when i was pregnant with effie i had a few plans. not many — i’m a girl who prefers to wing most things — but a few. and one of them was to buy her this little stuffed frog. i saw this frog every time i shopped in my neighborhood, boutique-y type grocery store, and i was entranced. this frog was meant to grace my baby’s crib, and so this frog became the centerpoint of my extremely minimal plans for nursery decorating. i loved his size, his sorta-bright green color, his floppy arms and legs. every time i shopped i headed over to the especially-boutiquey section of the store to make sure my froggy was still there. he always was.

the morning after effie had arrived i knew i had to give her up. i had to empty my arms, i had to put her down, i had to hand her over to someone in the hospital, someone who wasn’t mac, someone who would take her from me, forever. i was really, truly losing my baby girl. furious that i had nothing to give her — desperate not to send her on her way without something from her mama — i sent mac to the hospital gift shop. and then once we had given her our gift and said our goodbyes and handed her to the nurse (“are you sure you’re ready? you can have a few more minutes.” “if i don’t give her to you now i am going to take her home with me.”) i could not bear the feeling of my empty arms, so i made mac take me to the grocery store where, holding his arm for support, i limped on a leg still numb from a botched epidural, wound my way to my little froggy guy, and headed — numbness, tears and all — to the register to pay. not a few women stared at me, sensing and shying away from the weight of my disaster.

and so i had my guy. i named him. i took him everywhere with me — not just the toilet, the bathroom, the kitchen, the quickly-depleting liquor cabinet — but everywhere. every public space i went, he went too. i thought i should be embarrassed, and eventually i became shy, but at first my need to hold a baby was so strong that i could not even bear the thought of putting him down.

and so my little guy became our talisman. after seeing a show on the discovery channel about hippos and learning that for some cultures they are the protectors of infants and pregnant mothers, i bought the little frog a hippo friend. after a particularly breathtaking hike with mac i bought the little frog and hippo a moose friend. and when i had the positive pregnancy test that told us bitsy was coming i bought a little giraffe friend to present the pee stick to mac.

during my pregnancy the buying frenzy continued: a lamb, a tiger, a duck, a goat, a mouse. a lion, an elephant, a bunny. eventually we had more little guys than we could name. and when bitsy arrived, they all became hers. her guys.

i have since given more of these little guys to friends whose babies have needed special protection. and i have bought them for my own: for poor mae, and again for boo. they are my way to ensure that i have something for the baby — that no matter when the baby arrives i have a material way to show my love, because sometimes, some terrible times, material ways are the only ways.

yesterday our newest friends were born: tiny twin girls, young enough to breathe but not on their own. they were born via emergency c-section and it appears that they will live. their mom came through delivery in good health. still: when i got the news — counterpoint to their father’s message of two days earlier that everything was perfectly fine, perfectly normal — that they were here, and early, and so very very tiny, i went into an emotional tailspin. i was not ready for these babies to be here. i had plans, but that was all. i had nothing. 

and it felt like effie. and it felt like mae. and suddenly i couldn’t see straight, and i could barely keep from crying. these little girls were here and they needed so much, so very much, none of which i could give them, and still i was unprepared. still i had nothing. how had i done this? how had i let this happen?

i left work, dashed home and grabbed bitsy. we headed to the nearest boutique-y type shop i know of that carries our guys. we bought two, one for each baby.

while we shopped i could feel my frenzy. years of sorrow and despair, never healed but always becoming more manageable, more quotidian, topped with recent months of sleep deprivation, colored by the fear of not having seen these babies, worry for their mama, terror, really, for what could be.  

and i felt what i have never felt before, but something that made all those jokes about retail therapy turn into sour truths. i could feel how desperately i wanted to buy things to make it all better. trains for bitsy, books for boo. gifts — inane, unnecessary gifts for my own babies. as if i could become prepared after the fact. as if i could purchase away the demons.