September-October 2008

Baby Talk

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I thought this day would never come. My two sons slept through the night last night, then put their breakfast dishes in the sink with only a reminder or six from me (interestingly, the same number of times my husband has to remind me to put my own dishes in the sink). Then my boys trotted happily off to school, giving me a few hours to work and go to the gym, where I’ll snatch up US Weekly and put the treadmill on its lowest setting (“sloth”). Life, at long last, is exactly the way I dreamed it would be.

Back when our boys were babies, we were jarred awake three or four times a night, tore through a box of diapers every week and, for entertainment on Friday nights, fished objects out of our DVD player (coins, a plastic Elmo doll and once, inexplicably, a shriveled breakfast sausage. Expression on Best Buy warranty guy’s face: priceless).

Now our kids are 7 and 8 years old, in the sweet spot between the crushing exhaustion of infancy and the angst and rebellion of teenager-dom. They still love to cuddle us, but not at 2 a.m. They crack jokes, let the dog out in the backyard and get their own glasses of water when they’re thirsty.

These days, things—dare I say it and tempt the child-rearing gods known as Hissy Fit and Orthodontics—are actually easy.

So why am I staring at the plus sign on a home pregnancy test and grinning like an idiot?

Having a baby now means my family won’t be able to take the white-water rafting and camping trip we’d planned to go on in a year or two. It means months of sleepless nights (or, if this baby is anything like the first two, sleepless years). It means epic, pointless battles over whether Pop-Tarts constitute a nutritious breakfast, since we all know I’ll eventually give in (I personally love the strawberry ones with the little sprinkles).

“Oh my God,” my husband Glenn said recently, sitting bolt upright in bed (I took note that he can still spring up from a deep rest quickly, in case he has any devious plans to play possum a few months from now). “I’m going to be 60 and have a 14-year-old daughter!” (Important editorial note: Like Catherine Zeta-Jones, I married a much older man.)

“It could be another boy,” I reminded Glenn.

He blinked in shock. “Oh my God,” he said again.

At our five-month sonogram, we stare at the ultrasound machine. Something unmistakable fills the entire screen. Our eyes widen in shock, and I swear Glenn’s chest puffs out in manly pride, until the technician rolls her eyes and says, “That’s the umbilical cord.”

“So…do you want to know the gender?” she asks.

We’ve thought about this. “No,” I tell her. Not just yet.

For now, it’s enough to imagine a little girl in Mary Jane shoes and pigtails, throwing a tea party for her dolls. Or throwing a fastball from the pitcher’s mound and striking out the other team.

And if it’s another boy—well, my heart melts at the thought. A little man in denim overalls, toddling after his big brothers, determined to keep up.

I thought we were in the sweet spot, but then I remember the delicious weight of a baby asleep on my chest, and that soft, downy head nestling in the crook of my arm, and my smile gets even bigger. Those gummy smiles and coos and hysterical, stomach-shaking burps. The bowlegged cowboy stance of a new walker. That slicked-down hair and trying to- be-brave face on the first day of school.

And, oh, that new baby smell. There isn’t anything in this world that can touch it.

Sarah’s having a baby?” one of my son’s 7-year-old friends asked incredulously. “Is she going to keep it? Because babies are really expensive, you know.”

This is why I love kids. They crack me up. They hug like nobody’s business. They teach parents how to love more deeply than anyone has ever loved before. And, just like everybody says, it goes by much too fast.

Can you blame me for wanting to cling to the chaos and magic for just a little while longer?

Sarah Pekkanen can be contacted at