I have told this story about Jonathan many, many times.
If you have heard me tell it before, please indulge me this -
blogging the story.
I remember that afternoon years ago in vivid detail. The big boys had trouped in from school and dumped their backpacks in the middle of the living room floor. We used the term "big boys" to refer to Jonathan and Bryce, the first and second born sons. "Little boys" was the designation applied to the Bryce-and-Reed combo, since Reed was the youngest. Bryce was the "swing man" in the equation.
As the little boys settled down in front of the TV to watch cartoons, Jonathan came wandering into the kitchen to scrounge for a snack. After swinging on the double doors of the pantry for a bit, he spied one of his favorite snacks - Oreos. I poured up a glass of milk for him and refilled my glass of iced tea before joining him at the kitchen table. His favorite snack was my guilty pleasure. We passed a bit of time with the usual pleasantries. "How was second grade today?" "Good." "Any homework?" "Nope." "Did you turn in your picture money?" "Yep." Without warning it came. The question no mother wants to hear during the Oprah hour of the day.
"Hey, Mom. How many babies can your tummy make?" Jonathan casually inquired. With a mouth full of Oreo goodness, I stalled for a minute to gather my thoughts. I knew that this moment would eventually come. However, I generally thought that it would happen after the birth of some neighborhood puppies or after the study of the phases of butterfly metamorphosis. I stalled, "What do you mean, sweetie? Are you talking about how many babies a mom can have all at one time like twins or triplets, or are you talking about how many babies a woman can have in her lifetime?" "Yeah, that's it. How many babies can a woman make ever." I softly blew out a breath of relief having dodged the "Big Question" and tried to remember who made the Guinness Book of World Records for "Birthing the Most Children." "Let...me...see...didn't we read in the Guinness Book about a woman in Russia that had had over 50 children?" "Oh, yeah. I forgot about her."
Twisting an Oreo apart and licking the creamy filling he continued his quest, "But, Mom, how many babies can YOUR tummy make? You and Dad have three kids. Can you make more?" I began to coach myself. Tread lightly here, Carolyn. Don't go blurting out any unnecessary details or explanations. "Oooooh, probably...well...yes, Dad and I could have more babies if we wanted to." I strategically sidestepped the whole "vasectomy" piece of the puzzle. Resuming the investigation, Jonathan looked at me with wrinkled "this is getting interesting" eyebrows. "So, are ya?" "Am I what, J-Sha?" "Are you and Dad gonna have more babies?" I didn't know whether he would consider my answer to be good news or bad. "No, sweetie. Daddy and I are happy with the little family we have right now!" I may have said something about having all of the children that we could afford or tolerate. Memory fails me.
"But, you could make more kids if you wanted to?" Tempted to change the flow of the conversation by blurting out promises of a new puppy, I instead admitted, "Yes. But, we're not going to! Daddy and I are perfectly hap..." "So, you CAN have more babies, but you and Dad have decided not to let them out?!" At this point, the seven year old boy before me with tousled sandy brown hair and chocolately milk breath had my full, undivided attention. I felt uneasy not knowing the direction this inquisition was headed. "I guess you could say that."
"Hmmmm." He dunked a cookie deep into his now light brown milk. "So, there are people still in you, but you're not going to let them out?" I began to look around the kitchen to see if some angelic being was behind me prompting Jonathan's questions. To Jonathan I said, "Uh, no. We are not planning on letting any people out ever again." To the angelic being, "Unless, of course, it is God's plan for our lives. Please, God, don't let it be the plan! How many C-sections must one woman endure for crying out loud!"
"Have you and Dad ever thought about who might still be inside of you?" My eyes were beginning to well with tears as I pondered the question. Were there daughters at the ready in my belly?! "Well, what do you mean, precious?" "I mean like...what if somebody like Cal Ripken, Jr. or a president or somebody real important is still in you." I brushed away a tear that was beginning to slip from my right eye. "I never thought about it that way, Jonathan. That's very interesting. Very, very, very interesting."
Tilting his head, he looked at me thoughtfully and asked, "Does God know who all is still inside of you that you're not letting out?" I began to fidget with an Oreo and shift uncomfortably in my chair as I sat with my mouth open wide wondering if Jonathan was the one who is actually posing the questions or...could it be that was God was trying to tell me something?! "I'm sure that He does, J-Sha! He knows everything there is to know about me."
"Well, you and Dad might want to talk to Him about who's still left in there. There may be a baby in there that He needs to get out." With that, he hopped down off the kitchen chair and went skipping in search of the little boys. Many minutes passed before I could move a muscle. I just sat there staring at the bits of Oreo bobbing in the remains of his milk wondering if Alan and I were deliberately choosing to ignore a future New York Yankee pitcher or a 2029 presidential candidate.
From time to time, I imagine my unborn children. The ones we didn't let out. They are all girly girls wearing tiaras and tights. Every single one of them.