Dear Joey, when I found out you were coming, I was not excited.
It’s not that I didn’t want you. I just didn’t want you to come right then.
I stared at the positive pregnancy test, which I didn’t really need. It only confirmed the feeling I’d already had that you were on your way. Just as I’d known with each of your sisters, before confirming my hunch with a drugstore pregnancy test.
I did the math, sitting in my bathroom. You’d be coming in mid-December. I didn’t want you to come in mid-December. That meant we wouldn’t be driving back home to Alberta for Christmas. I don’t like staying in Vancouver for the holidays. It’s lonely and boring and too much work to cook a turkey all by myself. Christmas traditions, for me, involve the annual shenanigans with aunts, uncles, cousins, and grandparents. You’ll understand, in a dozen years, when you’re getting quad rides from your uncles or horseback rides from your cousins.
You coming in mid-December also caused problems with the family ski pass we’d just bought at the local ski hill. We’d decided your sisters were old enough to learn how to downhill ski. I tried to imagine what the lift attendant would say to me if I showed up pregnant on skis, or whether I could make it down the hill with you in the baby carrier on my back. I knew neither would work, and I wouldn’t be skiing for another year.
I also thought about where you’d sleep in our three-bedroom condo, and how we’d fit another car seat into our seven-seat minivan. I thought about all the baby gear I’d given away after your sister Pearl outgrew it, because we didn’t have space to store it in our small condo. I thought about all the clothes that were stained or holey after being worn by four babies.
I thought about how I’d wanted a bigger space between you and Pearl. She’d turn two just a month before your arrival. If I was lucky, she’d potty train early like your oldest sister so I wouldn’t have both of you in in diapers. She’d have a lot of words, but she’d still have troubles expressing what she wanted. Two-year-olds need lots of hugs and help, when you would also be demanding so much of my attention.
I thought about these, while you grew and my energy waned and my stomach began to protest against my morning coffee and other favourite foods.
Then we told your sisters about your arrival. Their faces lit up. They couldn’t wait to meet you. They didn’t care about our small condo, because they each wanted you in their room. They assumed you’d be a girl, because they are all girls, and we had to say, “Maybe you’ll have a brother.” Just remember, if they ever call you a bother (as I sometimes called my brothers), that they loved you from the moment they heard about you. I worried about all that your arrival meant, but they were only excited.
Then I told my friends about your arrival. Their faces lit up. They couldn’t wait to meet you. And I was afraid to tell them I didn’t think this was a good time to have a baby. I thought of my friends who’ve lost babies, who can’t have babies, who desperately want to hold babies, and I felt bad that I wasn’t excited about your arrival. I wanted you. I just didn’t want you so soon.
I was tired. Being a mom is hard. And after four pregnancies, four babies, four growing girls, I knew what your arrival meant. I knew about the nausea and the clothes that wouldn’t fit and the pain that would bring you into my arms. I knew about the night wakings and the colicky stage and the demands of another little being on myself. I also knew the joy your first cry would bring, the peace of watching you sleep, the wonder of your tiny feet and fingers.
This time, I wanted to know who you were before you arrived. I wanted to know whether to say “yes” to the offers of baby boy clothes or baby girl clothes. I wanted to know what name to call you, where to fit you in our family. And when the ultrasound technician said, “You’re having a boy,” I couldn’t help the smile that spread across my face.
I felt like I had met you even though I had to wait another twenty weeks to hold you. You weren’t a he / she / it anymore. You were him. My son. All the girl names I’d been stressing about flew out of my head. I saw your tiny foot in the black-and-white picture, the outline of your body, the shape of your head. I repeated your name to myself. You were no longer faceless and nameless, but my baby boy, my Joey.
Your sisters came with me to the midwife appointments to check on your growth. They listened to your heartbeat and looked at the poster to see how big you were this month. They poked my stomach like the midwives did, and wanted to give you hugs and kisses before they could even see you. And one week, when I said we were seeing the midwife, Jade asked, “Are we going to get the baby out or just listen to him?”
My friends gave me clothes and cloth diapers and a bouncy chair and a cradle and blankets and shoes for you. Before your arrival, you had not only a family, but a community. You have little friends who were born just weeks and months before and after you.
And all the little things that I’d worried about somehow weren’t a problem. Because you arrived in December, swim programs had ended for your Grandma D and she was able to come for your birth. Your sisters took an extra long Christmas vacation, and learned about new baby brothers instead of math and science. They all wanted to hold you all the time, and Pearl insisted it was her job to choose your diapers. (She’s been happily sharing “her” blue diapers and “her” diaper change mat with you since your arrival.)
I got a new car seat for your sister so we could fit yours into the van. You, like all of your sisters, eschewed cribs and cradles in favour of sleeping beside Mommy. You napped through your sisters’ ski lessons and even agreed to take a bottle (occasionally) so I could ski too. We didn’t go home for Christmas, but we did go back for Easter—so you could meet your adoring aunts and uncles and cousins and grandparents and godparents.
And now, as you toddle around our home getting into things your sisters never did, I can’t imagine not having you in our lives. Your smiles make everyone around you smile; your yells make everyone leap to get you out of your current predicament. You made us babyproof for the first time as you hauled open the kitchen drawers to investigate the contents. You started walking four months before any of your sisters did. You get constant comments about your strawberry blonde hair among your brown-haired sisters.
And so, dear Joey, although I didn’t plan your arrival, I’m glad you are here. I’m glad you surprised us with your presence, and continue to surprise us every day with your curiosity and determination to keep up with your sisters.