I’d forgotten all the things I’d meant to bring. The cookies I’d made were sitting on the kitchen counter and the hand-me-down baby carrier was still tucked in the top drawer of my dresser.
I was anxious to get on the road. My friend was weeks away from meeting Baby No. Three, and my babies, numbers One and Two, were dawdling.
"Oh-my-gosh, we’re late. We should have left five minutes ago," I yell in the direction of the family room where the kids had run after I asked them to get on their shoes. "I still have to stop at the gas station. … Let’s go, let’s go, let’s go …"
I wasn’t ready either. As I looked into the empty tote bag, willing things to just jump in of their own accord, my brain was racing the clock. "It would take an hour to get there. I wonder if there will be any traffic." I tossed in diapers and wipes extra clothes in case of emergency spills. I remembered my phone and keys and cash. My camera batteries were charged and ready to go. The camera bag was already packed and in the car ... first things first and all.
Our mission, in addition to a friendly get-together, was for me to take maternity pictures -- something that has become a sort of tradition.
I photographed her first pregnancy - with film - eight months after giving birth to Ittybit. When I photographed her first child kissing the baby bump that contained her second child, a son, I owned a digital camera. One month after her boy joined the world, so did The Champ.
In so many ways it’s been a journey through motherhood we’ve taken, and documented, together.
"Now I need your help, guys," I tell my kids, who are already "are-we-there-yetting" as we turn out of the driveway. "I’m going to take pictures of you with your friends, but I need you to stay behind me and keep any pets, robotic toys, errant balls, flowing liquids or monsters from getting into the room when I’m taking pictures of your friends with their mom, Ok?"
"OK, mom," they parrot.
"This is very important," I stress. The last time I took family pictures in an official capacity, I had to crop my daughter out of the best one. Christmas cards with an extra kid in them can be confusion to some people.
"OK, OK! But are we there yet."
"Soon. We'll be there soon."
Ittybit may have been even more excited than I was to see my friend, whose children she has decided are "The Luckiest Kids in the World" because they are not only having a baby, but the sister kind. "I always wanted a little sister," she says sweetly, gazing at her brother who has already fallen asleep in his car seat.
Both kids are asleep when we finally arrive. I pull in the drive way to see my friend’s daughter jumping on the couch in excitement. I can almost here the "THEY’RE HEREs!" echoing through the house.
"We’re here," I say to the kids as park the car and the engine. They are instantly awake and excited again.
My friend looks happy and rested as she opens the door for us. She is glowing in the way that people say expectant mothers glow.
"I can’t believe I forgot the baby things I was going to bring, especially the baby carrier you wanted to borrow," I say as we hug.
"Oh, that’s OK," she tells me. She’s already as prepared as she needs to be. One fewer thing at this point is one fewer thing of which she must keep track now that she would have three tiny humans to corral.
For the first time since The Champ was born, and even though I always told people "two and through," I felt settled, if not cemented, in the decision to put maternity behind me.
It’s the kind of epiphany that is weighted with a tinge more sadness than relief.
My friend was going into new-baby territory by herself. I won’t be following.