It’s March and it’s inevitable.
Here, in this space of the year where we are holding our breath, waiting for the sun to return, for the snow to melt, for the world to move toward warmth and light, here, the echo of the hand of a clock pushing one tick forward feels all the more audible. Early March is quiet. And it is still enough that I feel the movement vibrate right down into my heart.
Two becomes three. Tick.
Four becomes five. Tock.
In the span of the next month and a half, my two babies each have their birthdays and I am again remembering how I loved giving birth to them, how I loved introducing new brothers and sisters to our family, how now, the book is closing and I still have my thumb on the last page, not ever quite ready to let it fall shut.
My oldest two have their birthdays tucked away in the messy bustle that happens between Halloween and Christmas. They are the morning after candy wrappers and costumes, and the day before Christmas Eve. Their birthdays pass in a blur, every year. And though I notice their ages, there is always the comfort of knowing, well, at least there are still two small ones coming up behind them.
Until they aren’t as little.
Evaline this morning came pounding on my bedroom door, wanting immediate help and attention, quite upset that the door was closed to begin with. When I opened it for her, she was laying on the ground, her face red from yelling, but when she saw me, she was quiet and sat up. She wiped her eyes and said quietly, pushing past me into the bedroom, fresh Pull-up tucked under her arm, Oh, I want you, Mama.
Three years ago, I was certain, she was going to be my last. Three years ago, I let my older children each dip their hands in the paint of their choice and mark my pregnant belly with their prints. Hers was the only pregnancy I documented very well at all, knowing, somewhere in my heart, it was my last.
Over the following days as we walked the hall to see her in the special care nursery, the nurses at the hospital asked me, so is this your last? You do so well, you’re a natural, will you be back with number five?
And already my heart was pausing, refusing to give an answer beyond, Oh, we’ll see. What had been so certain, just days before, felt less clear.
The truth is, I don’t like pregnancy and I don’t know that I have the patience (or physical space in my home) for another child.
But, oh, how I loved meeting each of my children for the first time. And when I look back to the moments of my life when I have felt the most whole and fulfilled and perfectly satisfied – they are all dimly lit, newborn moments that no camera ever captured, but that my heart could draw in perfect detail, over and over and over again.
And that is just what my heart does, each March now, since Evaline’s arrival. I remember all four completely different, but equally wonderful, arrivals. The Christmas morning leaving the hospital, the All Saints Day, the Good Friday, and the this-is-not-labor-you’re-too-early mid-March afternoon, almost three years ago now.
I think about how Alex is now nine and my baby will be three. I think about how we’ve held to our choice, to say no more, and how I know it’s what we want, in the end – to be young parents, to have as much life ahead of us after the kids are grown, as we had before them. Yet, every year, I think of how the choice that we’re making now will one day not be ours to make at all – and it tugs at my heart, a little stronger with each tick of the clock.
I know we’ve read the final chapter, I know this. I can lay the book down. I know this.
But, oh, that stubborn thumb of mine.
And so, I’ll be here again, next year, I know.
And every March after that, until the time finally takes over and speaks the answer that my heart cannot.