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Yes, I Am Hoarding Baby Clothes

Photograph by Getty Images

In the garage of my condo, there is a storage unit that is all mine. It’s large enough — certainly larger than I ever thought I would need. I have never been a pack rat, and the idea of storage has never felt overly necessary to me. I used to have a policy that if I hadn’t used something in six months, it was better served going to charity than remaining in my possession. It was a policy I pretty strictly adhered to — so, prior to the birth of my daughter, the only thing that lived in that storage unit was my bicycle.

But now, if you were to visit that unit, you would see it is quickly running out of space — overflowing with boxes piled high above my head.

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I always wanted a big family. Five kids, at least. Being a mom was the one thing I knew I was destined for. I couldn’t wait to have the chaos of multiple children running around my feet, to be the nurturer I knew I had always been meant to be.

These days, it has become mostly clear to me that my daughter will likely be my only. I am 31 years old and still single. No closer to finding that forever love than I was 10 years ago. My insides are busted, and while my daughter has certainly shown me that adoption can be a beautiful and amazing path to motherhood, I also know that in order to be the kind of mom I want to be to her — I wouldn’t consider adopting again on my own. Being a single mother is hard. It is fulfilling and wonderful and more than I ever could have dreamed, but it is hard, expensive, exhausting and all-consuming.

I don’t believe I could have another child on my own and be as good a mother to both of them as I want to be. As I need to be.

So I have come to accept that my daughter will probably be the only child I will ever have. And most days, I would even tell you I am at peace with that. I may even be able to convince you it’s true.

Until you visit my storage unit.

My daughter is now 16 months old, and I haven’t been able to get rid of a single thing from her baby days. With the exception of items that were given to us as hand-me-downs (most of which I have painfully returned to their previous owners), I have kept every single item of clothing, every single blanket and every single infant soothing device that she ever touched.

I have saved it all. Tucked away in those boxes as though they may somehow, someday serve some greater use.

Even though I know they probably never will.

I have tried to sell some of it. As a single mother, I could certainly use the cash. But something stops me every time. I have posted ads on Craigslist, only to blatantly ignore the responses I have received. I have decided not to give her swing to random strangers based on the fact that I did not like their poor use of grammar. I have convinced myself it is best to hold onto her ExerSaucer, because who knows — maybe she will regain interest in it again one day. And I have willfully ignored the kid-to-kid consignment shop just down the street, because I can’t trust them to ensure her precious belongings go to a family who actually deserves them.

Because I guess at the end of the day, I’m still not really ready to let go of the hope of that big family I once dreamed of.

What’s worse, I have literally spent nights up praying that my pregnant friends will have boys. Because even though it was their generosity and hand-me-downs that got us through the first several months of my daughter's life, I don’t want to part with a single stitch of her baby clothes, not even for these people I love with all my heart.

These are the people who have continuously joked about wanting to have the next girl, specifically so they can benefit from the adorable hand-me-downs we would have to give. Because while I have never been a big spender in terms of clothes for myself, it turns out that choosing outfits for my daughter has become a bit of an addiction over the last year.

She wears a size 2T now, and I know in my heart that I will probably never have another daughter to put into the clothes she has grown out of. Even if I meet some amazing man and get married in the next few years, and even if we do decide to adopt together, and even if I am so blessed as to have another little one land into my arms and heart without much of a struggle — there are no guarantees it would be another girl.

So why can’t I let go of any of this?

Why is it so difficult for me to rid myself of the artifacts of her infancy, when I have never been a sentimental girl before?

I recently reached out to a therapist about all of this, because I genuinely fear that I'll be winding up on an episode of Hoarders. Casey Berna is an infertility counselor in New York who has worked with plenty of women like me – women who spent far too many years fearing they would never achieve the dream of motherhood. In her opinion, I’m normal.

At least when it comes to this.

She explained to me that infertility causes deep trauma, and it is common for the implications of that to remain even after the trying to conceive journey is over. Apparently, she has even seen this before, explaining that:

“Giving away special baby clothes and other baby paraphernalia can be symbolic of giving up on a future family in the patient’s mind. In wanting to hold onto these things, the patient wants to hold onto the hope and possibility that one day they will be used again. Holding onto these things can also mean holding onto a moment in time the patient fought so hard to have and may never get to have again. Letting go of these things can seem like letting go of all hope and saying goodbye to cherished memories.”

So, I’m normal. What I’m feeling, what I’m experiencing and the ways in which I am struggling to let go? It’s normal, even expected for someone who has dealt with infertility.

Of course, that doesn’t help the fact that my 800-square-foot condo is quickly becoming overrun by a bunch of baby paraphernalia we no longer need.

Berna encouraged me to give myself time, though. With time, she explained, there will be certain items that seem easier to let go of than others: pieces of clothing that I wasn’t as in love with or toys that my daughter was never really attached to. She explained, “Letting go of the past and all of the things associated with the past doesn’t necessarily have to mean letting go of the hope.” And maybe that was something I needed to hear too.

RELATED: An Adoption Story

Because I guess at the end of the day, I’m still not really ready to let go of the hope of that big family I once dreamed of. Nor am I ready to let go of the reminders of my daughter’s infancy, particularly if she is the only baby I will ever get.

So for now, those boxes will remain. Until the point, if and when, the idea of passing them on no longer seems so paralyzing.

I’ll just have to hope that day comes before the room in our storage unit completely runs out. Before the directors of "Hoarders" come knocking down our door.

Image via Getty Images

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