Monday, March 31, 2014
We had ice cream. We had sorbet. We had those crumbly, doughy, way-too-sweet, frosted sugar cookies from the grocery store. We had all the makings of a celebration. Including the announcement.
When we told E that we were having a baby, his mouth dropped. I don't think I've ever seen him so caught off-guard. He's a sensitive kid, intuitive and it is sometimes a trick to remember that the words coming out of the high-pitched 9-year old voice are not from an adult. You know these kids - the ones who not only know all the details of eveything going on, but get them, most of them, at least. E is one of these kids.
And so to see him stunned was surprising itself. Only a few months earlier, before the test said a definitive POSITIVE in all caps, before the Valentine's Day cards lined the kitchen counter, even before our New Year's Day housewarming party and Christmas had been done and undone and finally, finally packed up and put away in storage, I'd told him it was his job to put his own decorations on the tree.
He sighed heavily and then his face lightened with a realization, or maybe a decision. There was a devlish spark in his eye and it perked up one eyebrow.
"Next year," he said with a nod, "that can be the new baby's job."
"What?" I laughed. I was sliding dishes into the dishwasher. Had I heard that right?
"Next year, the new baby can put the ornaments on the tree and I won't have to."
"Everyone knows babies are terrible at decorating Christmas trees," I played the game back. "They can only reach the bottom branches. Anyway, what new baby?"
He'd thrown out the fishing line. I snapped up the sparkly thing. But I wasn't sure he expected me to yank back on the line.
"Ohhhh, you say sometimes you'd like to have another baby one day."
"I do." I said, dropping the bait. And I did. The Not Boyfriend and I had been trying for a while and had told very few people. We had a fertility consult coming up and I'd seen plenty of NOT PREGNANTS and sad faces on ovulation tests to know that a new baby might not happen at all. But there it was, a sly little prediction from a kid who knew more than he should or thought he did. And it lit me up inside. It made me smile. And there had been so few smiles for months about what was happening in my body.
His prediction was right, clearly. The beginnings of the new baby were already a bundle of cells building on each other. It's just that none of us knew for sure yet.
So when we did know for sure - and that all was well, confirmed by several rounds of genetic testing and a doctor visit and an ultrasound picture of fetus, blurred by all the kicking - we told E first.
His jaw dropped open and his voice went even higher. He scooped several huge spoonfuls of ice cream and cookie into his mouth while I answered his, "What the -? Oh! I mean. Really? What?"
We showed him the ultrasound picture, explained what was happening with the baby's development this week, told him what we knew.
- August 27th, just after camp, just before school starts.
- No, no one else knew. Just the three of us. (And the doctor.)
- Yes, yes, he could tell all of his friends. Anyone he wanted to tell. (As soon as we told Grandma and Grandpa and the rest of our family.)
- Maybe it would be a boy! Or a girl! We'd all find out together when the baby was born. (Surprises are fun.)
- He was trying. I could see it in his face that he was trying to make sense of something big, confusing. Change is hard, I used to tell him in the quiet dark of his room when he was pensive or tearful or worried about things that fill the ever-processing mind of a child of divorce long after they should be asleep, but also good. Change is hard and also good.
He chirped on about all the reasons he hoped it was a boy while I told him things I hoped would make sense, be soothing. Then, because I wanted him to be involved immediately, to feel a part of this hard and also good change, to get that this wasn't happening to him but with him, I told him he had two very important jobs.
First, I said, because we got to share the news with him, he could be in charge of telling my parents the next night.
Next, because he is the expert of his dad, it was totally his decision about telling his father.
He gave me a solid nod. We laughed over a few silly ideas, but I could see around the edges of the confounded look on his face some focus and purpose. Come up with a plan to entertain and spill a big secret? He could definitely do that.
That night, as he pulled his pajamas on and as I leaned half of my body into his loft bed from the ladder, he spoke what was on his mind about this new baby, this big news.
"Where will the baby go when I am at my dad's house?"
"What will the baby's last name be?"
And finally, "I don't really know how I feel about all of this."
"It's OK," I reassured him, smoothing the hair that insists on sweeping across his forehead. "That's how it is with siblings always. Some days, they drive you insane. And the next day, you can't live without them. It is OK not to know how you feel. Or to feel any of the things you do. All of it is OK."
Relief swept through the room. We both needed to hear those words.
E processes quickly and deeply. But that moment in between the unsuredness, the newness and the knowing is a critical one.
He woke up the next morning, brushed his teeth and got dressed and had his book in hand, all without being asked, when he called me in his room.
"Mommy," he smiled to the left as he has since he was a toddler, deep in thinking, "I decide I am excited about the baby!"
He wrapped his body around me, arms and cheek resting right on my belly, right where they should be.
He did tell my parents, devising a sneaky little toast of Diet Cokes and Shirley Temples and cupcakes over dinner the next night that made my mom and dad's jaws drop. Then, in the bubble of his own world with his father, he shared the news there, too. Next, with his friends and teachers. The more he spoke the words "I'm going to be a big brother!", the more excitement spilled out over the top.
He's still processing some of it - like why his dad's last name won't be included in the baby's last name and how he will feel on Wednesday nights when it is time to say goodbye to a baby for 24 hours and whether a girl or a boy will be better for him as a much older brother and if he should get more input on a name than he is getting. But right here, in this middle-space of letting those issues sink in and letting the other stuff burst out, this is happy and good and exciting and a little bit scary.
More over-sugared cookies then. And sorbet. And silly pictures. And promises that however it goes, it will be just fine. Mommy promises. Mommy promises we will all be OK.