In retrospect, the dog’s disappearance should have been my clue that life wasn’t going to take a break while we celebrated the birth of our third and final child.
My c-section was scheduled for Monday morning. My mom arrived the Friday before, ready to help with the older kids. When we walked to the corner store the first day of her visit, she stumbled over Ellie while carrying Scott on her back. She was pretty banged up but seemed to be okay. I tried not to take it as an omen. I probably should have.
On Sunday, we let the puppy out for his morning run, and he never came back. Nate hunted the neighborhood for him but found nothing. We asked the neighbors. No one had seen anything.
That afternoon, I took my mom and kids to Wal-Mart to buy supplies and distract the kids from the missing pup. When we came out of the store, the tire was flat. I was pregnant, and my mom was sore from her fall. We only had the one car, so Nate couldn’t come to help. Instead a friend came and changed the tire, but not before getting soaked in a sudden rainstorm. Eventually we made it home. Nate dealt with the tire. I snuggled the kids and prayed the puppy would find his way home. By bedtime, we were forced to admit that he’d probably been stolen.
Then the next day we woke up early, drove to the hospital, and had a baby!
Lucy was wonderful and snuggly. A friend drove my mom and the big kids over to see her. Scott was pretty freaked out by the IV in my arm, but we had some cozy family time in the hospital before visiting hours ended. Nate and I were left with one quiet night.
The next day, after making sure I was supplied with contraband donuts, Nate swapped places with my mom, letting her stay in the hospital with me so he could be at home with the kids. The puppy still had not returned, but with all the excitement, the kids hadn’t had time to process the sad news yet.
In the morning, he called to check in. His night had been less than restful. Just as he was putting the kids to bed, they heard a loud POP, and all the lights in the house went out. He checked the neighborhood, but everyone else was fine. It was just us. A friendly neighbor recommended a relative who was an electrician. The man came and discovered that half the house needed new wiring.
In the hospital, waiting for my doctor to arrive and discharge me with my new baby, I could barely process the news. I was glad it had happened on the night he was home and not when my mom was alone with the kids. I was glad he had handled things. Mostly, I just couldn’t wait to get out of there and have my family all together.
We arrived home around one in the afternoon. I was walking slowly, still sore from the incision. Baby Lucy was fast asleep. I stopped in the doorway as my mom and kids greeted us with a Welcome Home! sign and a craft they had worked on together. Moving carefully, I knelt down to give Ellie and Scott a hug.
“Permiso,” said a voice from behind me.
It was the electrician. I was in his way.
We moved our family reunion to the couch. I nursed Lucy for the first time at home while Ellie and Scott told me all about their day and while a stranger pulled wires out of our wall.
He was there for the rest of the day. Working quietly while I sat on the edge of Scott’s bed, telling him a story until he fell asleep for his nap. Soldering wires while I followed Ellie to the back patio to watch her latest cartwheeling tricks. He was just packing up to leave as we sat down to dinner that night.
By then it was clear. Lucy’s birth was a moment. It was special and life-changing. But we were going to have to process that special, life-changing moment without breaking stride. The tide waits for no man, and tires, wires, and older siblings wait for no baby.
So life rolled on, and we rolled with it. Scott snuggled against me while I nursed the baby. My mom held Lucy while I wrangled Ellie through an epic meltdown. Nate changed diapers while I read bedtime stories and took kids to the park while I attempted to take a nap.
A few days later, in response to an offered reward, a neighbor kid took Nate a few blocks away to a house where he’d seen a beagle puppy. Sure enough, there was our Toby, chained up and covered in fleas but so happy to see Nate. After a brief negotiation, Nate brought him home to two very excited children and one sleeping baby who didn’t yet know that this animal would grow up alongside her and become her best friend.
I guess that’s the way things work. The irreplaceable and the irritating come hand in hand. The magical and the mundane are mixed in together. Sometimes a stranger plays a role in our defining moments, and sometimes we sleep through the introduction to the thing we’ll talk about nonstop for a decade.
Maybe life is less about sorting things out and more about taking it all in.
Maybe that’s all the break we need.