Well, the cat's out of the bag . . . we finally told the kids that we're expecting child number four. We had been holding off because once we told the kids, everyone would know. (Ever try to have a three-year-old keep a secret?) And given S's age and the high chance of miscarriage in the first trimester, we just didn't want to risk having to "un-tell" too many people, especially casual acquaintances.
So S told the kids she had a "big announcement about a surprise" that we wanted to tell them -- after they cleaned up the living room, which they did in a hurry. Speculation was rampant; there were suggestions that perhaps we would be going to the Wisconsin Dells again. (Not a bad idea, if we could afford it.) Once they were seated at the table, S started out by giving some hints. "What have you been praying for during the past few months?" she asked B. He looked completely puzzled for a while and made a couple guesses ("World peace?" "No, honey, we're not getting world peace.") Finally she just came out with it: "There's a new baby growing inside of me. You are going to have a new brother or sister in a few months." It took a second for that to sink in, and then B got a delighted look on his face: "I have been praying for a baby brother! Yipee! We're going to have a baby brother!" M smiled, very pleased, but then added: "I sure hope President Obama isn't around" -- because ever since she found out about his position on abortion, she's been afraid of him. (Which we do not encourage.) J also acted pretty excited, but it seemed obvious that she was looking to the older kids for her cue on how to react. She wanted to know where the baby was, could she see it, and would someone be delivering it from the store?
And then we had strawberry ice cream to celebrate, since J started wailing plaintively: "I didn't want a baby! I wanted ice cream!"
S refused to allow me to document the moment, but here is a picture from earlier in the evening; we had two of the kids' friends over for the afternoon, and then they made their own personal pizzas.
I should mention how I found out about this happy news. S was four days into her legendary nine-day silent retreat (a Thursday) when she called me from a Wal-Mart pay phone twenty miles from the retreat center. (It's very remote.) "Are you sitting down?" Right away I knew what it was. I mean, what are the possibilities, four days into a silent retreat? So I was silent for a moment while my world tilted ever so slightly underneath my feet. "Um, is this going to make me more stressed out about the presentation I have to give tonight?"
"Uh, I don't know. I don't think so."
"Well, is it good news or bad news?"
"I think it's good news . . . ."
"You've won enough money to get us out of debt?"
"You've had a deep insight into your spiritual life -- like realizing that we're called to be missionaries?"
"No! Do you want me to just tell you?"
"Um . . . you're pregnant?"
And so I was a little bit out of it over the next few days. On the one hand, I had been wishing and praying for another baby -- it's hard to be done with them, isn't it? On the other hand, I was also looking forward to, and really counting on, having time for "me" and my career. You know, switching butt-and-nose-wiping duty for professional work. (I know, I know, in some jobs it's hard to tell the difference. . . .) Now I am looking at another three years of long days with a small child, trying to squeeze in some time for myself and/or my work after everyone else is asleep.
Of course, the key here is to keep the big picture in perspective. Each of our children has been a wonderful blessing. There is no doubt which way the balance scales tip: I benefit far more than I receive. I am convinced that parenting is like gardening; those long, sweaty hours spent working and preparing the soil in the spring are abundantly rewarded by the autumn harvest.
Thank you, God, for the gift of our new child! Give us the grace to be good parents!!!