It’s a defining moment in a woman’s life when she’s advised by a doctor to stop having children. The experience is similar to being put out of business; the sign on the door flips from “open” to “closed.” The soundtrack to a woman’s life changes as well, from the sweet maternal hymn, “Baby Mine” sung by a member of the Disney choir, to the Texan twang of dearly departed Don Meredith. “Turn out the lights…the party’s over!”
All kidding aside (no pun intended), it’s a sad moment to learn that your last baby is indeed your last. There will never be another first smile, first tooth, first word, or first step. I remember giving my youngest daughter her last bottle, which resembled feeding a baby goat as she devoured its contents and toddled away.
Now, as our little one turns five, I’m experiencing a different type of closure. In a few weeks, my husband and I will attend kindergarten roundup and enroll her in school. I won’t have any children at home during the day, and that means I won’t have as much to do.
When I stew in these moods for too long, friends grab my shoulders and shake them without mercy.
“Freedom!” They scream. “Now you can do as you please! Take on more clients! Take Zumba! Take a nap! Take your pick!”
But, I can’t take it. I need someone to take care of. It’s instinctive.
With the shop closed (as my husband reminded me), then I’d simply have to find another way to keep the cradle rocking, and I discovered that a man in Southside, West Virginia could help.
“I’ll have an outstanding litter of beagle pups ready for homes this March,” Bob the Breeder told me. “Are you looking for a boy or a girl?” he asked.
I didn’t care, as long as it was healthy.
“The due date is January 6th,” Bob the Breeder continued. “I’ll send pictures as time goes on, and keep you informed of the mother’s progress.”
That night, I suffered a panic attack like none other. My eyes flashed open, and fear filled my entire body.
Howling. Crate training. Veterinary bills. Shots. Chewing and scratching. Accidents. Spaying and neutering. Food. Heartworm pills. Dog sitters. Obedience school.
Does it sound familiar? Crying. Circumcision. Teething. Vaccinations. Potty training. Well child checkups. Sick child visits. Bed wetting. Biting and hitting. Formula and diapers. Childcare. Preschool.
What was I thinking? What had gotten into me? I climbed out of bed and staggered to the bathroom for a cup of water. I stared at my reflection in the mirror and noticed the small scar on my left cheek, a permanent reminder of my clash with a Pekingese.
It occurred to me at that moment that I wasn’t grieving my inability to have a third child. I was grieving for my own children’s babyhood. I was frightened by how quickly they were growing up, and how I didn’t realize their firsts were lasts.
We greeted 2011 with a telephone call from Bob the Breeder, who informed us that we could have our choice of several female pups. Thrilled by the idea of naming another little girl, I ditched my tattered baby name book for the urban dictionary found online. I wanted to name the pup something that defined her true spirit.
Betty: One that is attractive, stylish and self-confident. A Betty is typically a looker. Do you see that girl over there? She’s a Betty!
With our new arrival in mind, I drove to the farm supply store to shop for baby Betty. I chose a pink lead and collar, a polka dot dish and bowl set, a pastel blanket, and a few toys. When I got home, I ordered a tartan plaid pillow with her name monogrammed on the side.
Of course, I realize that many people will accuse me of having lost my mind, but they stand corrected. I’m having a ball. It’s the nature of the beast.