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Out of the Mouths of Babes

By Susan Vaughan Moshofsky

Susan Moshofsky jpg“EWW! MOM! You and Dad did THAT? Why couldn’t you have waited ’til I was out of the house? I thought you guys were NORMAL!” My 10-year-old daughter, Rachel, waggled her finger at me accusingly, her eyes still wide from the news of my pregnancy.

I struggled for the right words. “Honey, every person you know is here on this planet because their parents did ‘that.’  There wouldn’t be any babies, ever, if people didn’t, and besides, it’s perfectly normal for people who love each other,” I explained.

“MOM! I don’t want a baby in this house! We have enough to do around here already! It will wake me up, cry, and bug me! And I don’t want you coming to school looking pregnant! All the boys will know what you and Dad did!” Rachel folded her arms and glared accusingly at me across the breakfast bar.

“Well, honey, a baby is coming, and we hope all will be well.” I felt like kissing a good luck charm every time I talked about the future of this high-risk pregnancy. After years of secondary infertility and two miscarriages, no superstitious ritual was out of bounds.

“But Mom, you’re 40! That’s too old! You’ll be almost 41 when the baby’s born; 61 when the baby’s 20, and I’ll be 21 when this baby is 10!” She paused for breath, narrowed her eyes, then questioned in a low voice, “When did this happen?”

I drew in a breath. “I don’t know, honey.”

“You mean you did it more than ONCE? GROSS, Mom!” Rachel huffed upstairs. The barstool she’d been twirling on spun as she stormed out of the room.

That night I heard her calling to me from the upstairs bathroom. I waddled in to find her lying stretched out in the bathtub, contemplatively soaking in a bubble bath that seemed to have spawned from the shampoo in her hair. “Mom,” she questioned. “What is IT, anyway?”

“Honey, we’ve talked about this before. You know what sex is,” I replied, hoping I didn’t sound as uncomfortable as I felt. Wasn’t she too young for this level of detail?

“Yeah, but Mom, I just can’t figure it out. I mean, how does ‘it’ work?”

I pulled up a chair—the toilet seat—and went over the facts again in what I hoped was age-appropriate terminology. At the end of our talk, she smiled cautiously, sat up, and poured bath water over her head with a plastic toy spoon to rinse out her hair. “Okay, Mom, but I still think it’s gross.”

“Just keep thinking that ’til you’re 21,” I called on my way out of the bathroom.

Early the next morning, she stomped into my room, back on the topic. “MOM! I just can’t get that picture out of my mind! Why did you and Dad have to go and do THAT?”

I wiped the sleep out of my eyes and adjusted the tie on my bathrobe. When will this end, I thought blearily. Is she ever going to accept my pregnancy, and the thought that her father and I had sex (again)?

“Honey, it’s very normal…” I faltered.

“But MOM! Not at age 40!”

“Honey, Travis’ mom had a baby at 41. She even came to school looking pregnant, and no one made fun of Travis.” I reminded her of Travis living through an “aging” mother’s pregnancy because I knew she liked him and that he counted among the “cool.”

“Mom. We were in third grade then,” she replied, her tone imperious. She shook her head, ponytail flipping. “I’m a fifth grader now. The boys will make so much fun of me! They know all about IT now!”

As the weeks wore on, I invited her to join me at the doctor’s office to listen to the baby’s heartbeat—a ritual designed to carry me through to some “safe harbor” point in my pregnancy. Rachel refused. “I don’t want to see you cry, Mom, if you don’t hear it.” She had known about the two earlier lost pregnancies, and my grief had been hard for her.

But when I returned from these brief, weekly appointments, she’d always look up at my eyes questioningly. “Mom?” she’d ask. I’d give her the thumbs up. She’d smile, her eyes would light up for just a second, and then she’d frown and give me the thumbs down sign.

By the six months’ mark, my obstetrician began to discard her cautionary, protective tone with me. The baby would be born early—just a question of how early. If born now, the baby had a 75% chance of survival, she said. The odds were getting better. We talked about possible delivery scenarios.

As the thirty-week appointment drew near, I tried again to involve Rachel. “How about coming to my next ultrasound?” I asked. Since I hadn’t brought it up for a few weeks, I hoped she’d agree.

“NO WAY, Mom! I don’t want to see this dumb baby! I don’t even want it to be born!”

“But you’re studying dolphins and their sonar at school now,” I prodded lamely. “Ultrasound uses some of the same principles…” my voice trailed off as I saw her eyes glaze over.

“No, Mom. I don’t want this baby. It will ruin my life. It will cry all the time; we’ll be so disorganized; you’ll have to…BREASTFEED!” her eyes widened as she considered this heretofore-unpictured possibility. “Oh, Mom, this is just SO embarrassing!” She ran upstairs to her room, slamming the door.

I sighed. The truth of the matter is, our lives will change, drastically. I’ll be sleep deprived. Our home will be in chaos. I will no longer have the excuse of pregnancy for my plus-size clothing.

And one more thing: everyone does know exactly what we did. The pity is, with a new baby, we won’t have time for it anymore!

About the Author: Susan Vaughan Moshofsky lives in Portland with her husband and three children, where she teaches English at an IB World School. Her work has appeared in Brain, Child, The Oregonian, and Seattle’s Child. 

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