Expecting Grief

Contemplating the last child

My husband knew better. As we were being discharged from the hospital, all three children in tow, Scott dashed back in to snatch the tiny box of hospital tissues. I looked up at him quizzically. He said simply, "You're going to cry." Odd, I didn't feel sad. Why should I cry? I was going to be fine. I needed no tissues. But we hadn't even hit the freeway before I was dripping from breasts, nose, and eyes, grabbing Kleenex like crazy.

With each child, as my milk came in, so has my grief, my "baby blues," if you will. But never had I known the intensity of grief such as this. Had I not had the responsibility of caring for my children I would have fled the pain by any means possible . . . sleep, alcohol, or worse.

I looked ahead to a year of Max's "firsts," only to look at them as "lasts." Yes, the last time I'd nurse a days-old baby with breasts so full of milk he couldn't take it all, the last time I'd look forward to my baby sitting up, standing, walking, talking . . . the last time I would help create and care for one so tiny. I kept recalling a card we had received when Devon was born. It contained a quote by Dickens which read, "It is not a slight thing when they, who are so fresh from God, love us." Never again would I be adored in that single-minded fashion with which babies bind themselves to their primary source of food, warmth, love.

And never would I grow a new life inside of me. I loved being pregnant. As I write that, I'm selectively forgetting the nausea, heartburn, sleeplessness, and backaches. I loved the first tingle of excitement when my period was late and I knew I might be pregnant. I loved reading the home pregnancy tests and seeing two pink lines. I loved complaining about morning sickness. I loved lying in bed during the fourth month and wondering if that little flutter was truly the baby kicking or just . . . whoops, there it was again, must be the baby! I loved my belly growing rounder and larger, and I loved the instant bond I shared with other mothers, the universal connection of birth stories and pregnancy histories. I loved thinking about the person my baby would be. The child was a being full of promise, and our relationship was yet unsullied by the guilt of wrongly expressed anger or discipline, or the sadness of a cruel world. I loved the way I felt, most of the time: pulsing with life, helping to complete the circle, connected with Mother Earth, yet part of the Heavens. I loved being pregnant.

And now, my womb sits fallow, as it will until menopause. My husband, Scott, and I have decided against surgical sterilization at this time. While we feel three children are plenty for us, we are not yet ready to close this chapter of our lives. One friend who backed out of his vasectomy at the last moment said, "As biological beings, we are born, we procreate, and we die. If I permanently end the second part, I'm that much closer to the last part." While I think he exaggerates the point, I do see what he means. I don't yet feel ready to end this part of my life, yet as a woman in a free country, I can choose to stop bringing children into the world at any point. And I choose now.

Grief has its stages and I must move on. I have learned to console myself by enjoying the present and looking ahead to the growth of my children, rather than feeling sadly hollow. Now is when my six-year-old believes in Santa and has a new tooth, my two-year-old is devilishly delightful, and my baby is . . . a baby. I see them going from infants to toddlers to youngsters, on through those tumultuous teens and into the grand adults I know they'll be. It's not so much that I want another baby. It's that I want the same three babies all over again. I can never recapture their births or my youth. I can only look back fondly at their beginnings and look forward to life with these three wonderful people.

Anyway, there are always grandchildren.


Heather Matti lives in Buffalo, Minnesota. This is her first contribution to Minnesota Parent.

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