In February we will be adding one more to our ranks. I know that we are getting closer to a team of something but we have awhile to decide on our family sport of choice. ‘Excited’ doesn’t do the feeling justice; from the beginning we hoped that we would have a large family, but we’ve always taken it one child at a time, i.e. let us see how we handle number 1 before we start talking about number 2, 3, or 4.
Well, a year and a half ago we thought we were ready for number 4. It was April and Clif had just passed Step 1 and was looking forward to clinical rotations and I…Well, I was still figuring out the balancing act that homeschooling had inflicted on my once-tidy domecile. And then there was our master plan to move our family of five, plus Toots the pug, into 350 square feet of trailer at the end of the summer, but no matter.
Last summer came and went, the move and adjustment to living in a “tin can”, as my dad calls it, happened without too much fuss…except for a few unmentionable acts, committed by Toots, in a few too many unmentionable places. We finally recognized that this was the only way in which she could voice her protest to life on wheels and Mom and Dad were kind enough to offer her sanctuary for the remainder of the year. But nobody else bailed, which for me was proof positive that we could handle more big change.
Finally, by winter, it occurred to me that growing our family wasn’t going to happen according to my plan. That wasn’t easy to face. And even though I tried to accept it calmly and gracefully, I started telling myself scary things like, “I’m running out of time.” Clif was too busy worrying about his rotations, future tests, future rotations, and 12-month-away residency match to draw fatalistic, doomsday fertility conclusions with me. Plus he’s the kind of patient that I only pretend to be.
Over a year after my being ready, it finally happened; a year of tumultuous changes, of Magic Fridays, of learning how to learn at home, of making every moment a “teachable” one, of adjusting to seasonal weather and Orlando winters, a year of feeling solidarity in making sacrifices to be together but also the isolation and loneliness that goes hand-in-hand with freedom and independence, a year of forging fast friendships but also saying speedy goodbyes.
Every other time that I’ve had a positive pregnancy test, Clif’s been right outside the bathroom door and I can remember his face each time. This time was different. I kept it to myself for almost a week, thinking about the timing and growing more joyful and thankful every day. On a gorgeous Saturday morning at Pensacola Beach, with the kids sitting in our beached kayak threatening to knock each other overboard with the oars and whining for us to put the kayak in the ocean, I told Clif. And there it was, the fourth look, half-astonishment, half-what-have-we-done, that I will never forget.
Flowers, kittens, swords and guns (Thomas), mud, s’mores, horses, water slides, goats, story time, horseplay, Disney World, grandparents, cousins, Pilgrimage, picking their own food (from the vine, bush, or ground), the ocean, these are all things that my kids love…but babies top the list. We were so excited to tell them about the baby and we couldn’t wait to witness their reactions.
After 14 weeks and two visits to my OB, we sat them all down in the kitchen one morning to break the big news. We recorded their reaction for posterity, but I’ll try to do it justice with words, here. The girls were ecstatic and NR, in true NR fashion was jumping from question to question- is it a boy or a girl? What are we going to name it? Alliene went straight to baby talking, practicing her coos and gitchy-goos. Both girls had jumped out of their seats and were dancing on and around our feet, so for about 20 seconds of excitement I lost track of Thomas.
When the video pans back out to the chairs where the kids were lined up before the announcement, Thomas is still there looking….thoughtful? Curious? Apprehensive? Disgusted? At the moment the camera turns to him and we ask what he thinks, he responds by lying down across the three chairs and writhing a bit like someone whose mental anguish has permeated the physical. When he did rise, it was more to join the celebratory romp that was talking place around the kitchen island than it was to celebrate. On the matters of a new baby and becoming a “BIG” brother, he persisted in his silence and lapsed occasionally into silliness to avoid any true dicussion.
I am happy to report that, a few weeks later, he has almost decided that the baby is a good idea. I can tell because, although he is still silent- in comparison to his sisters, anyway- on the matter, from time to time he pets my tummy and asks where the baby is. While the girls have been sharing the news with anyone and everyone at anytime, Thomas finally broke his silence and shared for the first time last week at church with Ms. Lisa in the nursery.
While Nora Ruth and Alliene have been both excited to the point of goofy over the news, each has displayed their own particular shade of giddiness. Nora Ruth repetitively tells me how she “can’t wait!” for the baby to get here and as she hugs me around the waist and stares blissfully at my tummy a la Kathy Bates from Misery, I fluctuate from feeling amused to feeling a little creeped out. Alliene enjoys labeling me “pregnant” and throwing it around for flair and for gravity; sometimes it sounds like an affliction and others like a badge of honor. “Mama, I carried that bowl of watermelon outside for you, you know, since you’re pregnant.” “Hey! Bring this pregnant lady some water!” Either way, the aspiring boss of the house obviously views my ‘condition’ as a reason to take care of me.
And I’m trying to keep up the pace for as long as I can. Clif has three more weeks of work left in Pensacola and then he will be much closer to us in Tuscaloosa until the end of the year. It’s surreal to think that in 2016 we’ll have a new doctor and a new baby in the family. And, who knows, maybe a few new farm animals, too…just to keep me moving.