Chicken soup and the really long answer to the ‘dreaded question’
Despite my pleas almost three years ago for people to stop asking women when they are going to have babies or whether they “are done,” it still happens.
I am obviously in a different place than I was back in 2010 and 2011 when I desperately longed for a second baby. Now that the second baby is almost two years old (WHAT?!), the dreaded question doesn’t sting as much as it used to.
I won’t rehash all the reasons why asking the dreaded question is a bad idea, but I think I will always find it an inappropriate inquiry for an acquaintance. For those of you wondering – yes, I think it can be OK to ask family members and close friends whether they plan to have (more) biological children, depending on the context of the conversation. In fact, as Glennon Melton recently wrote, knowing the right questions to ask a loved one is a real skill.
As you may’ve guessed, I wouldn’t be writing about this topic again if the dreaded question hadn’t come up lately. Of course, I still hear it, usually in this form: “Do you think you’ll have more, or are you done now?”
It seems no matter how many children one has, someone always has to ask the dreaded question. I still think replying with “Why do you ask?” is the best response, but it seems I can never remember to use that!
A few days ago, I had a little, mostly private, meltdown while pondering the do-you-think-you’ll-have-more question. It all started with a recipe. Yes, a recipe. I will try to explain, so here goes.
Before my daughter Cecilia was born, my then-coworker and still-friend Jenny made us four – yes, FOUR! – frozen meals to eat after the beautiful babe made her arrival. Clearly, Jenny is amazing just for making those meals, but what is even more remarkable is that they were all delicious.
Well, while I was making my grocery list earlier this week, I started thinking about one of those meals she made, remembering how tasty it was, and I thought, “I should make that dish for us.” I emailed Jenny and asked if she could send me a link to the recipe, so I knew what to buy at the store. She is super organized, so, of course, she knew exactly where she got the recipe. It’s called Chicken Spaghetti, and I was pretty pumped to make the dish and possibly freeze some of it since I know it’s just as good when reheated.
Recalling that particular dish caused me to ponder what the other three dishes were. I could remember all of them well. But reminiscing about another one of Jenny’s creations is what triggered my meltdown.
She made this chicken soup that was so perfect. We ate it when Cecilia was only a few days old. Mike was off work, so I was able to take a shower at some point during the mid-morning hours. When I came downstairs, C.C. was asleep, and Mike told me he was heating up the chicken soup for lunch. I remember being so grateful he did that without any prompting.
While he and I sat at the table and ate that soup, Cecilia slept in her swing. Mike and I didn’t say much, but we kept looking at her – so tiny and new, the baby I waited so long to hold and cuddle and love.
During those first weeks after Cecilia’s birth, almost everything felt delicate. The love I felt for her was incredibly palpable, as was the joy I experienced as I watched Elliot shower affection upon her. We all handled Cecilia with such gentleness. My body, still recovering from the birth, was tender too. Even household tasks, like doing dishes and especially putting them away, required a softer touch. Isn’t it amazing how loud everything seems when there’s a sleeping baby in the house – from a rambunctious 5-year-old’s banter to the simple clicking of a nursing bra’s clasp?
All those emotions came flooding back a few days ago as I thought about that chicken soup. Chicken soup, of all things. That’s just like food to do that to me.
As I was walking through the parking lot toward my car after work, I started crying. What if I never feel that delicateness again? Do I even want to feel it again? Would I want to have a newborn again? Am I always going to be able to conjure up these emotions? I don’t want to forget what that tenderness feels like, but I’m not sure I want to experience it firsthand again.
I kept telling myself how silly I was being, but I cried until I pulled into the garage at home. I knew Mike would be able to tell. Soon after I walked into the house, he asked what was wrong. So I told him the whole story and said, “It’s silly, I know.”
“No,” he replied. “It’s good to have those memories.”
Memories. That’s all those feelings are now. I suppose that’s why I write about them. So just in case I start to forget, I can go back and read how I felt and maybe, just maybe, reading about the memories will take me back to those feelings.
And that – all of that above – my friends, is what goes through my mind when someone asks, “Do you think you’ll have more, or are you done now?”
So the answer is: I don’t know. Perhaps I should have this blog printed on a postcard-type handout; that way, I could distribute it to anyone who asks the dreaded question.
Originally published on ovparent.com.