Sunday, May 15, 2011

The Third Child

When my father passed away suddenly I wished so badly for just ten minutes to talk to him. I wanted to ask him questions I had left unasked, say all the things we’d left unsaid. What I find curious now is that I did not wish for him to be alive again. It is as though somehow we know these kinds of things are not in our control. So we wish for something we believe could have been possible – ten more minutes.

As a function of more things than I can count, my husband and I have decided that we will not be having any more children. Two parents, two hands, two kids. I am now in my 41st year. We have been blessed with two wonderful beings and are more grateful than can be put into words. Our family feels complete and that nothing is missing. Yet, I feel as though there is still a third out there for us. I also know that I could not survive another child. I have clung too hard to a need for control, for peace, for sleep, for alone time through the early child-rearing years. A third child would most certainly squash the last ember of sanity in me. So I have accepted that I could mourn the absence of this child for the rest of my life. Then again, one never knows how things will turn out.

These days I cuddle with my children much more rarely than I did when they were infants. Now they are right next to me for only a brief period each day. Soon, I realize, it will take a lot of work just to get a hug from my children. Then I will long for a visit, perhaps even a phone call or an email. As they move progressively farther away I long for that closeness again.

Inside this longing is where it crosses my mind that I want another baby. I suppose this is where grandchildren are handy. There will be no more pregnancies for me. Of this I am certain. But what has become clear to me is that I long to hold my two babies close to me again, if only for a short time once more. It is not another person I wish to create. It is only the memory of the ones I have that I wish to relive again.

If I could just have ten minutes again of my little baby girl in my arms looking up at me with her liquid blue eyes. If I could feel the little body of my newborn boy sleeping against me, I would have my fill.

There are so many things in life that we can’t choose. Going back in time is impossible. Bringing back the dead seems preposterous. Yet I recently read a great book by Rob Bell, a hip, young (well, 40) preacher man from Michigan, called Love Wins. It is a very controversial book that describes what he believes to be heaven and hell. In it he discusses the idea of resurrection, using Jesus as an example of course. He made a compelling argument that gives examples where life naturally often follows death. As a farmer who spreads compost to replenish her fields, this I know firsthand. As someone who eats meat from the animals that walked her pastures, I build my body on the death of another.

I don’t know that I understood Rob Bell’s message correctly – most scripture interpretations still fly clear on over my head – but the idea of resurrection being a metaphor instead of a literal event was somehow freeing for me. From death, there will be life – everywhere you look.

What is in our control is the ability to remember those that are no longer walking on this earth. We keep them alive in our hearts and minds. We can appreciate what has been given to us. Our babies warm by our sides. Life does not begin and end with these events. It is eternally ongoing, and it is our right and our duty to catch this train and ride it for all it is worth every single day no matter what our past, present or future holds.

So I have decided that my third child will be about that. I will swaddle and feed and nurture the ability to find life everywhere I can. And hold that close for all its worth - if only for ten minutes each day.

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