Someone keeps dropping off babies at my house.
On Monday, I wake up and start a standard routine. Robe. Coffee. Newspaper. Yes, I still read it in print. Even more cliché is the baby on my porch, snuggled in a basket, silky and warm and lightly creased like a fresh pile of laundry. I wake my husband and show her to him and he smiles and coos and leaves for work. I e-mail the office and tell them I will be taking the next week off for a family emergency.
Me and Baby—that’s her name for now—get to know one another that first day. I call my Choosing Childlessness Group and tell them I will not be at the lunch meeting. I call my masseuse and cancel my late-afternoon massage, my salon and cancel my early-evening pedicure, my girlfriends and reschedule dinner for tomorrow. I figure by then Baby and I will be ready to venture out and introduce the world to this new mom-daughter duo. When my husband arrives home, he sits and holds Baby while I cook dinner. She sleeps most of the time, but when she wakes, she giggles and stares at the ceiling fan as if a circus of tiny fairies is performing to a one-baby audience. Tonight, after we put her to bed in between us, my husband and I kiss and smile at one another like we’ve just met again for the first time.
On Tuesday, I wake up and find a baby in my bathtub. No water, of course. She is older, and I think at first that Baby has grown rather too quickly overnight. But Baby is still in bed fast asleep. I call this new one Deux. My husband and I watch her crawl across the floor, her small feet wagging behind her paunchy torso. She has small, beady eyes and a rather flat nose, but even though my practical mind finds her rather homely, parts of Deux make her perfectly radiant to me. The fluff of curly, honey-colored hair and the way she crinkles her nose, mimicking me. I make breakfast, awed at the random happenstance of our lives. Though we may not have chosen this fate, apparently it has chosen us. Two babies in two days. Some might call this a miracle. My husband calls it happiness and leaves for work.
Deux is a more active baby than the first. She pulls on Baby’s ears and gets into the dog’s food and dumps the contents of my purse onto the ground. By lunchtime, I find my red lipstick stuck to the wall like a knife at a murder scene. Tonight when my husband arrives home, I ask him to watch the kids while I run out to meet my girlfriends for dinner, and he scowls and mumbles something about extra work to do, so I call and reschedule.
On Wednesday, I wake to a crashing in the kitchen, pots clanging like the tracks of the wooden coaster at the amusement park across town. My husband races to the kitchen and carries back a toddler, holding it away from his body as if he is part of the bomb squad removing hazardous material. I look closely and suppose that perhaps he is. Baby number three. This one can stand and walk for the most part, and after seeing the chaos Deux can cause, I do not have strong hopes for this day’s routine. I ask my husband if he wants to name her—yes, another girl—but he just shrugs. She crumples a drooled-on Thai take-out menu in her already-sticky fingers, and I think of my week-long adventure touring Thailand. Never again. I name her Same, which sounds something like the Thai word for number three. Besides, the third dish—Pineapple Curry—has always been my favorite.
My husband realizes we need supplies and maxes out the credit card at a nearby baby store before he goes into the office. We have been surviving on old samples from the Baby Matters Group we attended before joining Choosing Childlessness.
Thinking of them, I decide to contact my old friends and acquaintances at Choosing Childlessness and bring the babies in their brand new car seats and double stroller plus Baby Bjorn as a sort of Show and Tell. Look what life handed us, I say that afternoon. What a surprise, huh? Most of them dart their glances, trying to ignore the sheer number of babies. I see pity in some of their eyes, but a hint of envy in others.
My husband arrives home and finds me asleep on the couch, Baby sprawled on my chest, Deux sweaty and sidelined between me and the cushions, and Same playing quietly with paper clips at my feet. He laughs at our state, orders pizza, and leaves to watch the game with the guys. The babies wail.
I do not want to wake up on Thursday. I am dreaming of a room, walls padded in down feathers and velvet. A stack of books to my left. No sound. Blessed emptiness. “Mama,” I hear instead. Vier has joined us. Our first boy. He looks about two years old, and since he’s a boy, I send him to work with my husband who does not seem happy about the arrangement.
I eat cold pizza for breakfast and throw Cheerios on two of the high chairs lined against the wall. A bottle for Baby and a Bellini for Mommy. I am scheduled to meet my girlfriends again tonight, but I know that Vier has cancelled those plans with his arrival. My friends will resent me as I am beginning to resent all these babies. I did not ask for this life, but somehow I must learn to live in it.
After I get Deux and Same to nap, I hold Baby and research predicaments like mine. I find one story with similar highlights and message the Mother right away. I ask how to make it stop. All these babies. Not that I don’t love them, blah, blah, blah. She responds relatively quickly for a mother of five, encouraging me not to worry, that from every story she’s heard, five is the limit. One for each day of the week. Ha ha, she writes. She closes with a smiley face. I scroll back to her story and realize that her youngest is 21. No wonder she can laugh about it.
Deux defecates herself for the third time that day and screams while I change her. Same crawls out of her crib, climbs on a chair, and opens the back door as if she has an urgent appointment. Baby sleeps restfully, attached to my back with a sarong. She is quickly becoming my favorite.
When my husband arrives home, he looks unkept and wild. Vier’s eyes look tired, though I am not sure how I know this, since I have never looked closely at his eyes before this moment. They are the same shade of blue as mine. I tell my husband about my research, but he seems less than thrilled, takes a Valium and goes to bed.
I cannot sleep Thursday night. I stay awake in the dark, listening for the sound of the baby fairy, of fate, of whatever or whoever is leaving these unforeseen gifts in our wake. I confess that I left notes across the house, briefly explaining our predicament, noting our house size (three rooms and four kids should really be the limit), and even referencing our still current membership in Choosing Childlessness.
I accidentally doze sometime around 4 a.m. and when I wake, I find a formal typed note perched on my bedside table. “A few months should be enough time to make this a cinch,” the note reads. Underneath is a plastic wand sporting two hot-pink lines. Cinque, I think, already naming this new and final baby. A cinch. The clincher. My Cinque. My husband may not be pleased.