I was twelve years old–the “space between”, uncomfortable in my own skin, deeply passionate about most everything, sensitive to a fault. It was the fall of my first year of junior high and for me, middle school carried a hope of a brighter day.
I noticed bright blue bottles that showed up on our kitchen counter. I would say now, with my advanced years, that the bottle was a “Tiffany” blue. Being what my mother would call a “nosey parker,” I reached for the bottle and read that they were prenatal vitamins. Just about six months after “the talk”, I got what prenatal meant.
I was humming with excitement–a baby! I kept the info to myself, not wanting to share in case I was wrong. I became a super-sleuth and watched my mother with a careful eye. Our family prior to our baby, was a tidy two boys and two girls. Two girls and two boys were symmetrical, easy teams. When my parents sat us down and told us that we were going to have a baby, we were all happy, I remember that. We were an orderly two years apart, the youngest was 6. This was going to be a great adventure.
And Then There is Reality
I remember changing in the locker room in junior high, when a friend came up, she had just heard the news. “Oh my gosh, your mother is going to have a baby? Isn’t she too old?”
For the record, my mother was 35, younger than I was for the last two of my children.
Another girl clamored forward, “Wow, a baby. You know what that means?”
“What?” The girls squealed in unison. “That your parents “DID IT!”
It didn’t take much to embarrass me in those days, so that pretty much did me in.
Red-faced and mortified, I went through the rest of the day trying desperately not to think of any of the conversation. When I got home, I was clearly quiet and my mother asked why. I didn’t want to hurt her, so I just told her that I had had a fight with my girlfriends. By this time, teenage histrionics were not new, so she let it go, but I was still embarrassed.
Once the baby started to show, all embarrassment was put aside for the wonder of it all. How cool that we were going to have a little baby. My sister and I started to plan with my mother and before long, it was so anticipated, we could not wait for its arrival.
The New Normal
My dad took to waking us up and getting the four of us ready for school so my mother could sleep, in the early days. He would normally be out the door early, so this was different. Of course, in his true fashion, it was done with a mock drill sergeant’s flair. His engineers’ proclivity to turn everything into a formula was truly tested by four kids of varying ages and even wider varying speeds of preparation.
He would line up the four, brown lunch bags, mouths open like birds waiting to receive the “bounty” of his lunches–white bread, american cheese with mustard, and apple and a dime for milk, tossed in with all the flourish of a circus magician.
Those mornings had a much more kinetic pace than the mornings with my calm mother, who would have things handled and would sing through her chores. Somehow my father’s sudden involvement gave us some clue as to the import this child would have in our lives. Based on the fuss and preparation it was clear that this small baby was not going to fit seamlessly into the four, but that the four would have to unlock elbows and allow it to join.
My mother had a baby shower, a “Jack and Jill” shower WAY before today’s millennials made it cool. There were men with breast pads parading around with martinis, and there were gifts to the rafters. A baby among their cronies was a novelty, so we suffered the ribald jokes and the off-color humor. As we watched, the ladies cooed over the goodies and the men slapped backs and generally had a good time.
Darkest Before the Dawn
It was Lent, the season of sacrifice and deprivation in the name of the joy of Easter, and my mother’s time was due. She was large, but incredibly mobile doing all the things that she would normally do. We had our Easter outfits purchased, she had baked our favorites, tidied up the house, and was ready.
I was 13 and well able to be left alone. I remember coming to the top of the stairs of our house and looking down to see my father, door open, helping my mother out.
“What’s going on?” I yell-whispered.
“It’s time, I’m taking your mother to the hospital. I’ll call you,”. My mother gave a backwards wave, half out of the door already.
“Good luck!” I whispered and felt the cold grip of fear. Did she need luck? She was ancient, was it safe to have a baby?
I crept back to my twin bed in the room I shared with my sister and we talked about it. We thought we would go back to sleep
A few hours later, the front door opened, I ran to the steps and asked my Dad what had happened. He said that he didn’t have any information yet, but he wanted me to go back to bed. I laid in my twin bed praying desperately. Then I heard my father’s voice on the phone. He was talking with my grandfather, his Dad, a gruff and not incredibly supportive individual. My father was anguished. No one would tell him what was happening at the hospital. He told my grandfather that he was going to drive his car through the front doors of the hospital if he didn’t find out something soon. He hung up and as I peered through the balusters in the staircase, I saw my father run his hands through his hair. He had tears in his eyes and I hid, thinking the worst.
