One day you are moving on, ready to close the door on childbearing and child-losing and open a new one that places far fewer demands on your body and soul.
You give away your crib. You give away your boxes of baby clothes. You give away your baby toys and your baby bedding, your bibs, your teething rings, your rattles.
It all gets packed up and dropped off at a local thrift store, hopefully blessing some other family who wants to enter the season you so badly want to leave.
And you move to a new house, and you set up rooms for a family of five. You plan a trip abroad. You look forward to a less complicated future than the past you are leaving behind.
And then one night, you get ready to order sushi and, because your period is just a few days late, take a pregnancy test just to be sure.
And it comes back positive. Unbelievably positive.
And you stand in the bathroom and cry and cry because the door you shut has been re-opened; the loss you hoped so badly to avoid remains an awful possibility.
But then your husband--your good-natured, steady, immoveable husband--comes in and gives you a hug and smiles and tells you it will be okay.
And you try believe him. At the very least, you stop crying.
Thirty-five weeks later, you give birth to a perfectly perfect, light-haired, big-eyed baby girl. A girl you can't bear to put down, a girl from whom you never sleep apart for the first 17 months of her life. A girl who goes to bed at night cradled in your arms. A girl who loves her daddy and her big brothers but who saves her biggest smiles for you.
A girl without whom you can't imagine life. A girl who transmits sunshine and steadiness from the palms of her tiny hands.
And one day, your baby girl isn't a baby anymore. She is a golden-haired, delicate toddler whose courage and tenacity surprise those who judge her by her fragile frame. A girl who misses nothing: not the subtle changes of your mood or the drama-ridden conflicts of her siblings. A girl who by 18 months old can identify every article of clothing in the house and to whom they belong. A girl who comforts herself by climbing up into your arms and lap and fingering the tiny folds of skin on your neck.
She still transmits sunshine and steadiness, but she bundles them up in words--lots and lots of words, clearly communicated, easily understood. She hears and comprehends; she speaks and you understand. You know what frustrates her and what gives her joy. You know what she wants and why she wants it. You see how attentively she follows the conversations and quarrels of her brothers because she uses their vocabulary to press her own case against them, and you.
She still goes to sleep in your arms. She allowed her daddy to put her to bed for a few months, but when he went away on a trip she staked you out as her permanent night-time companion. And you mind...but you also don't mind, because you have medically closed the door on childbearing and child-losing, and she is--and always will be--your baby.
And people tell you that it will be difficult someday, that girls have more attitude and drama than boys and you will have to worry more about her than her brothers. And you know, already, that the world is less safe for her than for them, that in many ways her thoughts, her perspective, her very life are measured as of less worth than these three brothers who came before her. And this strikes you as the most foolish of all follies, because how on earth could such a beautiful, remarkable person be less valued than any other?
And you determine, each and every day, to let her know how precious she is. How loved she is. How carefully you pay attention to what she says and what she does; how seriously you mind what she wants and what she doesn't want. How much her voice, her thoughts, her feelings and her perspective matter to you and to the rest of her family, and how this will be true whether she is a toddler or a teenager, married or single, gay or straight.
And you think back to that moment in the bathroom, when you wept over what her impending life meant for yours. And you thank God that your fears weren't in any way realized; that rather than losing her, she lived; and that her life, far from impeding or disrupting your own, has made it utterly, gloriously complete.