The girls are having trouble figuring out how to act while waiting for the baby to arrive. Now that we are a good five days or so past our due date they have had close to a week to spend nervously standing in line for a roller coaster that they have never been on before. Or, to be even more specific, standing in line for a roller coaster without having any concept of what a roller coaster even is.
I try to put myself in their little pink shoes and picture getting strapped into some sort of funny little train, and then slowly getting pulled up the first hill. “Oh.” one might say, “I get it now.” But you can’t get it, and you won’t know just how much you didn’t get it till you are halfway through the second loop de loop. And only then will you say, “Whatever, I have no idea what is even going on anymore.”
That will come later. For now, they are just restless and wired. Running, rolling, tumbling, foaming at the mouth, falling asleep suddenly in odd locations and then waking up at the drop of a hat to run circles till they hit something. This is what the days consist of. It’s amusement park energy. It’s summer and full of cotton candy and scuffed knees, and it is really quite exhausting.
I decided to confront Clara during a rare quiet moment just before putting her down for the night. I asked her if she was scared about the baby coming. She was still for a few moments and then answered honestly. “Yes.”
When I asked her what she was scared of she said, “I’m scared that we are going to have the baby come out, and then we will forget it somewhere. Like we will go to the store and then leave him there when we go home, or forget him at church or in another state or something. I don’t want to forget about him, because he’s a baby and will need us to take care of him. But what if we forget?”
I nodded understanding, and reminded her that there were only two of us in the family when she arrived, and two of us remembered her. And then there were only three of us when Lydia came along, and the three of us were there to remind each other about her. So, now there are four of us to remember about the new baby, so we will have to all work together to not forget. This seemed to appease her for the moment.
It settled her down enough to get her to her bed at least. But I know it didn’t reach the real issue. Because I know what she is really saying. I know because I feel the exact same thing myself. What she was really saying is that she can’t imagine a world where we have a fifth person in our family. It’s impossible to believe that we will ever be able to have that arrangement be “normal”. Surely, before too long, we will just continue with our current routine and forget all about a new baby boy. We will have our little birthday party, and shake hands with the honored guest, and then he will go home to live with his real family and we will continue on as we are now. As it has always been. Like there never was a time when Clara wasn’t five and Lydia wasn’t our youngest running around in diapers. I’ve done it twice now, and it never gets easier to wrap your head around the inevitable change.
The real and frightening secret to this roller coaster is that once they strap you in, you can’t ever get off again.