It's hard to believe that when I wrote my last post on January 1, I was pregnant and didn't know it yet. And we thought 2013 was challenging!
About a week later, the night before Robb's birthday, I was planning to go out the next day and trying to decide between re-joining the gym or pricing out treadmills. I had it in my head that I would go out shopping the next day for Robb's birthday presents and would make a decision about the fitness needs of this family. I'd missed the gym since Robb lost his job back in September, but the kids were begging for a treadmill for here at home, which had some appeal. I just couldn't think where the best place to put it would be.
For some reason I felt as though I couldn't quite make my decision without answering the nagging question of "Shouldn't I be getting some kind of monthly visitor soon?" If I had looked at a calendar with any focus at all, I would have realized something was terribly amiss. But more than a few months ago, Robb had gotten sick of my "frequent" (I say rare) freak outs about being pregnant and had quietly started charting it out for his own mental health, and knowing that he had the information on his little spreadsheet somewhere kept me from bothering to even check for myself. I mentioned it to him and he breezily mentioned I was due, in the same way he would approximate if we had money in the bank for a pizza.
Looking back, I realize we had gotten very casual indeed on the topic of a pregnancy. More than five years ago or more, we had decided to try for another baby, but as the months went by, nothing happened. Our lives were too full to chase the dream very hard and as years passed, we came to believe that we were just too old for this sort of thing. I grieved being "old and dried up" and Robb made jokes about being much too winded and we simply stopped thinking about it, except for those rare times when it seemed like I might be a whole hour or two "late." We even had a little stash of pregnancy tests on hand. One by one, they would turn up negative, we would feel disappointment and then relief. Followed by the thought that maybe we should do "something permanent" about all this, which just never seemed right either. My mom has always said, "When you're done having kids, you know it." I would puzzle over that, but couldn't quite agree. I didn't know. Robb didn't seem to know either. The kids consistently asked for a little brother or sister, to the point where I asked them to stop because it made me feel badly. So many times, I would begin to set the table and grab six plates instead of five. We'd all be sitting in the living-room, watching tv, and I would stifle the urge to call upstairs for "somebody else" to come down and make the circle complete. I chalked it up to growing up with a family of four kids, but I couldn't shake the feeling that someone was missing. And all the while, Robb would turn into a squealing little girl whenever we saw a tiny baby out in public. He would crinkle his eyes into a tight smile over little sleepers and say, "Just one more." And I would reply dryly, not because I was opposed, but because I felt helplessly incapable.
So as that day turned into night, I waited for the kids to go to bed and then informed Robb that I was going to take that pregnancy test. It was the last one in the cupboard. He suggested that I wait until the end of the week. Or maybe after I had a glass of wine. I told him I just wanted to get it over with. It would be negative and I would be sad and have some wine and go to sleep and get up and go shopping the next day and forget about it.
We have a quirky thing in this marriage. I don't take pregnancy tests alone. Sorry if that's TMI, but when your husband is flawlessly egalitarian, he says, "You didn't get pregnant alone, so you don't get to find out alone." I joke back that "It's my body" and he retorts with "It's my baby." There is no winning this little argument, and so I have long since abandoned my fantasies about how I would break the news to him. We're in this together. And having done it so many times, we have a ritual and rules: The chief of which is "No looking until after three minutes, just like the timer says."
But this time, as I handed him the test, he glanced at it in an obvious fracture of the rules. Before I could holler "foul" his face morphed into a facefull of disbelief so aggrandized, I was certain he was joking. And then he held the joke for one millisecond longer than what was actually funny. And then the world started spinning a bit and I steadied myself against his sink in the bathroom, while he slid down the glass door of the shower, onto the floor with the test still in his hand, still staring at it, still mouth agape.
One no for disbelief. One no for distance. One no for surprise. One no for trying to swallow a million changes in one bite. One no to be sure I heard that right. Curiously missing from all the no's, I realized later, was a no for NO. I don't even know how long that moment of suspension lasted where we separately tried to make sense of what was happening. It seemed like a long time.
Robb has the amazing ability to feel things in the moment and I generally do not. I normally hover above and around a shock until I know it's safe to feel whatever I feel. But this time, we seemed to switch roles completely and I breathed out words of calm and clarity and perfect knowledge as I realized them myself, "I think this is what we always wanted."
And he began to cry big mushy, happy tears. "Yes. You are right."
He told me later, he was mostly afraid that I would be unhappy.
Knowing that our uppermost feeling was joy was helpful. But there was still enough shock to completely immobilize us for the next hour. We sat on the bathroom floor trying to answer all the questions at once. How do we tell the kids? When do we tell the kids? When do we tell other people? WHERE is this kid going to fit in this house? We had been straining to figure out where to put a treadmill...now we were needed to fit in a whole other person! There are social norms for announcing your first, second, third baby, or even your adoption. But what exactly is protocol for announcing your fourth baby, 10 years removed? "Let's not tell anyone at all," we giggled. "Let's not put up anything on Facebook and just show up with a baby!" What about my work? What about the stupid cement floors? There is NOTHING baby-proof in this house! Why did we get another dog? Why didn't we get a bigger bed when we got the new mattress? We already need new cars...what kind of car do we even need now? When does the insurance kick in? CAN YOU EVEN IMAGINE what what would have happened if this happened a month ago? Two months ago? It would have been a disaster! But seriously...Who are we going to tell? This is too huge to keep a secret!
But we did. For three days. For three days, we just went around with the silliest grins on our faces, shooting texts back and forth full of exclamation marks, exchanging knowing glances over the kids' heads and frequently pulling that silly pregnancy test out of the drawer just the make sure we read it right. It was delicious and bonding to have a secret from the kids, our friends and the world.
Finally Robb could contain himself no longer. The kids all seemed to have later activities on that Friday night, which landed them all on our bed around 10:30 pm, in good moods and a little wound up from their budding social lives. I got the raised eyebrow "Can't we just tell them?" message over the tops of their heads, and I shrugged back with the "Are you sure? They are going to ask a lot of questions and we don't have a lot of answers?!" Which was met with the, "I don't care...I want to tell them" lip pursing. "Let's video it." I said out loud in common English, which must have seemed like a weird comment to the kids, if they were even listening to me at all. So phone in hand at the ready, Robb cleared his throat with a "We have something to tell you." I waited with the camera ready to capture the AFV $10,000 moment, as Robb said the actual words: "Mom is pregnant."
And then a simultaneous, "You are lying. This is a joke. Na-uh. We're not falling for that."
It took the production of the almighty pregnancy test and many, many reassurances to convince them, none of which really "worked" on camera. Finally, Charleigh gave in with a scream and throwing her hands up in the air. Vin toppled next. And then finally Mattie...ever keeping her emotional cards close to her vest....released her bright, excited smile. And then it was done. We all gave ourselves over to just falling in love with the idea. Some of us naively. Some of only too aware of what was to come. But all of us, happy and excited for what September would bring us.