My husband and I sink onto our living room couch at the end of the day, cocooned within distant, sound-machine ocean waves while our two toddlers sleep in their respective rooms. We’re trying to decide whether to watch another episode of 30 Rock or not.
“Let’s have another baby,” I say suddenly, hopefully. The past several months have brought those familiar pings of longing again, and it’s exhausting trying to pretend they don’t exist.
My husband isn’t surprised—we have some version of this conversation at least once a month. He pauses before speaking, picking at the couch cushion.
“I still don’t think I’m ready,” he says finally. “Didn’t we decide to talk about adoption next year?”
It’s only March. I don’t want to wait until next year.
And, as much as I do want to adopt again, I also can’t ignore this desire to grow another new life within me.
My biological clock ticks louder and louder with each passing day, reminding me my body is capable of the miracle of pregnancy but only as a limited time offer.
My husband and I agree to press pause on the third kid discussion, knowing it will come back around in a few weeks. We also agree to press play on another episode of 30 Rock. At only 21 minutes from start to finish, it’s almost too easy to watch just one more.
As a child, I delighted in spending afternoons at our kitchen table cranking out desserts in my Easy Bake Oven. I loved ripping open the packets of cake mix, knowing I was only minutes away from having my own personal dessert. It truly was so easy—mix in a little water, pour the batter into a circular metal tin, and push everything into that magic white and purple plastic box. After 10 minutes—ding!—cake time. I sliced my creations into (very) tiny triangles and graciously served them to my younger siblings or American Girl dolls, whoever had been nicer to me that day.
While my Easy Bake Oven may have taught me some preliminary kitchen skills, it also introduced the idea that what I wanted could be obtained quickly if only I had a free afternoon and some sprinkles to spare.
In the corner of our bedroom, I keep a large cardboard box for Goodwill donations. I fill it up and empty it out, over and over and over. I am ruthless about which items remain in our home; clutter makes me itchy.
One afternoon my husband is playing outside with the kids, and I take advantage of the time by sorting through old baby clothes.
This task, as every mother knows, is the surest way to fall into a black hole of nostalgia and never return.
I pick up a small blue onesie covered in smiling koalas that our youngest son wore home from the hospital. I remember my husband leaving to go get the car while I stayed in our hospital room, alone with my newborn for the first time. I delicately changed my son’s diaper and zippered him into the koala outfit, his face scrunching up and turning tomato red as he screamed his disapproval. On the drive home, I pulled up the sunshade on his car seat while he slept, and all I could see were two tiny, koala-covered feet peeking out at me.
The koala onesie ends up in the Goodwill box. Like I said, I’m ruthless.
Next, I come across a short-sleeved, gray-striped onesie with two round wooden buttons at the top. I got it years ago at Target when I was picking out clothes for a friend’s baby, feeling depressed that it wasn’t for my own. At that point, we had been trying to grow our family for over a year, and each day sharpened the pain of not yet having children.
It made me desperately miss the Easy Bake Oven days when all I had to do was press a button and wait a few minutes for what I desired to appear. That long ago afternoon at Target, I bought the onesie in faith and kept it in my bottom dresser drawer, not knowing it would be almost two more years before my own children wore it.
I lift the gray onesie to my nose and inhale deeply—it still smells like Dreft and hope.
Holding this outfit brings those familiar feelings of unfulfilled longing rushing back to hit me square in the face. It also reminds me that the process of building a family doesn’t happen on a 10-minute timer but instead takes years, the flavors and nuances growing in depth and complexity.
Both my sons have worn the onesie I bought at Target when I was in the depths of longing and uncertainty. I always loved seeing them in those gray stripes, their chubby legs kicking, a visible reminder of an invisible hope I held for so long. My faith in one day having children to wear that onesie felt so tenuous and fragile for so many years. Now, the outfit was a symbol that even the most delicate seeds of hope could bloom into something tangible and true.
I smooth out the soft gray fabric and fold it into a small square, tucking it safely inside my bottom dresser drawer.