“Just a minute!” I holler toward the tiny fists that are pounding on my bedroom door. This is the standard morning scene: I’ve been awake for nearly two hours and, after getting my kids fed and ready for the day, I’ve finally barricaded myself in my bedroom long enough to put on a bra and host an inner debate about how many days it’s been since I washed my hair.
I sift through a pile of bobby pins and loose change in my jewelry tray until my fingers close around my wedding rings. I start with the wedding band, a plain white gold ring with thirteen small diamonds dotting the band in a half circle; then I stack the princess cut engagement ring above it. They stop without making it past my knuckle, as they have been all week.
I’m twenty-five weeks pregnant with my third child, and this is my least favorite pregnancy side effect. I’ll spend the next four months with swollen fingers that leave no room for my wedding rings. I know I get off easy—no morning sickness to contend with or serious pregnancy complications to face—but I still feel a little mournful about the rings. They’re easily the most beautiful thing I own, and wearing them on a daily basis pulls to the forefront memories that might otherwise slip away.
When I put them each morning, I’m twenty-one again, being proposed to on a dorm room futon in the living room of my college apartment. We were surrounded by plain, grayish beige walls I wasn’t allowed to mar with so much as a 3M hook, and my feet rested on the edge of a blueberry pie stain set into the gritty carpet. There wasn’t a hint of elaborate romantic planning, not a single candle or rose petal, but I couldn’t care less because there in front of me was my future husband, holding up my ring.
After dinner each night, when I slip both sets of diamonds off my finger and set them on the window ledge before plunging my hands into the dishwater, I think of everything that’s happened in this kitchen. We’ve swayed in front of the window with dinner simmering behind us; we’ve screamed at each other in front of the fridge and apologized by the stove; we’ve put silverware in its place while debating major life decisions; we’ve sat on the steps near the pantry with our heads on each others’ shoulders, sighing after a long day at work.
Now, the same week as our sixth anniversary, I have to admit to myself that it’s time to put my rings back in their box until spring, when we’ll have another baby to hold and my fingers will, hopefully, shrink back to their original size. I set the rings back in the tray with a clink and make a mental note to find their box later.
The pounding on the door has gotten louder and is now accompanied by occasional screams, but I ignore the chaos for a few seconds longer, scanning the jewelry tray until I find another ring.
This one has a thin silver band, topped by an oval sapphire that’s surrounded by a halo of diamonds. The gems in this piece aren’t real. We bought it for less than 100 euros in a tiny town on Lake Como in Italy. It was one of the most expensive souvenirs we could afford on the European vacation we’d scrimped to go on before we had kids.
We had raced through the shop, past antique end tables and hand-carved chess pieces, trying to see everything before we missed the last boat of the evening that would take us back to our hotel on the other side of the lake. The deep blue sapphire of the ring caught my eye, and I bought it without ever trying it on.
The sapphire ring never fit quite right: too big for my fourth finger, just small enough to be uncomfortable on my third. It sat on my dresser, a fond but useless memory of our travels, until two months later when I got pregnant with our oldest daughter. Soon enough, my fingers swelled, and the Italy ring fit perfectly. Now with this pregnancy, I’ll wear it again and be visited by a different set of memories.
I’ll fiddle with the lightweight band, twirling it around and around in my jacket pocket while I tell the kids, “Don’t climb too high!” and “Let’s give someone else a turn on the swings.” I’m absentminded, no longer at the park down the street but at a swing set we stumbled across in the Swiss Alps, where my husband and I laughed like schoolkids as we took a break from hiking.
I’ll catch a glint of light off the faux sapphire in a stream of sink water while I wash vegetables, and suddenly I’m a new mom again, remembering what it was like to cook dinner while bouncing the screaming baby strapped to my chest. Did she need to eat? Was it a dirty diaper? When was the last time either of us slept?
It will all flood back to me at once, opposing memories of awe at seeing the world as barely more than newlyweds, and awe at meeting our firstborn baby and realizing we didn’t know what we were doing at all.
I open the bedroom door to the preschooler and toddler who come barreling in. We still don’t know what we’re doing, of course, not about any of it. But we do know some things, I think, as I watch the two tiny girls now jumping on our bed. We know that we walk side by side with a hand to hold through every moment of doubt or uncertainty, and we know every second will be worth it.
Words by Ashley Brooks.