops breathing and then wails louder. I can't find the others. My big kid and my baby girl. I can't find them. The house is filthy and something's burning and there's an alarm going off somewhere, but where are they? I'm trying to soothe this screaming baby whose face is so contorted and angry and purple red that I can't even make out its gender, but I know it's mine. I hold it against me as panic sets in and I run through the house charging through rooms and yelling out their names. Why won't this baby just stop? What have I done?
And then I wake up in a cold sweat with a racing heart. I listen for the sounds of my life: the mountain man snoring beside me. The baby breathing deeply over the monitor. She is there, safe. If she is there, then he is in the room next to her's, safe. I have them all and we are okay. My heart slows and I roll over, try to fall back into sleep with one arm under my pillow and the other cradling my beautifully empty belly.
I love my children. I make fun of them, laugh at and with them, scoop them up when they feel pain, and walk away when they need to find their own strength -- but that deep-down heartaching love is theirs always. It is only theirs. I gave it to them and hope they always trust it's there, even when days seem dark and our family is consumed by inevitable struggle.
I love them and yet I want no more of them. No more babies. No more children growing from a tiny seed in my belly. No more up and down throughout the night. No more sitting with a baby for hours as it tries fruitlessly to find milk in my breasts and no more measuring out careful scoops of formula. No more first steps and first teeth and first birthdays. No more Millers in this mix.
If the mountain man could control our destiny, if I was the wife who submitted to her husband, we would be sprouting another beautiful blossom already. There would be a third baby in my belly and we would be measuring rooms and rearranging furniture to make room for it. We would be planning and budgeting and finding a way to make it work. We would do it for the third and then we would do it for the fourth. And then we would take it as it comes. I walked in on a conversation between him and another dad just as he said, "Ideally, I'd love to have at least four, maybe five, but it's Kelly's decision."
My decision, and people like to tell me my mind will change. I listen to women who would give anything to carry a child and those who will never appreciate that they did. I think about how my midwife told me carrying another child would be difficult with the scar tissue that resulted from Bella's birth. I look at my mother who raised three children on her own. I wonder whether my children will one day be adults who wish they had just one more sibling to lean on in a crisis or if one will wind up carrying the other's load without the benefit of another set of hands to help.
I was none and done before I was given the gift of my first miracle. For six years, I was one and done. The mountain man convinced me that our life needed one more baby, and he was right. We are the four corners, a perfect square, a balanced unit of yin and yang. I imagine another baby and my breath catches in my throat. My heart pounds and I feel the world start shifting under my feet. The dream flashes behind my eyes and I'm paralyzed by it.
I know that the very act of birth is radical for some, that it is a miracle and a blessing for countless others. I know that our biology drives us to go forth and multiply. But I feel that it would destroy me. And that is what I must honor.
This post was written for the (W)rite of Passage challenge created by Mrs. Flinger. The challenge is designed to inspire bloggers to write, to hone their craft and tell better stories, rather than to chase page views and followers. The challenge is open to anyone, so join if it speaks to you!