I look around me and all I can see is a mess. The laundry is overwhelming, and there are boxes lined up against the wall. The boxes are full of miscellaneous items, like my father’s books, extra sheets and pillows, and my old Barbie roller skates from when I was a kid.
I see my daughter’s newly acquired toddler bed that we haven’t started using yet. This makes me feel anxious and wonder how we will ever get this space organized.
Right then, something catches my eye: a pink and white Vtech alphabet activity cube. When my daughter comes down to the basement with me, she still likes to play with it, but she has mostly outgrown it. I think about why I can’t get rid of it. I think about why I keep my daughter’s old baby clothes, her playmat, her Boppy pillow, and her stroller that we haven’t used in two years.
My disorganized basement suddenly reveals itself for what it is: a basement full of dreams. Dreams that one day we will use these things again – the newborn Boppy pillow, the tiny white shirts that button in the front, the footie pajamas made of fleece, the pink baby bath, the infant car seat. My daughter is three and growing every day, but I can’t bear to sell or give these things away.
I want my daughter to be a sister. I want her to know what it’s like to feel that if no one else in the world is on her side, at least she has her brother or sister. I want her to be the comforting and strong older sister I know she will be. My daughter has wings already. I want her to know what it’s like to truly fly – to take her brother or sister under her wings and teach them how to soar with her. My daughter’s spirit is so strong I can already see this scenario in my mind.
But there’s only one problem. I don’t think I’m ready.
Motherhood nearly broke me the first time around. The overwhelming anxiety and sadness I experienced shocked me to my core. I remember those early days after my daughter was born: the crippling anxiety, the loneliness, the isolation, and the sleep deprivation I was sure would kill me. Along with my baby, I had another constant companion called postpartum depression. The depression consumed me and made it difficult to imagine a life not surrounded in darkness.
In the early days, every perceived failure or shortcoming threatened to crush me under the weight of my guilt. Baby isn’t gaining weight at the same rate as her peers? My fault. Horrible reflux? My fault. Still not sleeping through the night after almost two years? My fault. Horrible temper tantrums? My fault. This still happens sometimes.
I was not so quick to take credit for her successes or for the overwhelming evidence of her wellbeing. I couldn’t see those as having anything to do with me. The story I told myself was that I was a failure. How could I subject another child to my imperfection as a mother? Surely that guilt would be the weight that finally submerged me.
Upstairs the story is clear. This is a house with a mom, a dad, and a daughter. The pictures on the wall tell this story – that this is a family of three, and we are complete. In the basement, I can dream. Each item comes alive with the possibility that maybe one day I will be ready. Maybe one day I will bathe a newborn again in my daughter’s pink bathtub and dress him or her in the zebra print fleece pajamas that zip up in the front.
For now, the dream is enough. It keeps me from giving up. As long as I can look at that pink bathtub and still picture my baby there, I know there’s still a chance that, one day, I won’t have to close my eyes and dream anymore. One day I will open my eyes, and my baby will be looking back at me. One day I will watch my baby fall asleep rocking back and forth in the swing.
One day my desire to have another baby will overcome my fear of being broken again.