We didn’t need the space, really, but I couldn’t bear to hold onto the collection of baby things our four-year-old had outgrown. The spare room closet was full of clear plastic totes. Each of those totes full of hopes for another pregnancy, another baby to make use of all of the things stored in them. Every month, every year, the weight of those totes on my mind grew heavier and heavier.
Expectations and Infertility
My first pregnancy was a miracle. We experienced several years of infertility, exhausted every reproductive resource we were comfortable with, and finally got pregnant without intervention. We had carefully chosen gender neutral things on our baby registry with the hope of having more children to use them.
I didn’t want our child to be an only. My intention was to have one or two more. Built-in playmates when they were young; shared memories and support when they got older.
Once our daughter turned four, I realized I needed to hold the dream of more children much more loosely. Entering my forties made me more hesitant to carry a child, who would have a higher chance of carrying a genetic abnormality and be so much younger than our first. My husband and I couldn’t get on the same page for adoption, so if our family was to grow, a child was going to have to show up at our door.
I mulled cleaning out the baby closet for months. To empty the closet meant admitting defeat. It meant confronting my grief over my infertility. Working through the feelings of brokenness. Guilt that we have more love to give, but no longer were pursuing pregnancy or adoption.
Change of Heart
The maternity clothes were supposed to accommodate a growing belly. The muslin blankets were meant for swaddling. The lovingly sewn burp clothes were meant to wipe up spit up from full bellies.
But what good was all of that stuff doing carefully packed away in my spare room closet? No little one was delighted by those funny little toys. No mother was proudly carrying her daughter dressed in the cutest little outfits.
My intention to use everything in those bins to keep another baby safe and warm was instead preventing those things from actually being used to care for another life.
It was Hard
I cried all the way through that closet. Opening each plastic tote overwhelmed me. The smell of formula clinging to the clean clothes. The feel of the hand-knitted blankets. The sound of the jingling plastic keys that toothless gums had gnawed on.
At first, I tried to be brave enough to give everything away, but it was too much. I couldn’t imagine anyone else wearing her first Christmas dress, the outfit carefully chosen for her one-year pictures. Who would even take the little toys that had hung from her carseat? I allowed myself two bins for those keepsakes.
More Life Left
It was easier to give things away when I started imagining how others would get use out of them. My cousin’s soon-to-be grandchild being soothed by the vibrating bouncy chair. Our friend’s daughter drooling on the soft bath time book. Women being supported through unexpected pregnancies wearing those soft jammies.
I trust that our family is ready and willing to love and nurture whoever is brought into our lives. But that no longer means holding on to things that could do so much good outside of the closet. Instead, it means opening our hearts and home up to opportunities we wouldn’t have had if every bedroom — and every closet — had been filled.