And Then Came The Dawn
Then the phone rang. “Thank you, thank you,” he kept repeating.
“Kids, your mom had the baby, it’s a boy” I was so thrilled that mother and baby averted the crisis I had believed was happening, that I didn’t even care that it was a little boy. I didn’t care that I couldn’t dress him in pink, like a big doll. From that moment on he was all ours.
It was Easter Sunday. My father brought us to Mass, and my sister and I were brought to the hospital. I was a tallish thirteen, so in my pink suit and mary janes, I passed for the required age.. My sister, who was poised at the bottom end of a growth spurt, looked like a very small professional person, with a grey flannel skirted suit with red cherries on the lapel. (and Mickey Mouse knee socks). My father, with all the bonhomie and good spirit of relief and good grace, joked with the stoic guard that my sister was really 16.
We crept into the room and my very tidy and well-dressed mother was in a hospital gown, one-shoulder exposed to nurse the baby. It was a foreign feeling seeing her this way. For all the other kids’ births, we were with family and arrived home with my mother in her normal clothes and a new addition. This baby boy’s arrival was different.
My sister and I stood shoulder to shoulder, looking down at the baby. He was a little crumpled but had all the makings of a true beauty–chubby cheeks, blue eyes. We were delighted with him and have remained so for the entirety of his life.
One More Time
I never remembered the homecoming of the babies that came before–we were always whisked off to some grandparent’s house to await the birth. After we received the news we would be brought home to meet the new addition. We were so young that the new baby made little difference to our day-to-day. It was just swathed in our growing family unit, and instead of three small children, there were four. Until this one.
Most of us were fairly independent by the time my brother came along–an independence marked by our ability to wash, dress and eat by ourselves. The baby added a level of modulated chaos. My mother believed in the Confucius saying “many hands make light work,” and would hand the baby off to one of us while she cooked, or talked on the phone, or did anything else that required two hands. So this lovely, affable baby became very portable. He would easily go from hand to hand, person to person. My sister at 11 was the perfect age for baby play and she would spend time rolling with him on the floor. I was named his Godmother, and I couldn’t have been prouder, although I seriously doubt I have had any hand in his faith formation.
My friends, abandoning their thoughts of the earthier side of conception and birth, flocked to my house after school to see the new baby. His name was Christopher and everyone loved him.
He was a child who learned early on that if he remained quiet, he would find himself in the company of his older siblings without any of the rules of our upbringing. As a toddler, he loved Benny Hill and we would laugh our heads off as he toddled around parodying the very risque comedian.
When we watched Saturday Night Live as young teens, Chris could be seen, propped up in a wing chair, bottle and blanket in hand, just chilling out watching us laugh, dozing in and out. At some point, my mother would say, “Chris, should be in bed.” But he would look up with his big blue eyes and we knew we just had to keep him around.
In Chris’ teen years he was bullied and babied, in equal parts, by his siblings. When he was being a normal sullen teen, we teased him mercilessly. As we got older and had our own children, it was his turn to be a hybrid older brother/cool uncle.
When he married a woman who was his partner in every way-alike in temperament, quick to laugh, kind, and sweet, we saw our baby as a husband.
A few years later, when his first child was born with a very rare disorder we saw “Our Baby” become the most amazing father. His patience, peppered with a healthy dose of humor and realism helped shape his challenging reality. His family is filled with love, laughter, and understanding. His compassion and kindness in dealing with our mother has also been unwavering.
Our beautiful Easter Delivery was the best gift we were ever given as kids. And as adults, I could never imagine a life without him in it.
Claudia Lucey is a widowed mother of four, mostly adult children. Her “happy place” is the beach, where she spends every waking moment in the Summer. But spending time with her children is her greatest joy. Her philosophy is that laughter, even through tears, is the greatest emotional outlet. Nothing makes her happier than a good laugh, even at her own expense. She is a Director of Marketing for a construction company, yet she is a trained journalist who loves to write and photograph buildings of any size or shape.