Their belly bulges mysteriously shrink overnight, and they show up at school drop-off with tiny humans strapped to their chests—smiling, showing off their masterpieces and sometimes even wearing lipstick. I envy these women, I marvel at these women, and I know that I am not one of them.
Six years ago, I welcomed my only child into this world. For more than 2,000 days since, I’ve been working up the courage to try again. Don’t let fear stop you: This is what my brain tells my body. But it won’t listen. At the slightly over-ripe age of 43, the odds of it happening naturally are slim. But still, the thought terrifies me. I’m afraid that it will happen. And I’m afraid that it won’t.
I fear that my body, the one that carried an easy and uncomplicated pregnancy to full-term will not be able to do it again. I fear rolling down the sterile hallways of the hospital to face the classical music in the operating room. I fear that a second C-section will prove the death of me.
Those other women picture a cooing infant at the end of their pregnancy. I see a bloody battlefield. My guts laid out on a table, hemorrhaging, heart attack, stroke, seizures, deformities, Down syndrome, panic attacks and waking up having lost parts of myself to some mysterious flesh-eating disease.
I insist that I am happy with just one. One is easy. I enjoy my freedom. Kids are expensive. I’m old. My achy bones and gray hair are already giving me a sneak peak of grand-motherhood. I dispense reasons, lots of reasons, but never talk about my fear.
And now time is running out. I lie in bed next to my daughter and watch her breathe. I want to freeze time and hold her in my arms forever. But it’s all moving too fast. Soon she will be leaving me, which means soon I will be leaving her. And the heartache is so unbearable that all I can do is weep while I watch her perfect little fingers and toes grow.
I think that if I have another child it will miraculously make us all live longer. It will slow us down. Siblings playing under blanket forts, laughing and eating macaroni and cheese together.
But we will never see this day. We will never see this day, because I am too afraid. I, who raise my daughter to be fearless, am too afraid.
The best I can do is forgive myself and hope that one day she will forgive me too.
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