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14 April 2009

Undeserved Joy

As I've previously mentioned, my schedule this year is tick-tight, and the blogging has suffered, so how about a little update. What's been going on in SchoolMasterP's world? Well...

Let's see... a fulfilling Lenten season and Easter Sunday have passed, we're trying to sell our house and buy a slightly bigger one, the spring semester is halfway through, the hateful yearbook is finished, I just started a new Teaching Company course on Martin Luther, yellow pine pollen has once again engulfed eastern NC... uh, and... oh yeah, there is this matter about a baby on the way.

If you also read my wife's blog, or are a friend on her hateful Facebook page, you know all about the blessed news. Let me fill in some other pieces of this story of unexpected and undeserved joy.

A couple of years after my son was born, we decided to try, in earnest, for child #2, but whereas the conception of #1 was virtually instantaneous, as these things go, we had no such fortune this time around. According to the doctors, nothing was physically wrong with us, but nonetheless my wife had what turned out to be a short, unhappy encounter with a fertility drug just to see if it would help. After about a year, we decided just to let be what will be, but in reality we were both mostly convinced that the fertile years had passed us by. And so, that is the place we've inhabited for five or six years now.

What were our feelings, and thoughts, about all this? I must first admit that there was part of me, five years ago, that was relieved not to have another baby to raise after just getting through the infant/early toddler years with the Boy. Perhaps we were just meant to have one, and besides, since we aren't wealthy, and there is so much in the world for us to do with this child that maybe it was just as well. Where would we find the time or energy when we were already so sapped? How would we pay for another round of daycare? Selfish thoughts, for sure; at times, shameful thoughts. But real.

These feelings were balanced, though, by the almost unbearable disappointment my wife was feeling. Rarely does my wife seem permanently wounded by something, but this was one sorrow that seemed never to be assuaged. For one, there was the grief any woman might feel at believing her childbearing days are over. Plus, being an only child, she knew the unique challenges that growing up without siblings can present (there are, of course, unique challenges in having siblings as well!). Finally, there is just the disappointment of a dream not playing out as you'd hoped, and having that (relatively) perfectly squared American family of four was her dream.

Over time, especially the last couple of years, I started to feel the pinch of this same sorrow. I remember when the Boy was born, I thanked God so much for the privilege of being a parent, of just having that opportunity, that shot at it. I was mindful, and still am, that many who would love to be parents don't get that shot, which should always be a reproach to the smugness that comes from feeling you're "in the club." But having one child seems to naturally beg for having more, if possible - this is simply the way of life, not a judgment. It wasn't, apparently, our fate, and so staring at 40, it seemed an era of other possibilities had just slipped by us.

Increasingly, when asked why we didn't have more children, I found myself regretting that we didn't start earlier in our marriage, and regretting my former thoughts of relief over not having two little mouths to feed at once. The motivations behind such feelings ranged from low to high, the most craven of which is the thought that those with more than one child have extra buffers against the risks of losing a child. Who is more to be pitied, the thinking goes, than someone who loses the only child they have been given?

But I've also been looking upon my son with pity at times, for he is not only an only child, but an only grandchild on both sides of his family, which is a rarity. Sooner or later, I thought, all our misfortunes, all our burdens, all our infirmities will fall on his shoulders alone. It is not that he isn't happy, or that he hasn't formed many good friendships already at his young age. But it will all fall on him.

And now, we have the shocking, exhilirating, and (I'll admit) slightly intimidating news of a child on the way, due in October, with everyone apparently healthy thus far. And... Oh, my God, are You serious!?!?

Sorry, that still bubbles up every now and then. Stay tuned, dear reader, for Part II of my musings on the unexpected event...

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