Boxes of swaddles and sleep sacks surround me. I feel my lips start to tremble. Then tears begin to fill my eyes even as I try to blink them away. I remember wrapping my sweet babies in them not that long ago. They are babies no more. Now these precious things I fold carefully will have a new life two thousand miles away. They’re bound for my sister and brother-in-law in California now expecting their first child.
While my family here in East Tennessee is complete with my sweeties, a four-year-old daughter and 18-month-old son, I am surprised at the sudden sadness, the sudden joy and all the feelings in between.
My husband and I always planned on having two children. We talked about this then-imaginary family when we were dating. Then again with the couple leading our pre-marriage counseling session at church. When we said “I do,” it was also an “I will” for that imaginary family. While those dreams didn’t have an expiration date, they were delayed a few years due to some serious medical problems. Once we overcame them and went on a long overdue honeymoon, we decided it was time. Fortunately, it wasn’t long before our little Madeline arrived. What felt like the blink of an eye (or sometimes the longest days I ever lived), she was two and baby brother was on the way. I cried tears of joy when I found out I was pregnant with him and tears of fear because I didn’t know yet what our family of four would look like. And now, here we are, hitting our stride as we fully step forward into the next stage of parenting.
Looking back, the baby stage wasn’t an easy one for me. I realize it’s not easy for any of us. But I doubt when I’m 80 I’ll wax poetically about those years. The lack of sleep, the nursing troubles I’ve written about here on Knoxville Moms Blog, the tears (theirs and mine) and the laundry. Oh, the laundry. Perhaps because the baby stages are so hard (and because I realize I do really miss those tiny hands and feet) that I’m feeling so many emotions now.
When we heard my sister and brother-in-law were expecting, I felt joy and the overwhelming urge to send them ALL the baby things. In my heart, I knew I wanted someone I love — someone close to me — to have these precious once spit-upon items. I wanted them to wrap a baby I love in them, although it will be the love of an aunt, not the love of a mother. I’ve already experienced the delight of seeing my youngest East Coast niece wear some of my daughter’s clothes, and I look forward to meeting the new life and new personality that will be making our baby things his or her own.
But, as the pile of boxes filled with baby stuff grows larger in our garage, I find myself wanting to keep some of the things close (as in not all the way in California).
I’ve already gathered the special keepsakes, going-home outfits and favorite toys and tucked them carefully away. I want to take some of the things from my long packing list and give them to children here in East Tennessee. While this hasn’t always been home and the future is unknown, East Tennessee will always be the home that nurtured my babies. Maybe I’ll walk by these other children (and whether I know it or not) who were wrapped, loved and cuddled in something from our babies. To know these things could be just down the street and not the other side of the country is comforting to me. I also plan to donate one of our favorite toys, a Zany Zoo, to our neighborhood library. I imagine all the children that will enjoy it and I’ll be able to visit that silly thing and remember my babies’ pudgy little fingers wrapped around it.
But, it’s just stuff right? Stuff we don’t need any more. Stuff someone else needs now. Yet I’m reminded that sometimes stuff is more than just stuff. It’s the thing that triggers a memory. With so much baby stuff and so many baby memories that are just that — memories — it’s no wonder I’m feeling so many emotions and crying tears over my keyboard as I write this to you. I can’t wait to hold my new little niece or nephew perhaps swaddled in a blanket that once held my babies and share this motherhood journey with my sister. Until then, I’ll continue packing these precious things, remembering and crying.