When I was pregnant with Viv, we got a lot of thoughtful gifts, but my favorites were the boxes of hand-me-down clothes from mommy friends who had been there before me. Sorting through those cartons was Christmas morning-level exciting. Adorable playsuits, girlie party dresses, cozy pajamas and, um, something that looks like a Band-Aid with snaps?
Onesie crotch extenders, it turned out.
For every pink frilly item that begged me to play dress-up, there was some totally confounding oddity. But, no matter -- I welcomed it all.
Lovingly rewashing everything with Dreft and folding those tiny clothes into brand new drawers felt like my first real act as a mom.
Now, two and a half years later, I find myself packing up Viv's baby clothes for another set of expectant parents -- my brother and sister-in-law. I've been waiting for them to have a baby and I'm thrilled it's a girl. (Is it sexist to fantasize about family vacations where we braid hair, paint nails and play Barbie? I can't help myself.) As a sister, an aunt and a person who badly needs to de-clutter, it's exciting packing up Viv's clothes. But as a mom, it's emotional too.
The woman who unpacks her first box of baby hand-me-downs has everything in front of her -- the dreamy haze of the newborn days, feeding and sleeping and not sleeping, confusion and chaos, magic and mystery and such rapid growing and changing that one day soon, the items from that first box won't even fit any more, and it will be time to open the next one.
The woman who packs such a box has experience, knowledge and memories. She's mastered the art of swaddling (so what if it took five different blanket brands to get it right?). She knows the onesie extenders aren't worth the trouble, and puts them in the Good Will pile instead. She remembers fondly her go-to pajamas -- the ones she could fasten in the dark. She'll never forget the coming home outfit, and puts it aside.
I've been both of these women now, and while I know there are still many, many parenting milestones ahead, it feels strange to have already closed the lid on these boxes.
As much as I treasured my daughter's baby phase, it's impossible to want it back. I'd never give up our new communication -- the relief of being able to ask, "What's wrong?" and receive an answer. The joy of hearing "I love you." Still, I don't like to think that there will never be another baby in the house again -- sleeping on my chest, staring into my eyes, smiling for the first time. I'd be so good at it now, too. Less afraid, more assured, but also less available, I know.
We've been trying to conceive for a year now, up against my advanced maternal age. It's in fate's hands, this second baby thing, though I have trouble letting go of imagined control. I make myself crazy with fertility nutrition books ("eat full-fat dairy") and Chinese medicine ("avoid dairy"), all my information sources contradictory and not especially scientific.
I do know one thing in my gut, and that's that bringing an umbrella will almost surely prevent the rain. Hand down the baby clothes, and hope that little cousin lovingly destroys them with spit-up and blow-outs and teething like a beaver.
Take away the umbrella, and maybe it will rain.
This post was originally published on Carriage Before Marriage.