Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Fifth Baby

A Pruned Story
In the late 80’s for about three years, our three oldest children asked repeatedly, whenever it occurred to them, “Mom, when are we going to have another baby?” Or they have suggested, “We should have another baby!” And, they have wondered, “Do you think we'll have another baby?”

I let it be known their little sister, Michelle, would always be my baby no matter how old she became. Being pregnant, getting up in the night, and dirty diapers were three things I was grateful to see relegated to the past. Besides, I had given all the baby clothes away.

So when the doctor confirmed our suspicion that, yes, we were indeed receiving another gift from the Lord, I had some explaining to do.

It crossed my mind to make a special dinner, light candles and formally announce to the children, “We are going to have a baby.” Marty wondered if they could keep the secret long enough to give us a chance to follow proper new-baby-protocol and tell our parents, before the rest of the world found out. Yet, we didn't want to tell our parents immediately as a certain amount of discretion was required on that front: in their day being pregnant was almost as private as getting that way.

We knew that four-year-old Michelle would be absolutely useless at keeping the secret as she proved when I let her help wrap the gifts on Marty's birthday.

She watched as I wrapped the books, socks, underwear, and a tie. I instructed, “Don't tell Daddy.” I even drilled her, “What's in here, Michelle?”

“Socks!” she exclaimed.

“No,” I whispered, “It's a secret. What's in here, Michelle?”

“Secret,” she whispered.

We went through this endlessly with each present. At gift-giving time, Michelle beamed up at her daddy, “That is secret socks.”

A secret was definitely not safe with four-year-old Michelle.

Nevertheless, Marty and I were fairly bursting with the news. After what wasn't a formal candlelight dinner – Marty and Alison were doing the dishes; Paul was busy making a construction-paper person at the kitchen table; Angela and I were in last minute preparation for attending a girl’s club at church where I happened to be the leader of Angela's group; and Michelle was safely upstairs, talking to her stuffed pink rabbit – I gave Marty a questioning look. He winked.

“I know a secret,” I said giving Alison a kiss.

“What is it?” she asked.

Six little ears tuned up.

“It's a family secret.” said Marty.

“Tell us.” the three children chorused.

“Can you keep a secret?”

They all nodded.

“We're going to have a baby!”

“Why?” said Alison in happy astonishment.

I looked at Paul sitting at the table. He had given up asking for another boy in the family.

“We're going to have a baby.” I said to him.

“Why?” he echoed.

“Don't you want a baby?”

“Yes, yes, yes.” all three responded.

That evening, on the short walk over to the church, Angela wondered if she could take care of the baby. She hoped it was a girl. Could it sleep in her room? “Oh, why did you tell? I won't be able to keep it secret.”

“You better,” I warned.

At club Angela made a beeline for her friends. Just before opening exercises, I happened to glance her way. She was in a corner between two companions. One of these two girls, her very best friend, caught my eye, blushed and waved, shouting, “Hi, Mrs. den Boer!” Then she quickly looked away. Angela looked sheepish.

On the way home I confronted Angela. “Did you tell Janice?”

“I told her I had a secret,” she mumbled.

“And?” I said.

“She asked me if my mom was going to have a baby. What could I say?”

And what could I say?

Angela and I have a lot in common: for one thing, to people who really know us, we are open books. All I could do was hug her, thankful that already in grade six she had a close friend.

Early the next morning Paul knocked on the master bedroom door. “Mom, this is for you,” he presented me with his construction-paper person, “for going to have a baby.”

Although I've been through it four times previously, I don't remember pregnancy as being ripe with so many precious moments.

I couldn’t wait to tell Michelle.

1 comment:

Suzanne den Boer said...

An excellent pruned story. I had forgotten this piece of family history from two decades ago. I remember being excited about the baby coming, and how long the pregnancy seemed to take, but didn't recall asking "Why?" when I found out about impending arrival of a new sibling.