three and change years ago, greg and i had a baby. what this means is that i gave birth to a genetically unique being that was formed and grew from the fusion of an egg cell from me and a sperm cell from greg. that’s fine. there it was. looking up at us with blurry little eyes, a tiny little nothing, really. it was it and we were still us. we stood together and looked at it. “what do you think it means?” one of us asked the other. shrug.
we cared for it, held it, fed it, tried to keep it from crying for the most part. put it in cute outfits and held it up proudly for others to admire. we made this, our silly smiles seemed to say. like show and tell. didn’t we do a good thing? we’re its parents. crazy, huh? as though we had any idea what that really meant.
then, something happened. the baby. it grew. it changed. we changed too. our lives changed. a lot. sometimes in good ways. we became more invested in our home, our food, each other. sometimes in bad ways. our lives became separate and not equal. we fought about that. and our lives became messy. a lot of the time it felt like things were out of control. like we had no idea what we were doing. our house became messy. the little baby. it was making messes. it was demanding a lot of attention and time and effort. and it was getting a voice. learning to speak. and it had an opinion. about nearly everything. suddenly we realized. our baby was not a baby. our baby was a person.
then, when that baby was around three, we had another baby. we knew better this time what to expect. we knew it would change. we knew it would be so small for only a little while. we cuddled it as much as we could, kissed it so much we wore a dent into the side of its head (not really). and, like the baby before it, it began to change and grow quickly. it made us feel old. and like our lifespan was very palpable and small.
one night, the older baby, no longer a baby, yelled about her pajamas and woke the smaller baby. we were angry with the older baby. we picked up the younger baby. greg handed him to me because he prefers mom in times of strife. greg went off with ruth to perform the usual bedtime rituals. brushing teeth. reading books. and i sat rocking the smaller baby who soon fell asleep in my arms and sitting there, i was struck with the realization that we didn’t just have a baby any more. or two babies. greg and i weren’t just greg and i any more. we were a family. a real one. the sticky kind that i remember from my own childhood where everyone is in constant negotiation with everyone else on how to get through a day living under one roof, constant conflict, constant collision and blending and life becomes a blur from morning until night of people talking and playing and arguing and yelling and apologizing and grasping each other and fighting for private space and time, the house and things in it props as on a stage, and our lives, the drama unfolding.