I was thirty-two when my last baby was born, not old by any current standards but without a doubt past the invisible line where your body can do anything it wants and make it look easy.
I did not make that pregnancy look easy. I didn’t make anything easy that year, actually.
Two days after the doctor called to tell me I was pregnant, Nate and I boarded a plane with Ellie and Scott, flew to Argentina with everything we owned, stayed in a friend’s house, and begin looking for places to live for ourselves and our new teammates. I have all-too-vivid memories of driving the bumpy streets of La Plata searching for the addresses we had marked on maps, drinking homemade lemonade from a giant bottle in an attempt to keep the nausea under control.
When we found a house and got all moved in, we got the puppy we had been promising Ellie for months. Lack of a yard meant we couldn’t get a big Rottweiler as planned, so we adopted a beagle instead. Did you know beagle puppies are known for being the most incorrigible breed of puppy? It was summer in South America, and I spent it trying to keep cool in a kiddie pool on our patio and simultaneously potty-training a two-year-old and an incorrigible puppy.
In the fall, I finished up the last of my massive project of finding our teammates houses and making them somewhat livable. Our friends arrived. Ellie started preschool. I tried to focus my energies on Scott for the hours she was gone each day, knowing this was a very short window of one-on-one time with him.
But I was so, so tired.
My brain didn’t work right. My body wanted much more sleep than it got. I was huge and uncomfortable and blurry and dull.
Instead of the science experiments and long walks I had imagined, I would lie next to Scott while he watched multiple episodes of Little Einsteins. When my conscience couldn’t take any more, we’d turn off the TV and go sit on my bed, which we pretended was Rocket. He would be Leo and I would be Annie. We clapped our hands to make Rocket take off, and when it landed on far off planets, I sent him out to explore while I stayed behind to guard the ship. It’s a tough job, but someone’s got to do it.
We played Rocket aka Mommy-sits-on-her-bed so often that Scott began to refer to the two of us exclusively as Captain Leo and Captain Annie. Like, even when we weren’t playing. I’d be in the kitchen making dinner and he’d come bounding in.
“What’s for dinner, Captain Annie?”
It was adorable, but I sometimes wondered if it was secretly a badge of shame, a clue to how much television was influencing his life.
But the thing is, just now when I typed that, I smiled so big. It’s been almost eleven years since the two months I spent being Captain Annie, and it’s still one of my favorite memories.
As horrible as I felt that sitting on that bed was all I was able to do with Scott, we had the best time doing it. I never could get him interested in the big construction trucks working across the street, and now that I know him better, I don’t know that the science experiments would have been much better. But when we sat down and imagined ourselves on whole different worlds, he was completely absorbed. So absorbed it never even bothered him that I sent him to do the active parts on his own. As far as he was concerned, we were having real adventures.
A wise man once told me, “All you can do is all you can do, and all you can do is enough.”
I didn’t believe him at the time, but I should have.
Captain Leo didn’t care if his co-captain was fuzzy-brained and half-asleep; he hardly even noticed. In his imagination, Captain Leo and Captain Annie explored the universe together, even when we were going nowhere.