That night I couldn’t fall asleep. I tossed and turned but it didn’t matter, I just couldn’t fall asleep. I looked over at my wife of 7 years sleeping soundly, soon her hair was glittering in the early rays of sunlight that had somehow managed to slip into our room through the drawn blinds. It was around five AM and I had not had more than one hours worth of sleep since Clare and I had gone to bed that night.
I moved closer towards my wife and rested my head gently on her shoulder. She stirred in her sleep and opened her eyes slowly. “Taylor?”
“What’s wrong, sweetie?”
“I can’t sleep.” I moved my head down to her chest. “I’ve been awake since at least three.” I felt my wife’s hand on my head, twirling my hair softly. I closed my eyes and pretty soon the rhythm of her heart beating put me to sleep. When I woke up the sunlight was streaming into the bedroom. I raised my head and looked around. Clare was still asleep and so was the rest of the household by the sounds of things. I looked at my clock, it was ten. I yawned loudly.
Clare’s eyes blinked open and she grinned at me, hoisting herself up on her elbows. “Hey, baby,” I greeted her, kissing her lips.
“I love waking up to Taylor-Morning-Breath,” she said jokingly.
“Ha-ha.” I looked down at the large circle that was petruding from the bed, my wife’s stomach. I carefully folded down the comforter and pulled up the shirt that was covering it.
“Taylor, what are you doing?” Clare asked me.
“Shhh...” I kissed her stomach right above the navel. “Good morning, babies! Time to wake up and give your Mommy a kick or two!” Clare laughed. I kissed her again, letting my lips linger on the spot. I looked back up at Clare and fixed her shirt. I leaned over her and was about to kiss her lips when her face twisted and she quickly moved her hand to her stomach.
“You HAD to wake them up, didn’t you?” she joked. I put my hand under hers and laughed as I felt the jabs.
“Sorry?” I offered.
Clare rolled her eyes and pushed me away. She swung her legs over the side of the bed and stood up, groaning on her way up. “Don’t ever get pregnant,” she warned me.
I laughed, leaning my back up against my pillow. “I won’t. Don’t worry.”
She walked over to her closet and picked through some clothes to wear, holding out some things in front of her and then tossing them back into the closet indicating they were rejects. I sat on the bed and watched her carefully. She caught me. “Sometimes I think men should be the ones to go through this.”
“Go through what?” I asked. “Clothes?”
She threw a shirt at me which hit me in the head. “You know perfectly well what I’m talking about!” I pulled the red blouse off me and tossed it down to the foot of the bed. Clare gestured to her belly.
I made a face. “Pregnancies?”
“Yeah, pregnancies... What do you think of this one?” She was holding a green button down blouse in front of her.
I shrugged. “Whatever.” Another shirt in the face. I tossed that one down with the red one. “Can I have a blue?” I asked. “I really like the blue ones.” I yelped as a maroon skirt landed on my head. “Maroon will do...” That one went with the others at my feet. I made a face like I was thinking very hard about something. “It doesn’t quite go with the red but...” I looked at Clare. Now she was holding a shoe. “I surrender!” I called out holding up my hands. “Put down the shoe and nobody gets hurt. I’ll take the maroon skirt! It goes nice with the red! I promise!”
Clare shook her head and went back to her closet. “Men are so lucky,” I heard her mutter out loud. “Give them one month as a woman and they’d come crying back to you like a newborn baby.”
“Hey! What’s that supposed to mean!?!?”
“Nothing,” Clare assured me. “Nothing at all... Taylor, I think I have to apologize to you.”
“Why?” I asked looking down at the clothes. “It was all fun and games.”
“You must be getting really anxious.”
“Anxious?” Now I was confused.
“Yeah,” she said, her voice trailing off. She nodded towards me. “Down there.”
I looked towards the clothes at the foot of the bed. “What-” I turned red. “Oh! No, honey! Don’t worry about me. I’ll be fine. I spent years with, erm, the alone-time. Besides, being with you is all that matters. These kids are all that matters. We’ve managed 9 months before, haven’t we? We’ve worked around it. It’s more fun that way.”
Clare smiled and sighed in relief. “Good. I’ve been thinking about that a lot lately.”
“I know you have,” I joked. “I can see it in your eyes.”
My wife blushed and smiled wide. “Yeah,” she admitted.
