It’s late August, and I now laugh at the freedom my 18 year old self possessed. My allotted hour of free time that conveniently landed in the hottest part of the afternoon. I choose to spend it submerged in the warm-by-now, borderline concerning, green lake.
On my back, looking up at blue, I hear his hardly dropped voice I almost don’t recognize.
“What are you doing?! You’re going to get us both in trouble!” Young enough where just being near each other, outside of supervision warranted reprimanding.
“You don’t have your suit on.” I say it pointedly but really questioning if it is enough of a barrier from keeping him out of the water.
His answer comes with him ripping off his staff shirt, revealing a torso that has been left behind with our adolescence, leaving him in just his jeans as he dives in.
I laugh and he smiles, clearly happy with himself as we bob up and down, talking about what, I can’t remember. He speaks and I stare back at the boy who would become the man I now call, amongst other names, “Husband.”
I was the teenage babysitter that would stand in the mirror, trying to imagine what it would feel like to have my own DNA on my hip. I spent more car rides day dreaming about the delivery room than the wedding altar. My favorite pictures in the photo albums were of my Mother, honest smile, a child taking shape under her skin with one in her arms.
It’s rush hour and the herd of vehicles have come to a stop. I turn and our once roomy SUV is now all car seat. Drive thru coffees, a babbling baby, and a singing toddler gives some parental relief.
My heart and my ears are turned to the back seat.
My daydreamed fairy tale, was sitting in traffic with me.
“Could we squeeze a booster between the two of their chairs?” It’s asked innocently enough but is not the first time the topic has been brought into words, by me. Under the breath one liners, averting the donation bin with outgrown onesies, challenging him to another round of newborn nights.
His chuckles turn to half grins, and grins to eye brow raises, unimpressed. Pretending he doesn’t hear me, Until I’m no longer met with any engagement.
What feels like my life’s purpose, grown and birthed from me and I feel it only natural to start from the beginning once again.
I’m hurt and rejected by his unmet enthusiasm.
My eyes are focused on the brown slush roads and my heavy boots uncomfortably squeak to break our silence as I shift toward my window. I feel his strong, gentle, familiar hand, placed on my cold, tense thigh, non verbally reassuring me he isn’t angry or annoyed. Non verbally expressing his want for closeness, and I turn to be met with saline eyes, “I just don’t want to share you anymore.”
Supper has been half eaten by the toddler and thrown by the baby, he does the dishes silently and we do our pre bath dance of basement free play. A tower of the new wooden blocks from Christmas stands in front of our first born and him.
I’m looking at him and my heart tells me to see the boy on the dock.
We are slightly older, bodies softer, tired, and yet still treading water. Now with two babies in between us, trying to keep our heads above life’s surface. Bobbing up and down, all the while not taking our eyes off each other.
He had my heart first, before it was split into three.
He held me in his arms before mine were used to cradle and comfort the cries of the ones we made.
He kissed my lips before all the lullabies had been sung.
He chose to jump
The carpet floor and block towers, to let me win, pick Thai takeout, to stay silent when my mouth won’t.
He chooses me every time.
The upstairs is dark, children’s rooms quiet, and the floors of this old house let out their creaks and groans as we carefully close the doors and move to the living room. He stops me and confesses that he does not know if we will watch my belly become round once again.
My heart breaks and is hardened all at once. Where his touch usually shatters my walls, they remain reinforced and held high.
It’s foreign and uncomfortable. I wish my heart would surrender to his embrace, and that my will and desires would follow, but they don’t.
I don’t know if any others will call me, “Mama,” I don’t know if I will have my world explode again in a delivery room, or if the nursing and the burping is over. I’m scared of the possibility of retiring the baby carrier, and the figure 8 sway that put them to sleep while their bodies in it.
I’m scared that it is my turn to choose. I’m scared that choosing to love after babies, instead of more babies, is a harder choice than I admit.
I’m scared of the ending in which I don’t choose. I’m desperate for conversation instead of a duel.
I will myself to remember, this is not an argument I want to win, but a race I want to finish. It’s not an equation with a formulated answer, but a mural to be painted. Not a decision I want to persuade him in to, but a love I want to hold on to.
I tell myself to jump.