We went inside for a minute, probably to check our TV guide to see if this week’s X-Files was going to be a new episode. When we came back out, he was gone. Vanished without even a puff of fur. We never saw him again. Neighborhood hoodlums or that insatiable cavia wanderlust, we’ll never know.
At that point that my lovely and talented wife sat down on the porch and cried. As I scoured the perimeter of arborvitae that surrounded our apartment, she wailed, “I can never be a good mother! I can’t even keep track of a guinea pig.” A pregnant pause followed, as we looked at each other, each silently thinking, “what an odd thing to say…”
Sure enough, within a couple of weeks, we discovered that we were going to have a baby.
Baby #2 came as the result of two factors. First, a false sense of security from baby #1 (a thoroughly pliant child: content in restaurants, movie theaters, or gallivanting about town with nary a complaint and always happy to fall asleep in the car) lulled us into that dangerous mirage of thinking that we knew what babies were about.
Second, the following chronological series of events occurred between April and November, 1998. My lovely and talented wife finished her Master’s work in Education. The theater where I worked embarked on an aggressive campaign to expand our touring range over the East Coast. The self same theater laid plans to acquire a resident stage in Baltimore. The twice aforementioned theater assured me of a promotion commensurate with the aforementioned growth. I turned down a job offer to move back to Pennsylvania. We decided to buy a house in Baltimore. My father, who lived in Pennsylvania, was diagnosed with cancer. The East Coast expansion fizzled. The resident theater fell through. Chemotherapy failed and my father’s cancer became terminal. We could not find a house in Baltimore that we simultaneously liked and could afford. The assured promotion evaporated. I received a call that the Pennsylvania job offer was still open. I accepted the job. My lovely, talented, and educated wife agreed to leave her teaching job, which had been our bread, butter, and doctor visits, where she had just earned a large raise by completing her Master’s work, and move to Pennsylvania with me. My father died.
Within a few weeks, we discovered that we were going to have another baby.
Baby #4 arose out of a feeling that we surely now we had run the gamut of parenting experience. Baby #2 had turned out to be the inverse of baby #1. The experience can be summed up in a short video clip from that era. The scene consists of two closed bedroom doors. It is night. A careful observer will note that the doorknob of the bedroom on the right has been altered so that the lock is on the outside. From inside that door can be heard ferocious screaming. From inside the bedroom on the left can be heard the sound of a child delicately bellowing an improvised lullaby, something like “SLEEEEEP baby, you can go to SLEEEEEP now…” Clearly the intended audience is the imprisoned occupant of the bedroom on the right. The effort fails, but the moment is precious.
Into this environment, we planned-- PLANNED I say-- to add another baby, and took appropriate action. A new century, a new millenium had dawned, and things had largely stabilized. We owned a home which we loved. I enjoyed my job and achieved success. My lovely wife displayed admirable talent and patience while under house arrest-- errr, stay-at-home motherhood. Baby #1 graduated from pre school and was ready to tackle kindergarten.
And so it came to pass that baby #4 materialized. However, unbeknownst to us at the time, baby #3, who has never since waited for so much as a dramatic pause in his life, also availed himself of the opportunity to push ahead. At the same time. In the same womb.
Within a few weeks, we discovered that we were going to have another baby, plus a “buy 3, get one FREE” baby to boot.
I don’t remember much of the years 2001 - 2003. I recall that for a brief time more than 50% of our children were in diapers. I also remember thinking that no one should be allowed to use the phrase (and pardon my grotesqueness, but we are talking about diapers) “this tastes like shit,” save those who over the course of some 40,000 soilings and the occasional itchy nose MIGHT be able to lend the weight of empirical evidence to the judgement.
I say “might” because as I said earlier. I don’t remember much of the years 2001 - 2003. Somewhere, somehow, someone taught #3 and #4 how to walk, and to feed themselves. To this day, we are not sure who that was.
In any case, I do not know where babies go. Within a few months, one of ours will be in college, one will be in high school, two will be in middle school, although I am not totally sure of which one is going where. However, I do know where babies come from.