painted toes + an aching heart

Yesterday, as Silas napped, Poppy and I painted our toenails.  She was so excited that she even agreed to take off the purple rubber boots she had been wearing all day and sat perfectly still.  She picked the colours and her eyes lit up and let out a little gasp with the completion of each tiny toenail.  I considered painting my own toenails all one colour, but thought better of it and let her choose the colours for mine as well.  We ended up with matching toes and she was thrilled.  Silas shared our enthusiasm an squealed “Poppy’s pree toes!” and “Booofull!”.

It was a rather big moment for me as I realized we don’t have babies anymore.  I have a little girl with a curly bob haircut and a little boy who hates to wear pants.  We have a little boy and a little girl whose limbs were once curled up and enveloped in my own belly, but now stretch and reach out to who they are becoming.  I measure their height on a door frame upstairs and witness their growth in little increments.  I remember my own Gramma doing this with my cousins and I on a slice of her wall at the bottom of the stairs.  It was still there when we cleaned out her house after she passed away and I felt a pang when I thought about the next owners who would inevitably sand and paint it over.  I look up to the top of our own door frame and feel weepy at the thought of one day looking back at those first little marks I had made.  Would I remember this day and who they were when I made that little mark?  Would I remember the little quirks and funny things they would say and do.  Am I recording enough?

Our heart breaks a little when we look at old videos and photos and marvel at how tiny they once were; when we realize we don’t get that moment back.  Ever.  It hits us that the child who is here today won’t be there tomorrow.  Parenting is excruciating in that we can’t stop or rewind time.  Since the moment Poppy was placed in my arms, time has moved too quickly; first the hours, then the weeks and months, now the years.  It is death and re-birth with each bedtime and sunrise and sometimes I think my heart will break clean in half with the pain and pride.

Having another baby is a multifaceted decision, but I wonder how much of it is based on the hope of slowing time; delaying the inevitable day when we stop making a family and move into the realm of being a family; the day when we close that chapter of our own lives and youth forever.  I am comforted by the thought of not having to have another baby, but I am also comforted by the idea that we could if we wanted.

Of course each day is better and the love deeper than it was the day before, but does it ever stop hurting?  Is it one of those decisions you just know is right or are we always going to battle against the hard wiring of our species to reproduce?  Do we ever feel done?  Do our ovaries ever stop aching?  Will I really never feel a baby roll around in my own belly again?  Will I never nurse another sweet newborn to sleep?  Will we never name another child?  Will we never know another babymoon?  Will we always feel like someone was missing from our family?  Or will we be glad we didn’t overstretch ourselves and were better, more patient and attentive parents because of it?

Of course there are the practical things to consider such as the morning sickness and depression that swallows me during pregnancy; there is the c-section and recovery, the weight gain and breastfeeding; we would need a bigger vehicle and have another mouth to feed.  Is there any truth to the warnings of being outnumbered?  Would we change the perfect dynamic that seems to be forming right now?

I feel happy where we are right now.  They love and entertain each other.  They take care of each other as Poppy rushes over to Silas when he falls, exclaiming “Im’a coming Silas!  You alright?” and Silas helps her find all the things she misplaces with a calm “Here Poppy” as he hands her the item she can never find.  I enjoy the growing independence.  I enjoy wearing my pre pregnancy clothes and bras again.  I feel like the fog is lifting and, though there is magic in babies, it is physically intense.  I look forward to the chatter and stories and learning that is to come.

The only thing that eases the pain of time passing too quickly is to be ever present and aware.  To eat up every morsel of these young days.  To let go of the guilt when we  don’t live up to our own ideals and to loosen our grip so that we might enjoy this part with a vulnerable heart and enjoy these moments of clarity when they show themselves.


go gently + be wonderful


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  1. Posted March 29, 2012 at 11:36 am by mel | Permalink

    oh gosh, heart-stopping beauty! You have nailed it in such a perfect way Erin… I’m right there – feeling it too. Love is such a double edged sword it seems… the deeper we feel it the deeper it can pierce us too.
    Love those pictures as well.. what peas in a pod now. Miss your sweet faces.

