With the move approaching, I feel like the days are passing in a whirlwind; I've been chipping away at the packing, but it still seems there is much to be done. My mother takes Botany out for walks in the pram so I can spend a little time in the nursery, going through the closet and extracting piles of baby things- boxing up what we need and putting the rest into bags for friends' children or else the charity shop. On one level, it feels good to purge- I've tried, very hard, in recent years to resist becoming a hoarder and there is something so satisfying about ruthlessly paring things down. On the other hand, I find myself experiencing immense, complicated sadness at the process.
Last year, not long after we brought Botany home, E. and I had a discussion about whether we would ever want to have another baby. I remember sitting on the bar stool at the kitchen counter during this chat, having just put a colicky Botany to bed with dried milk stains on the front of my shirt, unwashed hair and exhaustion so overwhelming that I wanted to expire right then and there. Given that I was experiencing hefty doses of that postpartum sensation entitled "oh holy crap, what have I done?", the whole concept of a second child was a little...shall we say, unwelcome. Aside from the possible spectre of secondary infertility, I was- in short- not keen. Even before Botany's birth, I was fairly firmly in the camp that I really only wanted one child. Which is why during our infertility years, it was all the more infuriating (I thought) that I couldn't seem to get pregnant with one, just one.
"Would you be hugely disappointed if we didn't have another baby?" I asked, swabbing at the milk stains.
"I'd be disappointed if we didn't try," E. said.
We left it there, probably because Botany woke up and started crying. And that was as far as we got- I don't think the subject really ever came up again- probably because it quickly became evident that it was a struggle to cope with one little sleepless, fretful person and because by the time I had gotten myself back on an even keel, E. was already halfway out the door (and then left altogether, since it was becoming apparent we were not going to be doing much of anything together any more, never mind having a second child).
In some ways, I am relieved that it's not a decision I have to make now. In all honesty, I am not sure what I would have wanted to do. A huge part of me thinks that I would have remained of the view that a single child was right for me and for us. That given my age and our history, we would have had to start trying much sooner than I would have ideally liked. That having two small children (especially if the second was as spirited and challenging as Botany) would have been daunting at best and at worst overwhelming and unhappy.
Then, as Botany started outgrowing things, I also found myself quietly retaining a small stockpile of a few of the gender neutral baby clothes, plus one or two of my favourite outfits. Just in case, I thought at the time. Never say never. So I would keep the cherry blossom onesie she wore on the day we brought her home. Keep the little orange organic cotton stripey nightgown with matching knotted hat and bib. Save the little flowery dress that L. gave us, and the party frock with the red ribbon and cherries which S. sent. Her little brown suede Mary Jane shoes. The vest with the embroidered lamb. The sleepsuit with the blue dog on it that E. brought back from New York.
Saving these things, just in case, never say never, just in case. And as the small pile grew, I became wary, since the chances seemed high that no matter what my wishes might be, I might not get a say in the matter. As it happens, it seems I was right about, only not quite for the reasons I anticipated. Now, I know life is strange, and unexpected things occur, not to mention that I'm still only (just about) 38 and well...who knows. At the same time, I think I have to let the idea go; have to accept that the likelihood is that Botany is and ever more will be so my only baby. Given my earlier ambivalence about having more children coupled with my profound appreciation that I was lucky to have one at all, I am hopeful that in time I will feel completely at ease about the whole thing. But at the moment, it feels a little painful and sad to put aside the bulk of the small clothes, to put aside the possibility of what might have been and focus on the what-is.
I'm still keeping the special clothes, though- since someday Botany might want to see some of the things chosen with the hope of her, with care for her, with all the love I have for my one, precious baby.