One of the few books I bought for my son before he was born is a board book called "You are my Baby". Each page has a large adorable animal and a smaller version of itself below. You can flip through the parent pages separately from the little baby pages. On each page, the parent says "you are my baby, little squid" or "you are my baby, little whale" and so forth. I thought nautical animals would be friendly to him because of his bathtub spout protector whale.
Now that I am no longer my naive, anticipatory pregnant self, the post-PPD me sees this book totally differently. It's gone from harmless cuteness to prophetic truthfulness. Because my baby is growing up so fast and he really is a mini version of me (and, ok, my husband too) and he very well may be my only baby. Yes, there, I said it. Almost every day as I'm reading him one of the many books he brings to me, I hug him close, smell his light lavender scented soft hair and whisper "you are my baby". I count and kiss his little toes and his soft belly and repeat it in disbelief to myself a little softer, "you are my baby".
It's so inexplicably amazing to look into his eyes and see the shape of mine or remember the moment that we noticed that how one of his ears sticks out at a different angle than the other, just like his dad's. But at the same time it breaks my heart because I don't think I'll ever be able to say this phrase to anyone else again: "you are my baby". Soon he will grow completely into a toddler and I will miss having him fit on the changing pad or be able to rest his whole body on my chest. I don't know how to face the disappointment of myself and my husband since we always thought we'd have two or three kids. Isn't is sad to leave our little one without a sibling? Won't he be spoiled? Isn't the hardest part over pretty quickly anyway? Couldn't we just be more prepared this time?
I remember the day that a good friend who had been pregnant with her first when I was preggo with my son told me that she was expecting a second child. I felt like someone had punched me in the gut. My son was not even one yet and I was still reeling from having recently put the pieces of my life gingerly back together. How could it be possible that she was ready to do this so soon when I couldn't imagine it at all? Somehow I felt competitive although I'm well aware that this is no contest. Was I just not tough enough? What kind of mom am I if I don't want to become a mom again? I somehow managed to congratulate her and went into a funk for a few days. I definitely knew I wasn't ready, but why would it bother me that she was?
Finally I just learned to live with this little demon sitting on my shoulder, comparing me to other moms and other people and pointing out that they seem to have it all together more than I do. I try to remember that having another baby at the risk of my mental health and relationship with my husband would not stop that monster. There will always be something to compare, some way to criticize. And sometimes I even think of becoming a foster parent or finding an open adoption. I wonder whether the love I would have for those little ones would be the same. I feel like I would have more energy to give without having gone through a pregnancy and another possibly traumatic birth. Even if we didn't share the same traits or hair or even skin color, maybe I could still remind them "you are my baby" each and every night and day. And maybe I would be ready for it to be true.