Each time I go downstairs to our playroom I see it -- the cradle my father made for me when my first child was born 18 years ago.
Soon after my husband and I announced we were expecting a baby, my dad started planning to build it for his first grandchild. Joe and I were thrilled. But our happiness was short lived when at 10 weeks we saw our baby, but no heartbeat.
I was beyond devastated.
When I lay on the operating table to have the D&C that would remove the remains of the pregnancy I so wanted, all I could do was cry. My doctor told me to think of something good. The only place my mind wanted to go was to baby clothes and sweet nurseries. Seeing I was having trouble, he said, "Kathy, think of Hawaii." Then I fell asleep.
For over a year, I prayed my father would have a reason to build my cradle. Yet each time it looked as if we were finally getting our happy ending, I would have another miscarriage. After four losses, I started to think a cradle just wasn't in the cards for us. Maybe I should have him build me a bench.
Then one day out of the blue, I found out I was pregnant. This became the time that I could finally put my dad's handiwork to use.
I don't know who was more excited, Joe and me or my parents. The four of us would pour over cradle designs and read articles about the safest mattresses and our best options for nontoxic finishes for the wood. My mom and I shopped for weeks to find the perfect bedding. After they brought it over to our house, Joe and I laid on our bed and stared at it, not quite believing our baby would soon be sleeping in it.
Before we knew it, Tom outgrew the cradle, and my father's masterpiece was soon sitting in my living room holding trucks, blocks and stuffed animals for a little boy who was on the move.
I would occasionally glance at the beautiful piece of furniture and wonder if I would be lucky enough to get to use it again for a baby. After a year of trying for a second child, I started to doubt it.
Once again, life surprised me, and my cradle was used for its original purpose, this time by our daughter. Tom was now three and loved watching his baby sister sleeping in it. A few months later, he gave her a thrill (and me a slight heart attack) by "rocking" her. She looked at him as if he was the best thing on the planet and could not stop giggling. I loved watching the two of them interact, but also knew it was time to retire the cradle again.
Lizzy moved into her crib and then a big girl bed. Before I knew it, our baby days were over, and the cradle was now a perfect place to hold her ever-growing doll collection. I gave away a lot of my baby things and was excited to plan to decorate her room.
Two days after I ordered Lizzy's pink wallpaper, I found out that the cradle would be used for a third time.
I still remember the first night we were home with a newborn Peter sleeping in the cradle. He was tiny and perfect. Since he was our third, Joe and I felt comfortable in a way we didn't our first two times around the baby block. I was filled with love for my husband and the three gorgeous children we were blessed to have. I was grateful that each of my babies spent their first few months in a cradle their grandfather built.
It's been 11 years since a baby slept in the cradle. It now holds an odd collection of old dolls and stuffed animals that aren't played with anymore, but aren't ready to be parted with.
The baby it was built for will be starting college next fall. There isn't really a need for me to keep it around, except for the fact that it is a daily reminder that life doesn't always work out the way you plan, and dreams can come true. Which is as good a reason to keep it around as any.
This piece was previously published on Kathy's site, My Dishwasher's Possessed!