Yesterday I sat in my third meeting of the week, next to a colleague in another department who is some months pregnant and showing. Her belly is rounded out just enough so that her sweater stretches taut over the curve of it, and throughout the meeting she kept running her hands over the bump in that characteristic way I found so familiar, and which filled me with a sudden pang of longing. I don't long to be pregnant again, but I do feel nostalgia from time to time for the pregnant me from some years ago; the pregnant me who used to sit in my graduate school classes, hands across my own belly, feeling L. stretch and push against me, testing his strength.
Not long ago I took the kids to a local park so T. could have a play date with her BFF (best friend forever) from last year's preschool class, a spirited little girl who, as it turned out, was born at the same small community hospital only the day before T. herself was born! So strange to imagine the two girls only hours old, perhaps hearing each other cry from the scratchy plastic hospital bassinets and forming some strange bond from the start--a bond they recognized when they found themselves, some two-and-a-half years later, in the same preschool class. It's a small world indeed.
As J.'s mom and I pushed the girls in the swings I kept a wary eye on L. who was running around the jungle gym involved in some serious game by himself. We chatted a bit about the kids and then J.'s mom said, Are you done?
Done? I asked, thinking, done swinging?
Are you done having kids?
It took only a second to answer that yes, we were indeed done. They have two children themselves and consider themselves "done", but J.'s baby brother isn't even quite two yet, so her mom is still knee-deep in all things baby-related. I suspect that "done" is an abstract concept to her right now.
It's a strange notion, this one of being done. Lately I've been hyper-aware of the fact that we are moving into another phase of our lives. Something happens when your child hits three and then proceeds to hurtle towards four; then you blink and they are four, and you're left wondering when THAT happened--when exactly was that moment, because you didn't see it coming, not really. Three marks a type of demarcation line between toddlerhood and childhood and when it's crossed many of the aspects of babyhood are thrown off: diapers, baby talk perhaps; the rounded limbs of your toddler begin to straighten out and become more angular; the hair grows thicker and less wispy. Four is an in-between year, the last precious year before school and the mess of friends and homework and playground dramas.
I feel us moving away from that time in our lives, the time of feeling baby kicks and pushes and first hiccups, of diapers and broken nights; sometimes we are moving in slow motion, other times we speed along and the milestones pass in flashes and blurs. It's not easy always, to embrace this state of being done, to stifle the urge to circle my own flat belly with my hands, feeling for a bump, for a new life inside. I don't feel the rush of assurance about being done that some women seem to feel; rather I feel a type melancholy peace about it--the kind of peace that comes from knowing you have moved on, away from births and soft newborn heads and bleating cries, and into the warm tangle of the childhood years to come.