Have I ever told you how we decided to have another kid?
The truth is, I always wanted a house full of children until my youngest was born and I realized I could barely manage keeping two children alive, much less a throng of them.
Mark was perfectly fine just having one kid.
I tried for years to get him on board, but our first-born wasn’t an easy infant. He had colic, but not the kind that people claim to have when their baby is just an asshole and cries a lot.
My kid was diagnosed with colic. As in, he went through a battery of tests to find out why he was crying a high pitched screech-cry for three to five harrowing hours every single God-forsaken day from the time he was six weeks old until he was three months old.
I remember calling Mark at work one day and saying, “I’m going to drive into a lake with this kid,” which was a terrible thing to say, and I’m not at all proud of saying it, but I’m even more disturbed that I was 100% serious.
So from that standpoint, I understood Mark’s hesitation at having another baby, but the part that made me think, “Hold up, you don’t want another one because the first one was so hard for you?” was because of the fact that he wasn’t even around that much during those colicky months. He worked on a project that had him in New Mexico for a week at a time every other week for the first two years of our son’s life.
Still, he held firm on having just one kid, and yes, I could have trapped him into staying married to me by getting pregnant anyway, but I didn’t want to do it that way.
I wanted him to want another baby, just like I did.
When our oldest had just turned four, Mark’s dad had a heart attack and was on life support for a few days before he passed away.
During those few days on life support, the quiet room - except for the whispers of visitors allowed in by the ICU nurses, despite their strict “2 Visitors at a Time” limit (a sign, we knew, that the prognosis wasn’t good), and the hypnotic beeping of machines keeping him alive - would be periodically jolted into adrenaline-boosted activity triggered by an alarm on his heart monitor.
The first time this happened, I was in the waiting room with family friends and with Mark’s sister, Lisa, all of our bodies crumpled into heinous waiting room chairs, some of us softly chatting, others resting our eyes, burning from tears and lack of sleep.
Mark shot through the waiting room door, startling us all into upright positions. He darted his eyes around, looking for his sister, and punctured the quiet of the room when he said in the bold voice he acquired in the Marine Corps, “Lisa, we need you in here now.”
A year or so later as I gave my case again for having another baby, I brought this up to Mark.
“You didn’t call for me: your wife - you called for your sister.”
His hands spread out, palms up, he said, “I’m sorry! It was just spur-of-the-moment, and I knew she needed to be in there.”
He thought I’d been holding on to some “he didn’t need me” moment, and that I was - what? Jealous? No.
As Mark’s wife of seven years at the time of his dad’s heart attack, I knew I was his chosen partner in life - the one that would fall together with him and cry the deep, guttural, ugly cry when his dad’s body would stop trying to rally and at last give in to the inevitable.
But that would be days later.
What I saw that day when Mark erupted, wild-eyed, into the waiting room was a brother seeking out the only other person with whom he had a since-birth connection and a shared bond with the man dying down the hall.
In that first burst of thinking, “Oh my God, this is the end” that accompanied the alarms in the hospital room, Mark didn’t need me.
He needed his sister.
They needed each other, the original four, three of whom - Mark and Lisa and their mom - would hold each other up over the coming days, and would pull me into their fold so we could all mourn the loss of “our dad” together.
But only Mark and his sister could share the memories of their family life as it was way back when it was young, and laugh together in the friendly collusion that only siblings can master about the clumsy, ridiculous decisions they think their parents made when they were kids.
I knew in my heart that I wanted that for our son.
“When we croak,” I thought, “I want him to have someone who understands where he's come from, and is cut from the same cloth.”
Fast forward a few years, after an impolite thunder-stealing from my other sis-in-law - my brother’s wife - (actually, she stole my thunder twice), which I’ll tell you about in another post, our second son was born.
All of this backstory is the long way around to telling you that I was 37 when my youngest was born, and - I don’t know how else to say it:
I think my eggs were past their expiration date.
He’s now 10 and he’s amazing, so don’t take this the wrong way.
He’s eight and a half years younger than his older brother, who, along with Mark and I, laugh constantly about because he not only has a witty, hilarious sense of humor, but he’s also sort-of oblivious - dingy? - and he is just so happy, that his obliviousness, if that is, in fact a word, is hysterical.
It’s always been sort-of my joke that my eggs were old by the time he came around, because - where my oldest wasn’t diagnosed with ADD until he was a freshman in high school, my youngest showed the obvious symptoms in kindergarten.
“Well, my eggs were starting to get crusty by the time he was made,” I’ve always joked.
A few weeks ago, his school nurse called to tell me he’d failed his hearing screening for the second time this year, and that we should have him more thoroughly tested at a doctor.
“I’m fine, Mommy,” he said from the back seat of my car, rolling his eyes at my worried face, “I raised my hand every single time I heard the beep, so I think she called the wrong mom.”
Then last week I was sitting in the waiting area at the audiologist’s office, passing the time by scrolling through my phone when the doctor walked in with him after his tests.
She asked me if he’d had any head injuries, concussions, frequent ear infections, etc., which made me realize she must have found something unusual for her to be asking me these things.
She asked if he says, “Huh?” a lot, to which I said that yes, he does, but don’t all kids? Isn’t that just one of the annoying habits all kids have?
She diagnosed him with what they call a “cookie bite hearing loss,” which means his hearing is normal at some pitches and dips down into abnormal ranges at other pitches. His “dips into abnormal” fall in the severe range, she told me as she walked me through the report of his test, and suggested hearing aids and a few additional tests to make sure there’s nothing more serious cooking.
I was in complete shock, because aside from him asking, “Huh? What?” 152 times a day, you’d never know he has a hearing problem. His speech is fine - incredible, actually - although he does come from a long line of obnoxiously-enunciating stock, so that’s to be expected.
I feel like an asshole, now, for the times I’ve yelled him and said, “Child, we need to have your hearing checked,” and “Oh my God, seriously: use the context of what I’m talking about to figure out the words I’m saying. Sheesh.”
In all likelihood, his hearing loss is genetic, but as any mother worth her salt would do, I’m putting this back on me and my womb that was starting to collect dust when he was conceived.
Did my body fail him?
Did my tired, old granny cells mix up some of the pieces when they were putting him together?
Did my sluggish, worn down insides take a cue from my late-30’s mental state and, as it was scraping together the chromosomes and strands of DNA that would become my son, decide to cut corners and think to itself, “Meh… that’s good enough for government work.”?
I know it’s not uncommon these days for women to have babies even well into their 40’s. But I just know that in my case, the ability-to-conceive doors were closing at a younger age than other women.
I don’t know, I could be wrong on that. Who knows? But I feel it in my gut. A girl knows her eggs.
I just want to drop to my knees and say to him that I’m sorry a thousand times for waiting until my childbearing years were supposed to have been behind me.
But I know that he’d say something back to me that would make me laugh a snorty laugh and that would completely erase the guilt of feeling somehow responsible for his body having a little glitch.
We’re in this in-between stage right now, where we don’t have an exact understanding of what’s going on with him because we’re waiting for orders to come through for further testing, and that’s what has my innards knotted up because, what if there’s something?