Ever since we announced to our five sons that they would soon have another little sibling, Steve and I have both been amazed, and often times humored, by how different their individual reactions to and participation in my pregnancy have been. One boy has become even more attentive to the needs of everyone in the house, not just mine. He prepares lunch, folds laundry and bends over for me during these latter months of discomfort without ever being prompted. In contrast, another boy still asks me to play basketball and jump on the trampoline with him as if nothing has changed at all over the past 9 months.
And, then, there's one son in particular who has truly surprised us with his fascination over my growing belly, and that's Henry. Of all of the boys, he's the most rough and tumble, the most temperamental, the most independent, the most "all boy" boy in the family. And, yet, from the very moment my midsection began to show proof of a life growing inside, he has taken on a surprisingly tender side, one that is a beautiful reflection of 6 year old innocence and wonder all wrapped up in one.
He expresses this tenderness with frequent hugs and gentle pats on my tummy, asking several times a day how the baby is doing and simply wanting to sit as close to me as possible during story time or the family rosary.
Like any curious little boy, he has had a lot of questions throughout the baby journey, questions such as:
How does your skin stretch so far?
Where do your guts go (I know, total boy verbiage) when the baby takes up all the space inside of you? (I did Google that one for them.)
How long does that baby have to stay in there?
AND - OUR FAVORITE QUESTION OF ALL -
Are you gonna use those "nursers" to feed the baby just like you did with Charlie??
When Henry was a baby, George's name for the "nursers" was "gutters," although we think he meant udders, since prior to seeing me nurse, he had only seen a cow feeding her calf. We laugh hysterically over those two and their creative descriptions of my nourishing parts.
Just when I thought we'd covered every question and every quote, yesterday Henry came up with yet another proof that he's been thinking long and hard about the new person who will soon be joining our family.
Yesterday, while at the Target checkout, I noticed him anxiously trying to pull a fist-full of change out of the pockets of his red gym shorts. After pretending to count all of his money, he stood on his tippy-toes and scanned the gum and mint display with great intensity.
Mom, how much are the Ice-Breakers? I can't see the price! Do you think they're a dollar, because I only have a dollar?!
I tried to explain to him that if the Ice Breakers were too expensive, there were other choices that he could afford to buy with his money, but he absolutely insisted on having Ice Breakers.
Thankfully, the very item he so deeply desired was only $0.69. Looking at the grin on his face you would have thought I'd just handed him the moon.
Proudly, he paid for his big blue box of mints and held them close to his chest as we walked out the store to the car. Once inside, I just had to know what was fueling his fascination with the mints.
Well, mom, I was thinkin'. When you call us and tell us that we can come to the hospital when we get there you are probably going to let us hold the baby, right? Well, I don't want to have really stinky breath when that happens, so I'm going to keep these Ice-Breakers and eat some before I get there. Then, I'll be nice and fresh and won't make the baby cry.
I would have given anything to have my camera with me just to have been able to video the entire process from the the counting of the money to the emphatic insistence on buying a particular mint to the pure delight of his expression as he explained to me with great pride his deeply contemplated and completely unexpected gesture of consideration.
This morning I found him in Charlie's room counting each mint and trying to calculate whether or not he actually had enough to share with his brothers.
Every day there's something, some great goodness, that may seem to others like such small things, that my boys reveal to me. It's a goodness that I see within them, one that washes over my heart, filling in the weathered cracks of frustration and fatigue, cracks that make me feel as though any moment I'll fall apart, that I cannot bear one more weight of the struggles that come with being a mom. And, it is these very things - the beautiful gestures, the thoughtful ideas, the warm affections - that I realize have nothing to do with me and everything to do with God the Father. A Father, who in his infinite goodness and wisdom, has created these unique and beautiful persons as expressions of Himself just for me to love and to be loved by. Persons, who in their very being give my life such a great sense of purpose and joy.
I can't wait to see their faces the very moment when they walk through the door of our hospital room. I'll especially be anticipating the moment we place the baby in Henry's arms, when he, with minty breath, will hold his new sibling close and oh-so-freshly say hello for the first time.