    • Posted March 29, 2012 at 11:38 am by erin | Permalink

      I have been wrestling with this one for a while and am glad to get it out…nice to know we’re not alone.
      Miss your sweet face too. Are you doing the spring crafty caravan show?
      Loves Miss Mel

  2. Posted March 29, 2012 at 11:41 am by Meryl | Permalink

    Was having similar thoughts as I was putting the Kid to bed last night. Just noticing how long he is already–so tall and big, it’s hard to believe.

    That picture of the two of yours laughing is going to become a family classic–so beautiful that I can almost hear the laughter.

  3. Posted March 29, 2012 at 11:51 am by barbara ledrew | Permalink

    you are such a beautiful writer…maybe you could start a journal for poppy and one for silas. entirely about them.

  4. Posted March 29, 2012 at 11:53 am by teresa c | Permalink

    I want to copy down your post and take it home with me because you put in words my feelings exactly (well, not the part about the pregnancy because was a lucky gal and I remember those months as happy and perfect!) We saw a doctor just after my son was bornwho talked lenghtwise about the parenting journey we just began and one thing I remember the most about what he said was : “you won’t love much your son, you’ll love him more and more” and “you love him so that in hurts”. Oh my, was he right. And when I long for growing our family I suspect I’m cheating on my love, or I fear I won’t be able to love my second child with the same love I have for my son. I see him grow, I rejoice in his achievements, and I miss the baby he was… No one told me about this before I was a mother, I guess even if I was told I wouldn’t understand. But you said it clear and beautifully… Thank you (and sorry for such a long comment!)

  5. Posted March 29, 2012 at 12:00 pm by Laura Jeanne | Permalink

    I totally hear you. I feel exactly the same. I have 4 children, and although we feel our family is complete, and although I am happy at the thought of never going through pregnancy again, at the same time I do feel a bit sad that this baby-making stage of our life is over. It’s hard to accept that life, that time, keeps marching on and we can never turn back the clock or even keep it steady for a short while. It saddens me to think that before I know it, these kids will be starting lives of their own and the house will be too quiet.

    It’s such a challenge to make the most of this time and appreciate it. I don’t want to miss a thing.

    By the way, I get really depressed while pregnant too. And I get horrendous back pain. I am going to risk sounding like a terrible person by saying I really don’t like being pregnant at all! Of course the sweet newborn is worth it…but still. :)

  6. Posted March 29, 2012 at 12:39 pm by Margaret B. | Permalink

    Yes, indeed. Thank you for writing this and stating so well what is also and always in my own heart.


  7. Posted March 29, 2012 at 12:49 pm by Amanda | Permalink

    In the same place – I ask myself the same questions daily

  8. Posted March 29, 2012 at 12:53 pm by Ana | Permalink

    Oh gosh. I am crying after reading this. Will I never know that sweetness? My ovaries ache so fiercely sometimes and occasionally I get little bouts of panic where I feel like I am getting older so quickly and running out of time to even find someone to make a baby with. I think I’m only a year or two away from just having one all on my own… somehow.

  9. Posted March 29, 2012 at 1:11 pm by Misty Pratt | Permalink

    Such a hard decision. I think many women know when they are done, but I doubt the longing ever truly goes away (especially if you really love babies!) I know that morning sickness and depression/anxiety will prevent me from ever doing this again :) I’m on #2 right now, and already I have decided that this will be the last time. Which is why I’m so anticipating those first little flutters, kicks and rolls in my belly. Although I am vulnerable and scared in pregnancy, I am cherishing ever moment, as I know this is my last

  10. Posted March 29, 2012 at 1:22 pm by Kate | Permalink

    Oh mercy. I am right there with you. Sort of. Except we already took the plunge and are expecting #3. And I am happy and excited and relieved to slow time a little. And I’m exhausted and a little apprehensive about how this is really going to work. But it will. It always does. And we will adapt and settle into a new routine and someday, as much as I love my babies, they won’t be babies anymore and it will be bittersweet.

  11. Posted March 29, 2012 at 1:23 pm by Kate | Permalink

    p.s. your toes are adorable. Poppy has a good eye for color.

  12. Posted March 29, 2012 at 1:42 pm by Kim | Permalink

    Wow, such a great post. As a mama with one little lovely, I so want another one, but have a partner who is not too sure. We are talking it out, but it tugs at my heart everyday. Don’t get me wrong, I am happy where we are, but there is this pull for another for all the reasons you mention.

