For a long time, one was enough.
That one baby came into our lives like an earthquake. In the years before, we had built the structure of our life together. A temple of two. We worked long hours, traveled abroad, kept the house tidy. and folded the clothes promptly.
That temple crumbled after the birth, and we rebuilt it slowly and piecemeal into something Seussian. Purpose twisted unreasoned joy and at-our-wit’s-end impulse into a structure that held our three lives. Me with the little one at home, stealing nap time to clock in at headquarters. An isolated outpost, disembodied speaker voice in staff meetings. My wife balancing a new career and a new office, drag racing home every evening to beat bedtime. We spent weekends holding tiny fingers, practicing steps in the sunshine, playing peekaboo around the ottoman, spooning words into the baby’s ears and food into her mouth. She was a flock of giggles amid grumpy cats.
We three were happy, and one was enough.
Then, another earthquake. My mother, the foundational cornerstone of my own life structure, gone forever. Reduced to ash. Impossible to rebuild. In the few months afterward, only one purpose for me: live through this. Night after night without sleep. Day after day without emotion besides despair. On the couch, sprawled under blankets, staring at the television to bar my mind against thought. Live through this.
Many helped. But only one other person knew her voice, her hands, her walk, her made-up curses half shouted in exasperation, her cheerleading at games with a fist in the air, her unending encouragement: My brother. He and I, together with her, spent the hours, days, years of childhood building something unique from countless unremarkable moments. Only two of us left to see it.
“I could not make it without him,” I said. My wife believed me, thought of our child. One might have been enough for us, but someday the child would need more than ghosts to see the temple of our lives.
So we began to make room in our minds for another someone. We began trying to create life. After eight months, pleasure repeated like clockwork became a chore. Impatience and worry crept into the calendar. Every four weeks, disappointment. Had our bodies grown too old?
Our daughter didn’t know our plans, but knew somehow. At a new school, making new friends, she filled out the get-to-know-you worksheet, displayed in the hall. She had one mom, one dad, two cats, zero brothers and sisters. Heartbreak was a number. “I want a baby, even if it’s a boy.”
Finally, my wife’s giddy suspicion led to a drugstore test taken in a drugstore bathroom. She called me on the way to an office Christmas party. Her plans to get blitzed happily derailed. All the imagined logistics taking shape in our minds. Think about when to: recover tiny clothes from the attic, research car seat reviews, buy paint samples for the nursery, schedule maternity leave, tell parents, tell aunts and uncles, tell the future big sister, ping-pong names back and forth, sounding them aloud, testing the shapes with our lips. Does that sound right? Is that your name? Is that you in…
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