One July morning in the dead of summer, I awoke at 7:30 to my alarm, stretched, and pulled myself up out of bed to get ready for work. Gaby grumbled at my alarm and rolled over, while Biet slumbered away in her crib, on her belly with her bum in the air, sleeping like a rock. I knew that they would awake together shortly, as they often do (those two always seem to have their sleeping schedules synchronized), after I had gone. I put a pot of coffee on the stove and stepped in the shower, secretly relishing this quiet time to myself before the day's beginning. I sliced bananas for my greek yogurt and sipped my coffee by the window in the kitchen, looking out onto the quiet Brooklyn day.
It was slow at the restaurant that day, but I didn't mind. I did a bit of creative research in my spare time, when there were no customers, and daydreamed about our summertime adventures. I envisioned journeys to the beach and outdoor shows in the park, and lazy afternoons with homemade lemonade and watermelon. This was to be our first summer in Brooklyn and I wanted to make it a great one. We had just hosted Biet's first birthday a few weeks prior, and now that the commotion of friends and family and gifts and excitement had settled down, I felt that the our days belonged, once again, to us three.
Gaby surprised me that afternoon by arriving at the restaurant to pick me up from work, baby and dog in tow. He waited outside with the biggest grin on his face; a smile full of excitement and love and contentment. I finished up and stepped out into the warm air and he hugged me and told me that he had something to tell me.
"Baby, I'm ready," he said.
"Ready for what?"
"Biet and I had such an amazing day together. I feel that I am really good at being a Dad. I mean, really good. I mean, I really think that out of everything I've ever done, I'm the best at being her father. So I've decided- I am totally ready to have another one."
I fell silent and stared blankly, completely taken aback by my husband's unconventional greeting. We talked and talked, alternating between laughter and seriousness, as we walked to Prospect Park. We picked up some seltzers to cool down and stopped to have a little picnic in a grassy patch. Biet pulled out chunks of grass and dirt as we discussed the crazy idea of another baby. On our walk home, I told him that I would need some time to process it all, and we left it at that.
We walked home along one of the prettiest blocks in our neighborhood, a street filled with Victorian mansions and huge crooked trees. The block looks from a movie- perfectly manicured with perfectly painted houses and not a thing out of place. Except on this day there was one thing out of place. Spoiling the scene was a big cardboard box sitting in the middle of the sidewalk. As we approached the old torn box I could see that it was overflowing with books, falling onto the narrow sidewalk and blocking the way. Gaby maneuvered the stroller and the leash around the box, and as I followed them I stopped for a second and caught my breath.
Every single book in that box was about being pregnant. Books on pregnancy diet, yoga, health, beauty... A box of pregnancy sitting in the middle of our path.
Not one to follow superstitions, but always one to notice signs and synchronicity, I bought a pregnancy test later that day. I secretly took it to the bathroom and held my breath as the minutes ticked by. Not Pregnant. Of course I wasn't pregnant, I told myself, I was just being crazy and getting worked up over nothing. How silly.
I thought about Gaby's unexpected announcement all throughout the next day and the next night at work. Was he nuts? Another one- now? We had always known that we wanted more babies in the future, but when was it time for our imagined future to become the present? Were we prepared to be a family of four? Is anyone ever really prepared? With Biet still nursing full time, was my body even ready to grow another one? Deep down I was unbelievably happy that Gaby had been the one to leap into this idea first. What a man, so thrilled about babies. I knew that Biet was lucky to have a Papa like him. And I knew that all of our questions would be answered in time.
I walked slowly home from the subway station that night, along the avenue peppered with street lights and stray cats. The dark sky and quiet streets put my thoughts to rest. As I approached our block, I noticed a big old car from the early '70's, rusting and falling apart, parked all alone on the side of the road. I thought about my Dad, who taught me to drive on an old Mustang. Then I saw two little shadows on the hood of the car... two little baby shoes. Just sitting there. How peculiar.
I snuck into the apartment quietly and made my way to the bathroom. I watched the little plastic window with such anxiety. Not Pregnant. What was I doing, I asked myself. It was late and I was reading way too much into randomness, letting my wild belief in signs get the best of me. Let it go. Go to bed. You are not pregnant.
Gaby awoke early the next morning and made a big pot of coffee for me and a big pot of oatmeal for Biet, Papa's way, with almond butter and honey mixed in. He brought my mug to the bedside and woke me up gently, as he's always done. I opened my eyes and stretched, but before I could sit up there was a wild baby plopped on my belly, smiling and leaning in to nurse. So Biet got to drink her milk first, then Mama got to drink her coffee. She finished up and went back to her Papa's arms, and I stood up to start my day. And then the world began to turn dark and my eyes filled with sparkles. My head felt light so I sat right back down until it passed. It happened again and again throughout the day.
I remembered how with Biet, the first, the only, sign of pregnancy for a long while was lightheadedness. No matter how slowly I would stand up, I would always feel dizzy and off. But now I was grasping at straws, I told myself. I wasn't even longing to be pregnant, I just couldn't shake the odd feeling from the past few days. I had to stop. There was one test left in the box, and I knew that I had to get rid of it and stop obsessing over all of these coincidences. So I vowed to read the Not Pregnant message one last time, and get back to my summer. No more tests, no more craziness. We would return to this journey when we actually began trying for number two.
I placed the test on the counter and began washing my face. I rinsed the soap, pressed a towel to my face, and opened my eyes.
It was true. All along. When Gaby had picked me up from work, there was already a baby growing in my belly, a baby who will be born when Biet is one year and nine months old. Funny how the universe works sometimes. It was a baby I didn't even know that I wanted. But as I read that declaration over and over, Pregnant, I wanted it more than anything.