    So with you on this post.

  13. Posted March 29, 2012 at 6:50 pm by Nicole | Permalink

    It must be the change and rebirth of Spring that has us thinking of our changing children and the longings in our hearts. Why it was just the other evening while I was helping my 3 and a half year old get ready for bed when I caught a glimpse of his legs and was surprised into stillness by their length and leaness. No longer were they the pudgy little sausages I used to squeeze and tickle, they were little boy legs growing away from me. For that brief moment time suspended and I felt a deep longing for Forest the baby; and then just like that I was brought back into presence by the same beautiful growing limbs jumping on the bed calling for their Mama to “look look”. We too are hoping for another baby, but then I worry we have waited too long and our children will not be interested in one another. I look at the lovely photos of Poppy and Silas and think how wonderful it must be that they can grow, learn, and play together. Erin, whether you decide to have another baby or not, he or she could only add more beauty and love to an already perfect looking family. Thanks again for another insightful post.

  14. Posted March 29, 2012 at 7:02 pm by Erin | Permalink

    Erin, I have so totally been where you are at. Looking to balance all that is good and right about today, but also wondering what could be and what might have been for the future. I’ve come to believe that there really is no perfect path for each of us, and that this beautiful freedom we have to be open to another child is really that voice within us as women to attune ourselves to our creativity. We long to nourish, to grow, to create. I was at where you are at with our four children for the last three years, feeling that life was full and good and all that it needed to be (despite my flaws, which I’ve come to accept and have peace with). And yet it was the children’s desire for another child that really brought my husband and I to question the future of our family. I really believe that a sibling is a great gift to your children, and we are taking the plunge and welcoming our fifth. We may be crazy, but I have seen so many blessings in our life already, despite my horrible morning sickness. I’ve seen the kindness of others who have reached out to us, cooked us food, swept my floors and never judged me in my pajamas at 2 pm. So much love is there. And the children are beside themselves with joy, which has done wonders for the depression I can be prone to. So many gifts along the way. Just sharing my story. Blessings to you in your journey of mothering. It is a sweet time.

  15. Posted March 29, 2012 at 8:21 pm by Sarah | Permalink

    This is such a beautiful post. My son is only 2 months old and yet I feel like time is passing by way to quickly already. I look at my friends who have already had children and see them rushing from one milestone to the next. It feels like a race to see who can do what and how much faster than the rest. I would much rather stop time. I know that I will cherish the moments when my baby turns into a little boy, teenager, and finally a man, but I really wish that I could stop time now, in this moment. I know that by having him reach his milestones, I have done my job well, but I will miss these days. The words “at least he’s your first” do little to console me because I know that the second won’t be the same. I will not have the same amount of time to spend with the next as I do right now. Thank you for letting me know that I am not alone in these feelings.

  16. Posted March 29, 2012 at 10:11 pm by Sherri | Permalink

    Wow – I identify so deeply with this post. We have 2 boys, and know that (for a wide variety of reasons) we will not have more. I am so lucky to have 2 wonderful children, yet each moment with them is bittersweet. For every new accomplishment/discovery/change, there is the loss (however slight) of who they were “before”. I am sad knowing that I will never experience the feeling of a baby moving inside of me again, but feel so blessed to have known it at all. Our boys and our life are so miraculous, yet it all is held in such a delicate balance.
    Thank you for a wonderful post.

  17. Posted March 29, 2012 at 10:29 pm by Amanda | Permalink

    Wow, I am really experiencing this right now. I completely agree with everything that you have expressed, and as soon as I feel completely confident that I want to keep our family at two children I become crazy with the urge to have another. I don’t know what the future will bring but it certainly is a bittersweet journey.

  18. Posted March 30, 2012 at 7:19 am by Julia | Permalink

    What a stunning post! My heart says these things to me daily and here you are writing it down :) Thank you so much for sharing.

  19. Posted April 10, 2012 at 9:38 pm by katharine | Permalink

    We’ve got four here with the youngest only 3 months old but I am already feeling the tug. Just yesterday I saw the older three walking ahead of me and turned back to see if one was behind. I am jealous of those among my friends and family who are resolved to be done having babies but I think I’ll never truly get there. Oh, we’ll stop some day but I’ll prbably never be stop hoping

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