We're back at last from our final trip of the summer, a week in Narragansett with two friends and their kids. Charlie loved every moment we spent on the beach, chasing seagulls in deadly earnest, full of cunning plans to brain them with his plastic sand shovel, and shrieking "hurray!" in his own seagull frequency as the onrushing waves smacked him full in the chest. When I changed his diaper at home this morning, he hopefully asked, "Baby suit?" and then cried when I told him no, no bathing suit today.
I, on the other hand, return ambivalent. Oh, I had a good time, to be sure, even though I brought back a car full of sand, a suitcase full of laundry, a chest full of rattling mucus, and a probable case of pink-eye. (Please note that I did not write "an eye full of crust" out of concern for your delicate sensibilities. Let it never be said that I do not consider the niceties.)
But there's something about spending a week with six children — even six well behaved, good natured, attentively parented children — that'll make you think. Something about it made me think, anyway. Thoughts like Sweet Jesus gay, do I really want to live that first year over again? when one friend's sweet sick baby woke six times each night. And Two seem much harder than merely one plus one when the other friend's kids traded a volley of ear infections, stomach aches, and, yes, damn it, pink-eye. And Just 28 days till the sticking begins when my period came, just in time for me to prance heedlessly atop the dunes in my snow-white thong bikini — I'm that confident in my feminine protection.
I want another child. I want the baby suit, the gull-chasing, the thrilling cold lick of water on the feet he's not yet steady on. It's easy to want the good parts (and despite all odds, I do consider snatching sandy cigarette butts out of Charlie's treasure-hunting hand, immediately turning his look of surprised pride into a rictus of loss, a good part). But the rest of it, well, that's much harder. The thought of another early babyhood, even the kind that's only ordinarily challenging, is daunting. The fear of tinkering with something so hard-won as our current happiness is almost crippling.
I'm finally ready to admit it: I don't think this upcoming IVF will work. This thought occupies the same cluttered space in my brain as that ambivalence about having another. They seem inseparable. Possibly I've conjured this ambivalence as a way of protecting myself when this cycle inevitably fails. But it is just as likely real, and I don't see how I can know.
And why even bother if I think it won't work? Because I don't believe in magical thinking, one way or the other. Because I can't take a simple cancellation as the final word, apparently needing the message to be delivered by a midnight emissary of zombies wearing sandwich boards, or a swarm of killer bees flying in formation, or "GOD, HOW YOU SUCK" spelled out numerologically by my faltering hCG levels or something. And because I do want more days with a baby breaded in sunscreen and sand, hoisting thirty pounds of toddler to swing him in the surf, loving a kid in his baby suit.