[originally written September 8, 2008]
The only visible evidence of my third pregnancy, aside from my active and adorable 6-month-old baby, is my fading linea negra. I know that one hard scrubbing in the shower will make this thin brown line on my abdomen disappear, but I protect it. I wash around it carefully, preserving this small souvenir. While I rejoice in wearing my skinny jeans, I secretly stash away my favorite pair of maternity pants. I’m not able to give them away just yet.
I know that this process of mourning the end of a pregnancy is normal and necessary. I wish I could happily announce, “We’re done! No more babies!” But the truth is, I will always secretly long for more. I loved being pregnant – everything about it. Even when I had reached my physical limit this last time and could barely walk, I still loved it. I love giving birth – all three births without any drugs, needles or modern entrapments – each one more primal and empowering than the last. My husband and I were blessed, this much I know. Getting and staying pregnant was never a problem for us.
I let myself wonder what could have been if I had started having children in my twenties. Would I be able to have more children if given the time? Would I even want to? Could I have possibly understood the intense spiritual connection that happened during pregnancy and birth? Not just the connection to my children, but my connection to spirituality and faith and hope.
Yet, I know that had I not waited, I would be an entirely different mother. I would not be as patient or forgiving. I would not have fond memories of Paris, London, Puerto Rico, Grand Cayman and a particularly decadent week in Napa Valley. These countless destinations and experiences sustain me during long, sleepless nights with a baby or afternoons doing homework with a grumpy first grader. I would not have started my own business and saved enough money to allow me to stay at home with my girls. And I may never have heard my four-year-old daughter suddenly announce, “When I grow up, I want to be a mom, just like you.”
Even while holding our sweet baby girl, I still feel that bittersweet sadness when I see a beautiful “baby bump” on another woman. The sadness is for me of course, because I’m genuinely happy for her. When I learn of a woman who cannot conceive despite years of trying, my heart aches for her. I know and understand the yearning to be pregnant, and have been spared the agony of physical inability. My inability now is self-imposed by my own parameters: my age, lack of income and lack of time.
So I let myself mourn my lost love and I cling to these last precious months of babyhood. I breastfeed with the same joy it has always brought, but now I allow it to feed my soul as I feed my baby. I work late into the night to keep my business going, knowing that this small sacrifice of time and sleep will provide decades of joyful memories. I know that in a few short years my children will require less from me and my career will begin again. But I don’t look forward to it now.
As I say goodbye to my fertility and my thirties, I remember how far I’ve come on the path to who I am. I will allow myself this sadness for a while longer, but with absolutely no regrets.