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CONVERSATIONS I HAVE HAD (AND NOT HAD) AFTER ANNOUNCING THE IMPENDING ARRIVAL OF OUR FIFTH CHILD

 

By

Jason Stout

 

Others’ Reactions:

 

They know what causes that, you know?

 

What were you thinking?

 

My God, I could never handle that many children.

 

Silence.

 

Do you have enough room in that little townhouse you live in?

 

My Responses:

 

Really?  I’ll have to look it up.

 

Not much.  It wasn’t exactly planned.

 

Well, we’ll just have to see how it goes, I guess.

 

I know, stunning isn’t it?

 

I guess we’ll just have to squeeze in a little tighter.

 

Things I didn’t say:

 

Could you be more original?  I’ve heard that at least fifty times and it wasn’t funny the first forty-nine.

 

We clearly weren’t thinking with our heads, were we?

 

You can’t handle the one you have and you’ll be lucky he isn’t in juvie before he’s 13.

 

Is it that hard to say something nice?  Just grin and say, “congratulations,” you idiot.

 

No, we don’t.  But we don’t really have a choice unless you want us to move into your house.  You know, the one you were able to buy even though you’ve never worked a day in your life because your parents were so stinking rich.  How is it that you were born on third, but think you hit a triple?

 

Things I wish people would say:

 

What an unexpected blessing.

 

How lucky you are.

 

I just love babies.  They’re so sweet and smell so nice.

 

I’m sure the new baby will be just as adorable as your others.

 

How can I help?

 

What I would say:

 

I’ve had a hard time believing this little “accident” is a blessing.  Sometimes I feel guilty that when I talk to my wife it’s about what we should have done differently instead of just being happy.

 

Sometimes I feel that way.  Sometimes I just feel stupid.

 

I love babies, too.  I know men aren’t supposed to for some reason.  But when I pick up a little baby--even one that isn’t my one--it’s like the world stops for just a second.  Can I tell you a little story? 

 

 I was traveling on business several months ago.  I don’t remember where, maybe Milwaukee.  I was taking a late night flight out.  Beside me, on the window side, was this young woman.  She couldn’t have been more than 20 and she had a little baby with her, maybe six or seven months old.  She told me that her husband was in the army deployed oversees and that she was going to visit his parents for a little while.  I can’t remember the baby’s name now. 

 

At the time I thought I would never forget it.  She was the most adorable little creation.  She had dark, olive skin and brown curls.  I settled in to read a book, but I couldn’t stop looking over at the baby and smiling.  Finally, we took off and the baby handled it just fine--no crying or squawking.  A few minutes into the flight, though, she began to fuss. 

 

The mother gave her a pacifier and read “Goodnight Moon” to her, but she kept fussing.  I asked her if she wanted me to hold the baby for a minute.  My wife later told me that I had broken some unwritten rule by asking this question, but the mother didn’t seem too upset and said it would be nice to get a break. 

 

I took the baby and held her up facing me so her unstable legs were standing on my thighs.  Her eyes widened and she stopped fussing.  She started grabbing and tugging at my beard, just like all of my babies did when they were her age.  When she got tired of that, I turned her around and sat her on my lap with her back to my chest.  I put my arms close around her and leaned down to her ear and softly started singing every lullaby I knew. 

 

She grabbed my hand and put the fleshy part just below my thumb to her lips and started sucking.  I sang and she sucked for maybe 20 minutes until she finally fell asleep.  When I knew she was asleep, I stopped singing and looked over at the mother to see if she wanted me to hand the baby back to her.  The mother had fallen asleep against the plane window.  I kept rocking gently back and forth and started singing again in Keira’s--I remember her name now--ear.  That’s all I did for the next hour and a half until we landed and Keira was jolted awake. 

 

When she woke up, she was happy, but wanted to go to her mother who was also awake now.  As we prepared to get off the plane, I asked the mother if she needed any help with her luggage.  She said she didn’t.  We walked off the plane into the airport and I lost track of them at baggage claim. I sometimes feel sad that I will never see Keira again.  I still wonder about her and where she is and how she is.  I worry about her dad never coming back.  And I wonder how I felt so much love for this other little baby... This baby I knew for such a short time. 

 

And here’s my question:  If my heart could fill up with love for Keira, doesn’t that mean I will love my new baby too?  Because sometimes I worry about that.  She (I’ve already decided it will be a girl) was so unexpected, unplanned.  I worry that I will focus on the unexpectedness, the unplannedness, more than on the baby herself.  Will I resent the vacations we can’t take because of her?  The retirement that will be postponed because of her?  I will love her, right?

 

You really think the others are adorable?  I do, sometimes I wonder if I am blinded by my love for them.

 

You’ve already helped.  More than you can know.

 

JASON STOUT shares...

BIO: 
 
JASON STOUT is a husband and father of four living in Atlanta, Georgia, where he is an employment lawyer for a Fortune 250 company.  His fiction has appeared or is forthcoming in:  flashquake (Editor's Pick, Spring 2008) and pequin (May 2008).  JASON can be contacted through his website:  www.jasonstout.jimdo.com
 
MOTIVATION:
 
"This piece was much more personal than most for me.  It was an attempt to address my own doubts and fears about (and to poke some fun at others' issues with) the upcoming birth of our fifth child."
 

Email TSJ: Editor: Pamela Tyree Griffin

shinesubmit@fastmail.us

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