I pulled down the covers and pulled on a pair of sweatpants that were on the chair next to my side of the bed. I walked over to Clare and kissed her cheek. “I’m going to go start breakfast for us and the kids, OK?” She nodded and held up two more shirts to her front. “Just come down when you’re ready.”
I flew down the stairs to the kitchen and got out all the ingredients needed to make pancakes for my family. It wasn’t till I was half-way through the pancake batter when I noticed the light on the telephone blinking, indicating that we had a message waiting to be listened to.
“I wonder why I didn’t hear the phone ring...” I picked up the portable phone and finished the pancakes while I dialed the number to hear the message.
“Taylor, it’s your brother. It’s about eleven your time on Halloween 20-10. Just calling to make sure that everything is set for next week, you guys are definitely coming in at noon right? Isaac and I will be at the airport to pick you guys up. Just call me back and tell me if this is right. OK? I’ll talk to you soon.”
I smiled and turned off the phone. Zac was freaking out about the wedding, he wanted everything to be perfect and I couldn’t blame him. He was really nervous. I decided to call him back later on in the day because I didn’t know if he would be awake or not because of the one hour time difference between NY and Tulsa.
“Zoë!” I shouted as her arms wrapped around my legs from behind. I looked down at the little girl in her pink nightgown, her hair mussed, her blues eyes wide... she was beautiful and best of all she was mine. I scooped her up from the floor and kissed her cheek. “Didja have fun with Kate last night?” I asked placing her down in the chair she sat in every day for breakfast.
“Uh-huh,” she said with a nod. I turned back to the pancakes and put the remaining ones on a plate. “Kate read me a bed-time story.”
“Oh she did, did she?” I said putting the plate on the table. “How many can you eat?”
“Two,” Zoë responded. “She didn’t sing to me though,” my daughter went on. I put two pancakes on her plate. “I didn’t fall asleep right away.” Zoë watched as I poured on her syrup and cut them for her. “I hate sleeping without you in the house.”
“Aw Zoë, I’m sorry hon,” I said sitting down in the chair next to her. “Mommy and I got home late last night. Too late for princesses like you to be awake.” My daughter blushed as she started to eat.
“Can you sing to me?” She asked, her mouth full of pancakes.
“If you don’t talk with your mouthful, Zoë Marie.”
She swallowed. “I won’t, Daddy. I promise.”
“Human bites!” I warned. She nodded. “OK then. I’ll sing to you to make up for last night.” I cleared my throat. “Twinkle twinkle little star-”
“No!” Zoë yelled. She shoved a forkful of food in her mouth and swallowed before speaking. “Something you and Uncle Isaac and Uncle Zac made up!”
“Like what?” I pried. Zoë shrugged. I thought for a second. “Will you settle for a song that I started to write last week?” Zoë nodded excitedly. “Good.” I waited a second before starting, getting the beat and rhythm in my head. “Looking at you I realize my heart is still new, the love we share is more than the world could ever bear, If I could I’d spread my happiness to everyone, near and far I would, just ‘cause they all should feel the love I have for you. One love isn’t the same as five loves, five is much more than true love. You were made for me, and I for you. This time we have is still new. I’m sharing my heart with you. Time and Time again I look into your eyes, wondering how I would ever survive, if you five were not in my life. One love isn’t the same as five loves, five is much more than true love. You were made for me, and I for you. This time we have is still new. I’m sharing my heart with you. The life I gave you runs within me, the love we share is never-ending. The time we’ve had is all I think of, just remember this when you are thinking of me: I’m sharing my heart with you.”
“Daddy! That was about us!” Zoë exclaimed, her eyes wide with excitement. “It was about me! And Mommy! And Anya! And the twins!”
I nodded and rubbed her back. “Yes honey, it was.” I looked up at my wife who was standing in the doorway of the kitchen. A tear fell from her eyes.
“Taylor, that was beautiful.”
I stood up and gave her a kiss on the forehead. “Just like you are.” I pointed towards the table. “Help yourself to the ones in the center, they’re still warm. I’ll go get our baby.”
“Let me get-”
“No, Clare,” I said sternly. I guided her towards her seat. “Sit down, honey. I’ll get Anya. Just relax, OK? Let me do all the work today.”
