Last Saturday morning Jay and Wally moved about the house with unusual purpose. Wally was in the playroom closet, atop a chair, reaching for something on a high shelf. On the floor above I could hear Jay moving quickly in the attic. After a few minutes he came down and found me and Caroline in the kitchen, drinking coffee.
“I need some tape, scissors, and wrapping paper,” he said. Caroline told him where he could get those things and he turned to leave. At the doorway he stopped and turned back. “Do you know what I’m doing?” he asked. Caroline and I made wide, undiscerning eyes and shook our heads. Reassured, Jay left. Five minutes later he was back with a small package in his hands.
“Look,” he said proudly. “I made a present for the baby.”
Yes, that’s right. A baby. This December Caroline is due with our third child, a brother for Jay and Wally. We shared the news with the boys back in June, on the day we brought home our first ultrasound photos. They stared at the grainy black and white images for a moment, and then both decided they were looking at pictures of their early selves. Not quite, Caroline said. This baby’s in my tummy right now.
And from there they’ve been off. They had a flurry of name suggestions to start. Jay liked Ferdinand. Wally was partial to Parker. They’ve wanted to know whether the baby can hear or see, what it’s eating, whether it’s awake, and how in God’s good name it’s going to get from Mama’s tummy out into the world. We’ve given them a gentle but not inaccurate version of that story. As a result, there’s been a lot of birthing around here lately. The boys will go under their beds, or behind a pair of curtains, and then emerge, pronouncing in their best baby voices that they’re being born.
For me and Caroline, the anticipation of this new child feels different than the previous two. We went together to her first midwife appointment in the spring. As we held hands, listening to the heartbeat over the Doppler, I had the feeling of coming to the end of a long journey. Three children is our intended fertility, and unless something unexpected happens, we’ll stop here.
Right now Caroline is on her laptop in the dining room, Jay is at school, and Wally is upstairs, home sick. I think back five years ago to Jay’s birth—our bright, dizzying rush into parenthood. Now I see our family as a ship about to clear the headlands, with a little boy running along beside us. The four of us beckon from the deck, Jay waving, Wally beseeching with a monster truck in his hand. “Come aboard,” we say. “There’s room for one more.”