For the past seven years, this time of year, when the nights grow chillier and the foliage is blunted from scorching to rusted, has brought my mind to the same place. More than harvest or Halloween, these late days of autumn are, to me, the baby season.
On Halloween, 2003 my husband and I sat on the stoop of the house where we had a tiny second-floor condo. I had been pregnant with Big E since early that spring, but it had been an anxiety-ridden pregnancy full of scares and complications, and it wasn't until a neighbor asked that night about my due date that I allowed myself to realize that I was, indeed, a pregnant lady, that in a few weeks we would have a baby.
Three years later, on the same night, Big E, as a fairy princess, and I, eight months pregnant, trick-or-treated around our new neighborhood where we had our own house and no longer shared a stoop. The baby who would be Little E was due in mid-December, one day after Big E's third birthday, and I reminded myself that I really was a pregnant lady and that soon that squirmimg, kicking hump in my middle would be a swaddled baby who would grow into a tiny person like its sister.
When the baby season comes, I think of these Halloweens and of the two December nights when I struggled and pushed and screamed my girls into being. And I think of the bubbly anticipation of all the nights between, of knowing what was coming, but not exactly, of knowing when it was coming, but not for sure. I don't think about the skyrocketing blood pressure of both my pregnancies, those painfully urgent and undecipherable infant screams, the gray post-partum lows, the sad sibling lurking in the background. I don't think about the days when I feel like I might drown in all of the tears and scowls, the no fairs, the why nots, the she always get everythings.
Then I remember: our home and our cars are at capacity with two children. If our finances are strained now, what would happen when we started a new round of daycare payments, not to mention adding a third college tuition? And, above all, we are happy and unspeakably lucky to have the healthy, hilarious, lovely girls that we do. Would a third enhance this or throw it all into chaos?
If I were to have maintained the clean symmetry that I achieved in spacing the girls nearly three years to the day, year folding neatly over year like a paper fan, I would have trick-or-treated with a baby on my hip this year. While neither my husband nor I can slam the door on the possibility of one more, with each day we are watching it slowly close on its own.
Yet, every once in a while, especially now in the baby season, I reach back and stay that door, if only for a while.