"I can't believe she's old enough to be in a highchair already. I'm having a hard time with these little milestones, because she's our last," she confided.
Another friend with an infant recently told me the same thing. "I have trouble leaving her with anyone. I'm trying to savor every moment since this is the last baby I'll have," she told me.
Women like to talk about these things. That and if they are "done" with having kids.
"How do you know?" someone will always ask.
"You just know," someone else always undoubtedly answers.
Only sometimes you don't know, because life gets in the way.
When Ethan was a baby, I was pretty sure he would be our last. Not 100 percent sure, mind you, because to me these decisions shouldn't be made when your child is still in the newborn phase, but I figured, yeah, we're probably done. I had every intention of savoring every moment, every milestone.
But then he had jaundice and smiled late and took a long time to roll over and didn't babble that much and only had a few words. Then he had a diagnosis.
My friends with babies the same age continued their playgroups and mom's gatherings and discussions. Should we try for another? How do we handle toilet training? What do we do about the Terrible Two's? while I was wondering Will my son function as an independent adult?
Sometimes I felt as if I resided in a parallel universe. In the meantime, Ethan's babyhood and toddlerhood slipped away.
One day, I woke up. I woke up and grieved, because I realized my baby was now a boy, and I'd missed most of the transition. I hadn't savored anything, but fretted through the months and years.
I looked at my boy, and I saw that my worst fears had not been realized. No, I didn't know what the future held, but I knew he was incredibly smart, that he'd come a long way, and he was a different version of autism than I had first feared, a milder one.
I also knew that even if that weren't the case, if his autism were more severe, no amount of fear and worry would have changed a thing. And no measure of autism could subtract our love.
There was something else. I knew I'd missed something. I guess Dan had, too. I'd missed that very important moment when you look at your life and your family and say, "I'm content here. My family is complete and is the way it's meant to me."
It was as if autism and worry and anxiety had written the script without us having any say in the matter.
Almost exactly two years ago, I wrote an entry on this blog that included this:
What I was thinking, the other night as I mused, was what it would be like to go back with what I know now. I would do my best to do the right things but not torture myself if I ate deli meat or sipped part of a Diet Coke. I'd enjoy the process without fretting so much about how to influence the outcome. I'd live each day of my pregnancy a little freer and lighter just because I'd know that I didn't have control of every nuance of my life and never would. No one does. I would live rather than live in torment.
We can't dance with our arms wrapped around us. We have to open our clenched fists and let go of everything we thought was ours.
I'd resolved then not to hang heavy with regret about how I'd already lived; about the choices I'd made and the moments I'd lost to fear.
What I didn't realize then is that I would indeed have another opportunity. That we would decide to open up our eyes and our arms to let go with abandon; to forgo the what ifs; to release the illusion of control; to most of all, LOVE.
Little one, we can't wait to meet you.