The twins, the babies of the family, are three-years-old, so I'm not surprised when – amidst the constant chaos of balancing the two school-aged children while dealing with overemotional outbreaks from the youngest – that my husband announces he is getting a vasectomy. Oddly, I don't feel anything. We said four kids, we accomplished that in three pregnancies, and I just turned 37. I was told my tired, thinning uterus might not be able to handle anymore C-sections, but my defective cervix has no way to open and release babies any other way. Plus, I haven't slept through the night in something like eight years. Finished sounds fine with me. "The walls!" I exclaim a week later when the appointment is scheduled and it seems this will actually occur. "We can repaint the walls.""Why?" my husband Dennis asks, unsure of how this is connected to the procedure."The coloring, the creative art the twins spread all over the house. I need it gone. I was okay with it, but now I just feel like everything looks half-thrown together no matter what I do. I'm starting with the white walls in the entry way.""I'm still not sure how this is connected to my procedure," my husband says, noticing the green marker, purple crayon, and black ink from my favorite pen on our walls."There won't be any other kids to color on the walls. All of ours know better now, and we're done."He nods, smirking. "So we can stop worrying about birth control and have white walls?""We're living the dream," I shoot back, winking.The decision is sealed.
The election occurs three days before the vasectomy, and the whole world, including us, still feels numb from the results. Friday, November 11th, is no longer vasectomy day, but a day in one of the most confused weeks of the country. The election focus cuts down on the anxiety for both of us, or at least anxiety about the procedure, because our minds are too stressed about politics. We drive to the hospital with all four kids in tow, laughing about how we could advertise for vasectomies from the parking lot. Dennis goes in alone, and I sit in the van with our crew. The twins, Asher and Eowyn, yell "I see you!" out the window to all the people passing by, eliciting smiles from even the most stoic faces. Wren and Sam color, beg for snacks, and ask about the details of their dad's procedure. "Does this have something to do with Dad's giblets?" Wren, my seven-year-old, questions."His what?""That's what he called them once when I asked. Giblets. Do I have giblets?""No, silly, I do," Sam, my five-year-old, chimes in. "Girls have parts that are connected...""You know what? Let's stop there. We haven't covered tons of anatomy during homeschool yet, and I have concerns about where the guessing game is going," I say."But it is his giblets, right? What are they doing to them?" Wren asks, more serious this time."Oh, sweetie, Dad is fine. They're just going to do something so we can't have more kids," I say, the answer sounding strange and impossible to explain to a child, offensive even."Why?""Well, Mommy doesn't need to, and we have all of you. It's enough. It's time."Wren nods. "You already do have some awesome kids.""And Dad has some giblets, as well," Sam chimes in.
We choose China White from Sherwin Williams, an off-white with no yellow or pink undertones. Purchasing the cans brings a feeling to the surface that sitting in the parking lot at the hospital did not: finality. The end of something and the reality that we can't return. It's been almost two months since the vasectomy, but the feelings are landing late, and I start having anxiety about painting.I prep without thought, without expressing my concern that I am only now thinking of not holding another infant, not nursing a child from my breasts. Dennis helps me lay down the plastic covering for the floor and retrieves the ladder as I stir paint and pray these emotions aren't chronic. We're moving on. We've, technically, already moved on, but painting the walls feels like icing on a cake that I'm not sure I ordered. I am covering all of this, I think, like it never happened. It won't ever happen again.As I'm about to lift the paint roller and make contact with the wall, I hesitate and instead call for the twins. Grabbing my phone, I take a shot of them standing in front of the mess they made of our house, the streaks moving up and down and swirling with no semblance of order. They entered our world and made it theirs with a splash of color, a hint of strong-willed disobedience laced with charm. They are my last babies, and I start to feel sick about erasing the evidence of their youngest years.***Walking down the hall the next morning, my legs and arms screaming from all those trips up and down the ladder, I'm shocked at the blankness that meets me. None of the pictures have been returned to their proper places, and the walls look so white that I feel almost snow blind in my own house. "What's for breakfast?" Sam asks. "Something I'm going to eat?" he pushes with a smirk, our long-standing morning power struggle settling in."Give me a minute," I respond. "There will be a juice box in it for you." He scurries to the living room to join his three sisters, and I watch. They take turns with kinetic sand, moving to sketching or reading when bored. All four have a rhythm, an easiness that is theirs, and I recognize attributes in each of them that were present even at birth. They are capable, independent, content, and most certainly not babies anymore.
My eyes wander to the walls, and I feel sick admitting that I love the way they look. Clean, a fresh start, a day's worth of hard work that has not yet been undone. Never in my life has maintaining a house caused so much guilt. In a way, the white walls are like snow, obliterating the past, covering a season we've escaped. We have the memories, pictures of the yesterdays, but we've abandoned the chance to go back, and in our wake, a whiteout of the most complete variety. There will be no seasons like before.Staring at my entryway with four laughing kids in the background, I realize that might be okay.
Because of all this, and so much more ... I resolve to stay the course set out by our courageous foremothers who fought pointedly, persistently for equality. I'm a woman raising a daughter in a world that values her more for her bone structure than her brain. This is my resolution. This is my feminist manifesto.
I now know there are steps I can take to change how I think, to find the true me again. That is why I am going to take better care of myself this year. In fact, that’s the only resolution I care to make. For both my own health, and as an important example to my kids, this year, I'm resolving to practice a kindness that starts from within.