I went through my son's clothes today. He's past the point where size and age are measured in months, so the 18- and 24-month clothes had to go. They've been replaced by brand new 2Ts with slogans announcing his potential for trouble. Meanwhile, the last vestiges of babyhood go in a box.
The process made me sad, but not for the reasons one might think. Yes, there was a tinge of “Gee, they grow up so fast." But the reason I mourned was because for the last two years, my son has been wearing the clothes of a little boy who never got to wear them.
My friend Kelsea lost her son Sam just after his first birthday. After years of trying for another child, she and her husband decided they were done. They packed up every baby thing in the house and gave it all to me, knowing my three-month-old could use it.
The amount of stuff was staggering. There were five giant bags of t-shirts, printed onesies, and pants with faces on the seat. There were boxes of tiny shoes and a box of wooden toys. Half of it still had the tags on.
I can't imagine how much it hurt for her to go through each item – battling the memories and the what ifs. But Kelsea delivered it without a tear. Instead, she hugged me and said she was glad to help.
And she has helped. In fact, I wonder if she knows what her gift has done for me. Beyond the money I've saved, the effects of her generosity have been both profound and unexpected.
For one thing, her gift has made me a participant in her grief. I love my friend and I mourned with her when she lost her son. But I doubt her little boy would be so constantly on my mind had she not given me his clothes.
Now there isn't a day I don't think about Sam. I wonder how he'd look in the three-piece suit my son wears to church. I think about how the orange tee with the bike decal would set off Sam's dark coloring. I imagine how much my friend looked forward to seeing him in the Superman shirt my son adores. It keeps his loss fresh in my mind. I can only imagine how Kelsea manages not to collapse under the weight of it.
The clothes are also a reminder of how lucky I am. My son is alive and healthy and mine. So many women can't say that. I'm not sure why the destroying angel has passed by my door, but I'm thankful every single day.
While this new understanding doesn't make me “enjoy every moment" – you'd have to be a masochist to enjoy some days – it does make me more aware of this thing called motherhood. Yes, I have days of absolute mayhem and chaos. I have days when I wonder how I'll make to bedtime and whether this motherhood gig wasn't a colossal mistake.
But even the worst day is sprinkled with tiny bits of incandescent joy. There are sticky kisses and garbled attempts at “I love you." There are cuddles and laughter my friend will never know. And because of that, I feel like I have to relish those moments for both of us. I owe it to Kelsea and women like her to at least be conscious of what I have.
As my son's new clothing goes into circulation and the last of Sam's clothes go into a box, I'm pleased to see these lessons have stayed with me. I continue to grieve with those who've lost children, whether through death or infertility or custody battles. I send notes on birthdays and holidays to women mourning their babies. And I hold my own children a little tighter and grump a little less when they ask for one more story or one more cuddle.
I will always be grateful for Kelsea's gift. Because of her generosity, I've become more of the mother I think we both wish we could be.