“How far along are you?” she asks, as she hands me a glass of iced tea over the counter.
“28 weeks or so, due in July,” I answer, habitually looking around the room for the girls, but find only Tom. We have left the kids at home with my mother-in-law overnight, for the first time since Becky was born. I bought Tom concert tickets in December, thinking that by April I would be more comfortable being away for the night, but I have been chewing my fingernails for weeks, scared. Logically, I know they will be fine, and that Becky was ready. I know it will be another year and a half, maybe more, before Tom and I can plan another night away. I know we will have fun, and that this is good for all of us. But I worry. It’s what I am good at.
“Do you know if it’s a boy or a girl?” she asks, handing my my change. I look up at her and smile, shaking my head no.
“It’s a surprise,” I say, and she nods.
“Oh you are in for a treat” she says, “Your first child is always amazing.”
I try not to laugh, but Tom does not hesitate. “Oh, well, we have three girls at home, so we’re well versed in amazing.”
“This is your fourth?!” she says, and I can’t decide whether to be tickled that she thinks we look young enough not to have four children, or defensive.
“Yes,” I say, and mentally dare her to say something derisive about ‘large’ families, or how we better pray for a boy this time, or how my hands “must be so full!”
Instead, she hands us our food, and says “Well bless your heart, you must love being parents!” and I want to kiss her.
It still catches me off guard sometimes – that this baby doing gymnastics under my skin is my fourth child. That I’ve been pregnant four times. That by the end of summer I will have given birth four times, breastfed four children, diapered four children, worn four children in a sling next to my skin, fallen deeply in love with four children.
When I announced I was pregnant with our first, my family was shocked, and admitted they had never really thought I would have kids. I agreed. I wasn’t sure this motherhood thing was going to be for me, but I liked a good challenge. Seven years later I have chosen to repeat the experience over and over and over again, not because I want to be challenged (though, oh lordy, the challenges are there) but because I love being a mom. Because up until recently, I did not feel like our family was complete, and whole. I do now. I picture our three girls, with a tagalong little brother or sister, and see my family. My kids. My four children. And I’m not sure how I ever pictured my life without them.