I have four friends with new babies. Four baby girls, soft and snuggly and warm, now smiling and cooing, though not fully holding their heads up yet. All of them born within four weeks of each other. Oh they are sweet. Which has of course got me thinking about having another.
And it's a funny thing. With Frances nearly 4 (in September) and Clark now two plus a couple of months, it occurs to me that I could actually have another without losing my mind. Not that I want to. But before, (and this is why we decided to stop at two) I thought that my struggles with having an infant were particular to the infantness, that I was just one of those people not cut out for it. (And maybe I'm not remembering just what that particular struggle feels like. Possible.) But it strikes me now that my depression had more to do with the move than anything else. Now that we're settled finally (finally! It took me two full years to feel like I belong in this house and town and I still don't have anything hanging on the walls, a stack of frames in the corner of the living room) I believe it wouldn't be as taxing as I thought to add a baby to the mix.
I was depressed with the first one, but that's not surprising. The first baby is so hard because it's such a shock, such a complete change of your life, and it happens overnight. The second for me was hard because Frances was only 17 months and a baby herself, but I think I would have handled it with much more grace had we not moved two months after Clark was born. That wasn't the plan: we had in fact planned for the baby to be born after we'd been here several months, but it didn't work out that way. The stress of two babies close together is a lot, but the move--the emotional energy you have to expend when you don't know how to get to the grocery, or your way around once inside, when you don't already have your go-to spots for coffee or pizza or takeout or a good walk, or friends. No wonder I had such a hard time with the babies. If Mitch hadn't been working 14 hour days, perhaps he could have helped me figure out some of these things, or at least held the baby while I did.
I feel like Frances was the one who suffered for it. I think back on it and feel so sad for her--I just had no patience then for a toddler. But I've got to let it go. I feel now like we are mending, Frances and I. In general she is entering a much more comfortable place. She feels everything so strongly, with such passion, and when I was struggling just to make it through a day (lonely, baby-up-at-night unrested, anxious about newness of the town, depressed), her overwrought sensibilities just undid me. They seemed so excessive (and, frankly, intrusive) and for a long time I was irritated with and maybe resentful of her.
We're healing because I'm healing, because I'm happier; because she's getting older and can control herself more (most of the time, anyway); and also, interestingly, because she copies Clark. He is different from her: so affectionate and open (as, I hear, boys tend to be). Now, instead of a disinterested "hi" when she's with a sitter and I come home, she does what Clark does and hollers Mommy!, runs and hurls herself at me, arms around my legs. In general I kiss her more, she snuggles more. It's good for us.
So maybe now I could handle a baby. Still, I don't want one, am happy with the decision we've made to stop at two. When I hold one of those new baby girls--adorable as they are--so many things return that I've forgotten: the smell of spit up, cradle cap, diaper rash, milk spots on your shirt, all the other stuff that vanishes so quickly from your brain. I tend not to hold her for long, except when she's sleeping. Then she's a lovely warm hot water bottle.