I dashed up the stairs and into the sleeping baby’s room. I leaned over the railings of her crib and smiled. She was sleeping on her stomach, breathing quietly. I placed my hand on her back and rubbed it in circles steadily. “Anya,” I said softly, giving her a warning of what I was going to do next. “Daddy’s picking you up now.” I put my hands under her arms and picked her up carefully, turning her front towards me. I placed one hand under her bottom and held her to my chest. I made a face. “You need a change.”
I quickly laid her down on the changing table but not fast enough, she started to cry. “Shhh, baby,” I soothed keeping her on the table with one hand held firmly on her stomach. “Anya, Daddy will just be one second, hold on.” One handed diaper changing, a skill that not many people are born with.
I got the new diaper on and picked her up as quickly as I could. “Anya, what’s wrong honey?” I asked the child through her tears. I bounced her around the room for a few minutes but she still didn’t stop crying. I tried the pacifier but the wails kept coming and tears kept flowing. This wasn’t her hungry cry, something else was wrong.
I went down the steps with the baby squirming and shrieking in my arms. When I entered the kitchen I told Clare to sit back down, she was struggling to get up. I walked the baby to the refrigerator and tried to stick a bottle in her mouth anyway. She threw it down three times, I was right when I said it wasn’t her hungry cry.
“Taylor, what’s wrong?” Clare asked me in a panicked voice.
“If I knew then I wouldn’t be having this problem,” I mumbled, trying the bottle once more.
“Mommy, can’t we turn her off?” Zoë asked covering her ears with her hands, forgetting the fact that she was holding a syrup covered fork in-between her fingers. She made a face when she pulled down her hands.
“Zoë!” Clare warned loudly. She came at her with a napkin, wiping our daughter’s hands roughly.
I crouched down to the cabinet under the sink and searched for something, anything, that might make Anya stop screeching. I couldn’t find anything so I stood up, defeated. I bounced the crying baby on my hip and looked at Clare. “What could be wrong?” I asked her over the shouts.
I looked down at Anya while my wife spoke, wiping away the baby’s tears. “Was she like this when she woke up?”
“No, she was fine! She only started crying when I changed her diaper.” I continued to move her up and down, up and down softly in my arms. Her face was red and twisted. She moved her head under near my armpit and stayed there, her tears now falling onto my skin. I looked at Clare in disbelief. “What is she doing?” I mouthed to my wife. Clare shrugged. I allowed my daughter to stay up against my skin and I rubbed her back to try and soothe her. After a few moments of silence the wails stopped and the remaining tears were shed.
“Now what was that all about?” I asked my newly grown baby-attachment. I looked towards Clare. “Do I move her?” I mouthed. I took a chance and removed the baby from my chest. Her face was still red, her eyes were still wet, but there was definitely no more tears falling down her water-stained cheeks. I looked at Zoë who was starring up at me, the rest of her pancakes untouched on her plate. My eyes darted around the room and settled on my wife.
“Is she warm?” Clare asked me. I kissed Anya’s forehead and felt the bottoms of her feet. I shook my head. Clare looked puzzled and quickly placed her hand on our oldest daughter’s forehead.
“Mommy!” Zoë yelped.
“She’s not warm either,” Clare concluded returning to her seat.
I looked down at the baby in my arms, her face was returning to her normal color. I put my hand on her cheek just to make sure she really wasn’t sick. I shook my head in bewilderment and walked the short distance over to the table.
Clare pulled up the tray on the high chair so I could slide her in. “There we go, Anya,” I said once Clare had put the tray back down. I let go of under her arms “I’ll get you some breakfast now.”
Anya’s face twisted and instantly she was the red color she was just a few minutes prior. The tears started again and she screamed at the top of her baby lungs. “Dada!” She cried, her arms outstretched reaching towards me. “Dada!” She bellowed along with some baby noises.
“She said ‘Dada’!” Clare exclaimed. Anya looked over towards the sound of her voice, not letting her arms down even for a moment. My baby cried harder and reached farther as if she could grab me if she reached far enough. I was afraid she’d knock over the high chair because she was extending her arms out so far, and plus she was starting to wriggle back and forth in the seat.
I leaned over, catching her under the outreached arms and pulled her back to my body. “OK, we’re going for a walk.”
“Maybe she knew you were gone yesterday,” Zoë offered to her mother as I started out of the room with the baby. “I know I sure did.”