I don’t keep anything. It’s sort of a joke in my house and also not funny at all to my kids or husband. There are constant cries of, “Why is my toy in the garbage?” or “Do you know what happened to the screws I left on the counter?” I will admit, I am very quick to toss.
But that’s only because there are five people living in our house. And if I didn’t do a constant inventory, we’d be drowning in stuff. My kids like to save everything, and coincidentally, so does my husband. Take his sneakers, for example. He wears orthotics, so for every new pair of sneakers, he saves the insoles (why?!). I find them everywhere! And so I toss them. If I come across a bouncy ball (choking hazard), it’s out. Spare sock which I’m sure has no match? Goodbye. Candy from a recent birthday party that’s not healthy anyway? Adios.
Which also means I decide what stays — which is very little. I do consider myself sentimental, but it doesn’t mean I have to save everything my kids have ever made. I don’t keep their schoolwork or their artwork. I’m sure this is something up for debate, but for me, it works.
But there is one thing I can’t seem to bring myself to toss. Five years ago I found out I was pregnant with my youngest. My husband had needed persuasion to have a third, so I knew this was our last baby. The positive pregnancy test that I took for our daughter — our third and youngest — has sat in a drawer in my bathroom for the past five years. I know that sounds gross (if it makes it any better, it was the kind that has a cap that goes over the pee stick). The display still shows the two happy pink lines. This is trash. Literal trash. I’m sure for many reasons these are not supposed to be a keepsake.
So I try to throw it away. Every month when I retrieve a tampon out of the drawer I reach in the back to find this keepsake. I take it out, hold it in my hands, and tell myself to toss it. Looking at it brings me a little joy (the measure of whether we should keep things or not — right?) but it mostly brings me panic. As soon as I try to move it to the trash I know that never again will I pee on a stick (I guess there’s a relatively small chance, but very slim). I’m getting older and my husband does not want more kids. Truthfully, I probably don’t either. But I do want to feel young and excited and brought back to the joy of being on the brink of having a baby. This was a dream I had wanted my whole life — to have kids.
So my chest tightens and the sadness comes and I decide to keep it. I place in its secret spot and tell myself I’ll throw it away next month. My poor kids, I don’t keep one damn piece of their beautiful art — just the stick I peed on when I learned of their impending arrival.
This part of my life — the vibrant time with kids and constant people around — it’s in great contrast to where my parents are. It feels like my mom calls every day with news of another friend who is sick or dying. That’s the stage of life she is in. And it’s coming one day for me too. This I know. But that time when you pee on a stick, it’s full of promise and new life, not life-ending.
And being pregnant and giving birth were literally the very best times in my life (in retrospect anyway). There are many days I daydream about being pregnant and giving birth again. About the strength my body had to push out my babies. About the bravery and determination I had during labor. It’s miraculous. And I feel a major letdown when I know I’ll never experience that again. Which is why I can’t let that last memento go.
I also have four drops of breastmilk in my freezer. I was hoping to make a piece of breastmilk jewelry but by the time I made this decision, I wasn’t making milk anymore. I tried desperately to squeeze out what I could. It never amounted to the teaspoon needed for the jewelry.
Unlike the pregnancy test, this one my husband does know about. He used to ask if we needed to keep the sorry looking bag with a scant amount of milk. But he has stopped asking me to throw it away — because he knows. He knows how much I loved breastfeeding each of my children. He knows how much I loved having babies.
He’s happy to move on to the next phase of our life. Me, not so much.
This article was originally published on