It was the first really warm day in April. Winter finally released New England from its icy grasp and nature was set free to bloom. Everything was new and the leaves were green in their infancy, and people left their houses, looked around, and smiled while taking in deep breaths of unadulterated spring.
My 6-year-old, Will, and I had just tried our hand at trout fishing, with no luck. But despite the zero tally regarding the fish count, we rewarded ourselves with a trip to the local hot dog stand for footlongs and fries.
After placing our order, Will bolted to the playground while I sat at a picnic table waiting for our number to be called. I briefly turned my head toward the sky and smiled, then glanced toward my oldest who was already making his way across the monkey bars. My old middle school loomed in the background behind my son -- an eerie juxtaposition of new and old, past and present.
It dawned on me we were eating at a place I loved in my youth, in front of a school MJ and I attended for three years. At 11 years old I had already met my future wife, despite the fact that she'd move away, and I'd go four years without seeing her. Then, nine years ago, MJ and I drove to that very school during a blizzard just minutes after I asked her to marry me. We danced together in the empty parking lot, snow swirling around us and flickering in the headlights.
I was lost in thoughts of storms, tranquility, past, and present when my phone rang. Fittingly enough, it was MJ.
"Perfect timing," I said, skipping over the hello. "I was just sitting at the hot dog stand with Will and looking at the middle school and thinking about us and everything..."
She cut me off before I could finish, and I could immediately tell she was in a panic.
"Come home now. I'M PREGNANT!"
It's not like we hadn't discussed having a third child. Those conversations started months before that day at the playground, almost as soon as we brought Sam home from the hospital. It's just ... those discussions had never ended with any kind of firm answer.
I think if you forced her to answer, MJ would say she wanted another baby. As for me, well... I had been truly torn. Did I want a daughter? Yes. But did I really want to go through the newborn phase again when I had such a tough time emotionally with Sam? Honestly, I didn't think so. Besides, we have terrible luck with pregnancies, not to mention having no room in our duplex (or our budget) for a third kid.
Also, three sounds like a lot.
I talk to parents with three kids and they're straight up harried. Not like normal parent harried, but "tear your hair out holy crap I need six more hours in the day" kind of stressed. Three is a lot. Three's company. Three is being forced to abandon man-to-man defense and go with zone. Simply put, three is scary.
So I had told MJ the truth -- I didn't know how I'd react to a third kid until I was actually put in the situation.
My first, split-second reaction was shock. Pure shock. And fear.
We can't afford this baby. We weren't trying for this baby. How the hell did we even get pregnant when I have a condition that gives us roughly a 2 percent chance of conceiving on our own without IVF? Where would the baby sleep? What would I ever do with a daughter? What the hell will I ever do with three boys? And it was all made worse by the fact that my wife was in hysterics, I wasn't with her and I had to keep it all together in front of Will.
I quickly collected our food and my son, and we hopped in the car to head home. I passed the middle school, I remembered dancing in the snow, I saw my oldest in the rearview mirror, and I looked at the picture on my phone of Sam.
And then I busted out laughing.
Not a giggle or a chuckle, mind you. I started belly laughing my ass off. Uncontrollable bursts of hearty laughter usually reserved for my favorite comedies. Will was looking at me like I was nuts, but for the life of me I couldn't stop. I was laughing so hard I started crying, yet I was also wearing an ear to ear grin. As I pulled into the driveway, I laughed once more because I quickly realized I had answered my own question.
Our baby had a due date of December 25. A Christmas baby. Our gift.
We brought 9-month-old Sam to the OB appointment partly because we didn't have a babysitter (because we didn't tell anyone the news), but also as a good luck charm -- even if neither of us would admit it. Because if you're new to these parts, we're well-versed in miscarriages and pregnancy loss. Four miscarriages in as many years. A medically necessary abortion due to a fetal abnormality at 16 weeks. Not good.
Despite having two beautiful boys and having been through the wringer, being in that room with the ultrasound tech didn't get any easier.
MJ hopped on the table while Sam bounced on my knee. The grainy image began to take focus on the small screen as I held Sam with one hand and took MJ's in the other. Sam cooed and raised his hand to the screen, reaching out in an attempt to touch it. His little cherubic fingers finally found the glass, and he started tapping at it.
Right at the void where a flickering heartbeat should have been.
We're fine. Really, we are.
I don't know why or how we've lost five pregnancies in the seven years we've been trying to have kids. But you know what? I don't know how I became so blessed to have the two unbelievable boys who call me dad. A lot of people would say we're unlucky, but we're not. If anything, we're incredibly fortunate to have the life we do. To have our happy and healthy sons.
I don't know if we'll have another baby. That will most likely involve IVF and all the risks, effort, and potential for disappointment and heartbreak that carries with it. But at the very least, I now have an answer to the question.
I'd be thrilled to have another baby. As if there was really any other answer.