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The three-pack cometh

| 06 Nov 2018 | 03:42

So how is this going to change your life? my dad asks.

I roll my eyes. Really? We are navigating the maze of the Port Authority with a five-year-old in tow, trying to get to street level and then weave through traffic and a crush of little girls taking selfies to the Broadway performance of Frozen, and he’s choosing this moment to toss me that question? My dad’s got a philosophical bent, one of the many things I adore about him. But truth is, I hadn’t thought past the birth itself, any day now, and my next deadline. Those twin peaks were plenty daunting. What was beyond them? What was beyond them?

The next night, as I’m trying to go to sleep, the baby starts in on his calisthenics. He is getting ever lower, bigger and more committed to his UFC training. Dad’s question, forgotten at the moment, begins a steady crescendo in my brain. How is this going to change your life?

Three kids doesn’t sound like some outlandish number. I’m the middle of three, so it seemed unremarkable — until now, when for the first time I thought about what it would actually mean. The sound comes back to me, that my mom would make when she eased into a hot bath at the end of a long day: an orgasmic groan that echoed through the halls of our rambling old house. It struck us as overkill at the time and made us snort. I get it now. Every day, with its triple-X load of cooking and cleaning and driving and selling of advertising in pointy toed pumps, was a full contact sport.

Now my mom was gone, and by the time of her funeral, unbeknownst to me (but, I later learned, suspected by everyone who saw me in profile) a baby boy was in utero, withstanding a barrage of gin and tonics. My lap had been a pillow for my mom’s beautiful white head on her way out and now my lap, well, it felt like the freakin’ Port Authority.

How is this going to change your life? We haven’t even checked that we can fit three car seats across the back of our Prius. This baby is going to complete our family, that much I know, but… do we even have an infant car seat anymore? My eyes are closed but my heartrate is jacked. Tick-tock, goes the wall clock, sounding ominous.

How is this going to change your life? When we got back from the city the night before, husband Joe was sick. Probably it was the standard back to school sniffle that toddler Juno had come down with earlier in the week. But when Joe gets these things they seem to mutate into something worse: cold sweats, fever, misery. He was out of commission, barely dragging himself through his farm chores. I was trying to do the nesting thing — wash sheets, put away laundry, get the midwife’s list of supplies ready for the home birth, general squalor reduction — but also had to take on the food prep, the keeping the girls from hitting each other in the face with wooden blocks. I was huffing and puffing so lustily each time up the stairs that even I wasn’t sure whether I was being melodramatic or I was just that pregnant. If the former, who exactly was I looking for sympathy from? Joe was basically in a coma. The girls were at each other’s throats.

“What are we going to do?” I said aloud to the kids, as one squeezed a fistful of the other’s flesh. “Maybe we’re not ready for a third child.” They looked up at me at the kitchen sink, wisely refraining from a reply.

I’d so wanted to be an even-keeled mother. My upbringing had been on the tumultuous side and I’d thought I could do better, be more zen. But here I was, muttering passive aggressively, wanting nothing more than a lap to cry on, my own mother. The possibility that I would somehow evolve into a more easy-going parent with the arrival of number three seemed increasingly remote.

It would all be okay, I told myself, as soon as Joe kicked this. Two days, three days max. He’d better be better by the time the baby came. But what if...?

My mind in the dark pulls on this thread. What if this turns out to be some chronic tick-borne thing? What if Joe never bounces back, spends his nights sweating through the sheets and his days with a blanket over his head on the couch, getting thinner and thinner? We’d be in so far over our heads it’s not worth thinking about. Enough.

I fish in the crack between bed and wall for my headlamp and beat-up copy of Middlemarch. Juno, asleep beside me, rustles and throws a warm, dimpled arm over my belly, over the “big ol’ fat baby,” as she calls him. Who am I kidding? These kids are the great love affair of my life. How is the third going to change things? We’ll just take it as it comes, because who ever knows?