I glance in my crooked rear-view mirror and see two little blonde heads poking up over the back of their rear-facing car seats. It’s quiet – a sacred and rare moment of peace allowing me to turn up the volume on my thoughts. My brain shifts to autopilot as I make the all-too familiar drive to Costco. My body is driving the car, but my dreams are carrying me into the clouds for a welcome bird’s eye view. I’m turning thirty this year. I always said that I'd be pregnant by thirty, and yet here I am with two babies under two, and the small seed of desire for three. Almost three years ago I came out of the bathroom wielding a stick with two distinctive pink lines and a face that paled even lighter than my already fair skin. I couldn’t picture the life I'm living right now. I couldn’t see two sweet heads in the backseat, tossing cheerios and tearing through books during our daily commutes. I saw a job that I loved slipping through my fingers. I saw the chance for a successful career fading before my eyes. I saw a brilliant business idea dissipate, never to be attempted. I saw the ten pounds that I had gained during my first year of marriage snicker, and jeer, and settle in for the long haul. I didn’t see my dreams being realized, I saw my dreams slipping away as I faced an unplanned, too-soon pregnancy that was quickly becoming a road block in the way of me meeting my goals. My plans. My body. My marriage. My life.
My selfishness was replaced with joy as a screaming, wet little body was laid across my chest. All of my previous doubts and regrets were crowded out by numbers of wet diapers and minutes nursed on each side. Days turned to nights, and nights felt like days, as I worked hard to fulfill this new and strange role. I was happy. I was full. I was content being a mommy and running this race. And just when I got the hang of it, when she was sleeping longer stretches, when my milk supply had evened out, when I was almost down to pre-baby weight, when I could even catch my breath, it happened again. Two pink lines. Shock at how soon. She’s only four months. My body was about to be mine again. My part-time job was just picking up. Now what? I plodded and pleaded with God to give me the strength for what I was about to endure. Two babies in two years with only four months of reprieve between birthing one, carrying the other, nursing one, nursing the other. I forgot about those wisps of a dream that felt like they were being carried away on the clouds.
But now, riding in my car with a moment of quiet, I remember. I remember what I wanted, what I had been working for before two beautiful blessings entered my world. And right there next to what could have been, I see what is. I see me in a dark corner of the spare bedroom, rocking and swaying and snuggling a tiny one close. My hair is greasy and pulled back loosely to prevent little fingers from getting all wrapped up and tangled tight. My shirt is bunched up around my soft middle, still holding onto memories of carrying her close in the womb. It’s dark though, so I don’t mind, and I don’t bother pulling it down. My eyes are closed, dreaming of sweet sleep. My lips are pursed, humming a hymn that provides her with a soothing lullaby, and me with the precious truths that I need to hear so badly. “Come thou fount of every blessing." I see me in the shower, alone for a few stolen moments. Hot water streams down to soothe my aching back, and tears stream down my cheeks in an attempt to comfort my aching soul. Where has my time gone and will I ever get it back? When will I feel like myself again? When will these lumps smooth out and firm? When will my confidence return Being a mom is so hard and I am so tired. I see me cleaning the kitchen after nap-time. The kids play contentedly in the room to my right and soft, subtle music streams from my phone plugged in on the countertop. These are the witching hours and they take a special touch to tame. I see myself close my eyes and count to three looking at the load of dirty dishes in front of me, the laundry piled up behind me. I see little hands grabbing my legs, and an eager head poking through to look up at me with big, blue eyes. I see my stress melt away when confronted with the delight of his smile. These images are fierce competition to the memories I have of old desires. They’re so vivid that they have replaced many of the dreams I once had, and I don’t regret it. It’s not that I've lost what I once was, but I have. For now, at least. Right now, I won’t be the CEO of the next big thing. Right now, I won’t have the cleanest house or the fittest body. Right now, I may not have dinner on the table every night, and I may not be able to jump for that promotion. Right now, I feel like I’ve missed some chances that I’ll never get back. But maybe they weren’t my chances to take. Maybe those memories weren’t mine to create. Maybe there was something better in store for me, and I look through that rear-view mirror into my backseat and I think that there was. In all of this mothering and making pancakes and dancing in the living room, stories are forming in my heart, and in theirs. I write down as many as I can. Someday I’ll have the time to do them all justice.
I’m not ungrateful when I drift away like this, I’m nostalgic – remembering the old me, taking care with the old dreams, setting the ones worth keeping aside. I reserve these moments of quiet to revive the dreams that will have to wait for another day. I look in my rearview mirror and see two little blonde heads, and think that it's lovely. I know that it's lovely. And I know this is a season that will soon pass. Right now, I’m here doing this – driving to the store with a full backseat, and an even fuller heart.