About a month ago I came back from a doctor's appointment. Brandon and I gathered the children together and I pulled out a strip of pictures. "I was at the doctor's office and I got this when I was there. I think you might like what the picture shows." Kathleen, Edwin, and Sophia crowded around. Kathleen, being nine, was the first to rationalize the fuzzy black and white pictures. "You're having a baby!" she exclaimed triumphantly. Then everyone started cheering. Eleanor, not knowing what 'having a baby' means, joined in the cheers.
After everyone calmed down I looked at Kathleen. "You must have known," I told her, "it was probably pretty obvious, wasn't it?" She smiled back a little sheepishly. "I hoped that we would get another sibling, and I did think you were looking a little... plumper." Sophia chimed in, "Yeah, definitely a little thickish."
You can't put anything past my observant kids.
So it turns out that, as I had hoped, my faulty thyroid was the only thing keeping our family plans from moving forward. As fun as infertility treatment is in the US, I'm not even sure it exists in Tajikistan and am very grateful to have such a simple solution to my (temporary) infertility.
Every time we add another child to our family I think to myself, "You know one (or two or three or four or five) children is really a reasonable number of children. But two (or three or four or five or six) is really a little crazy. But this time I think that I'm really right about six. I grew up in a family of five children. We were normal, non-crazy, manageable, socially acceptable, and (most importantly to my mother) we fit in a minivan. According to my childhood thinking five was just fine but six, six was the province of crazy people who were just a little outside the pale of normality. After all, six children required a van. And everyone knows that vans are industrial scale vehicles for crazy large families. But now minivans (and our Pilot) seat six children, so I guess it's okay.
I've enjoyed the variety of reactions to our coming sixth child. The children are, of course, delighted. Some friends, knowing our plans, are happy to hear that things have gone the way we've wanted. Others have wondered if this baby is a surprise. And then there are those who are just puzzled. Five is already a lot of children, and six just starts to seem like... baby hoarding. Or crazy. But most hoarders are crazy, so probably both.
To everyone I smile and tell them how excited I am. Which, although it may be hard to believe, I really am. The first four children were the ones that really did me in (having four children in a little over five years will do that to you) and now I feel like I can finally enjoy the babies. After her rough start, Eleanor has been about seventy-five percent fun and twenty-five percent work. The other four were the reverse of that - mostly work and not much fun. But now I have children that fold and put away laundry, cook breakfast, clean up the kitchen for all three meals, clean up the toys, change the beds, and even (wonderfully) wipe bottoms. I never felt that I could go upstairs and rock a baby before putting them to sleep because Lord of the Flies would break out thirty seconds after I left the kitchen. But Eleanor actually got that privilege - chaos took at least twenty minutes to erupt - and I actually enjoyed it instead of tossing her into bed as fast as possible so I could insert the cadmium rods and start in on the dishes. Now things are so good that the children mostly do the dishes. It's like magic.
If you can make it through the first four, I highly recommend not stopping, because that's when the fun really starts happening. Baby number six will have five adoring older siblings to hold him (oh yes, it's a boy - the marvel of modern genetic testing) and fetch him bottles and read him stories and squabble about whose turn it is to play with him. And the older children get their own real live baby doll. I'm not sure who is more excited - me or them.
I know that the dark postpartum days will come when that *&#@! baby won't. ever. sleep, and I'll feel stretched out like an empty ballon and everything will ache and leak at the same time. I've had five and can remember the crazy that comes. But I also know that the crazy will end, even if it feels endless. And even in the middle of the crazy I'll have everyone else to remind me how sweet and tiny and cute this little baby is and how lucky we are to be able to have a family with so many people to love. And so the crazy will be a little less crazy.
So yes, we are having a sixth child. It was completely on purpose. And we're all excited!