Back in my newspaper days, “Almost There” was the name of my weekly column. To me, the title called to mind the joys and challenges of both parenthood and life: the constant wondering and plaintive vocalization (not only from children) of every journey’s most persistent question — are we there yet? — and the fluttergut, giddy anticipation of being always on the verge of something new, terrifying, wonderful…
Tonight we are less than a week from full-term, anxiously awaiting the arrival of our fifth child, and the anticipation is agonizing. Jodi’s discomfort, and her growing anxiety about the discomforts to come, is a burden I would carry for her if it were permitted. I, on the other hand, find myself choking back tears at odd moments, caught up in memories of my love’s labors past, her courage now, and her life-giving beauty.
We’re quite a pair, we two.
Our home is a pre-Christmas jumble. Our kids are wound to their full holiday potential, and occasionally fly off into the wall or ceiling in a buzz of released tension. The baby magnifies all, and the air in the house is thick with suppressed emotion. When this child comes, you’ll know.
On Monday, Jodi said she felt as though something had dropped. We went to the clinic on Tuesday and were told that was not the case; our little one was still high above the birth canal and content to stay there. On Wednesday, returning from Christmas shopping alone, my bride had her first real contraction. “It hurt so bad I thought I was going to die,” she told me when she got home. “I thought, ‘I should pull over,” then thought, ‘I’d rather die at home.'”
We laughed. We’ve done a lot of that. Just one contraction. A doozy, but none since. We wait.
The week before, our doctor, an older man with a wizard’s eyebrows and the experience to wear them without pretense, felt Jodi’s belly — “Feet, rump, head,” he declared as his hands moved and pressed lightly — and told us he felt a great deal of fluid and a not-unusually-large infant. He is not concerned at this point, given our history of large babies and no troubles.
His proclamation, coupled with Jodi’s finicky stomach and appetite and other tiny cues, have led to my official prediction for our baby: we are having our tomboy, an active girl of about 10 pounds (plus or minus two ounces; 9-15 like her daddy would be just fine), 21 inches long or so. She’s gonna sleep alright, but when she starts moving about, she’ll be our first climber. We shall have our hands full. She will have a Thorp head, of course, and Jodi’s hazel eyes that look green in the right light.
You heard it here first…but who knows, really?
If we welcome a boy, our intention is to call him Samuel Firmin Thorp — Sam — middle-named for Jodi’s maternal grandfather (it means “strong”), unless God calls him something else when we see him. If she is a girl, as I predict, she will likely be Lily — Lillian Clara Thorp, middle-named for Jodi’s paternal grandmother.
And so you know: we intend to bring our four older children to the hospital to see the baby and guess the gender before the big “reveal,” so to speak. This means we will tell you much, but not all, when it happens. I will let you know that we’re in labor, and let you know when we have a child, the health and well-being of all involved — but you’ll have to be patient on the specifics. Modern technology is poor at keeping secrets, even from middle- and grade-school kids.
A few weeks back, just before friends held a baby shower for Jodi, someone asked Jodi what we needed for the new arrival.
“I don’t know,” she shrugged. “Nothing really.”
Another friend asked one of the shower organizers the same question.
“Everything, I think!”
Our family, friends, and parish have provided abundantly for us at little cost. I was flipping through old columns and ran across one from 1997, before Brendan arrived, with the headline, “Preparing for baby boggles the mind.” What we worried about then is funny now. So much we didn’t know, and yet we have four children about whom we could not be prouder.
Are we pushing our luck?
No matter. We have what we need, and what we lack will be provided, come what may. We are ready. Little one, are we there yet?