Having Lucy: A Mom's Essay on Her Surprise Baby

By local writer and Charlottesville mom, Susanna Hickman Bartee

Sometimes a tornado blows through your life, tossing everything you're holding into the air. When the chaos finally calms, what you're left with is only what is sturdy. What is important. What will last.

My little tornado's name is Lucy. She's the fourth baby we didn't see coming.

News of her existence came just as we were planning a cross-country move. I already had my hands full planning for new jobs, a new house and a new school for our three tangible children. Didn't God think I had enough to deal with? Hadn't I said to everyone who asked that I thought three was the perfect number of kids? Didn't I give away every last stitch of maternity clothing and all the baby equipment?

This was to be the first time in nine years all of my kids would be in school all day. I was more than ready to grasp ahold of the free time I would have to pursue the things I'd had no time for during all those baby years. Oh, the books I would read, the great things I would write, the living room that would stay clutter-free all day (at least until 3 p.m.). I was right there. I had my fingertips on it. Then the stick turned blue.

I saw a T-shirt shortly after finding out I was pregnant that read, "God doesn't give us anything we can't handle. Has anyone told God that?" I didn't see the humor there any more than I saw humor in the fact that we'd April Fooled our kids by telling them we were going to have another baby. Two weeks later we found out the joke was really on us.

The first thing I did, after I picked myself up off the bathroom floor, was tell my husband. I figured he had a right to know since he was, after all, the father. He was a little stunned. I don't think he was expecting something quite so monumental to follow up my casual, "Guess what?" Once I picked him up off the kitchen floor, I swore him to secrecy. I knew I needed some time to adjust to the idea without the input and opinions of everyone else. I couldn't even utter the words "pregnant" or "baby" out loud.

Days turned into weeks and still I stayed silent. I'd really never been in denial before, I guess, but I found it was a very nice place to be. I was happy there and easily carried on as if nothing had changed.

But then my jeans got tighter. And I fainted on Mother's Day…, again with the humor.

Leaving the sweet land of denial was not easy. When I called my best friend to tell her the news, I burst into tears as soon as she answered the phone. "How…can…again…baby…," I choked out. Knowing me well, she bluntly told me to go ahead and be mad. The happy part would come later. And she was right. I won't bore you with the details about how I adored Lucy from the moment I laid eyes on her soggy little head. The fact is that the angels didn't sing any louder when she was born than they did on the days when each of my babies arrived.

But something about Lucy is different. Somehow her infancy, coming after ten years of parenting experience, has illuminated the babyhoods of her older siblings. When I rock her I can close my eyes and I'm rocking my pre-adolescent, independent first-born. Or my long-legged, toothless second daughter. Or my sweaty, joke-cracking son.

Having Lucy has made me remember things about my older children I wasn't aware I'd forgotten. As hard as I've tried not to wish away a single minute of their young lives, I've found they still pass all too quickly. In the rush and stress of having our first three kids in less than five years, some things just didn't have time to imprint themselves onto my memory. Lucy keeps pulling these sweet remembrances up from the depths of my heart.

I laugh when she smiles because she opens her mouth as wide as she can, just like her oldest sister did. When I change her diaper I can't help pinching her roly-poly thighs that look just like her other sister as a baby. I search her deep-blue eyes and marvel that they're getting lighter each day, just like her green-eyed brother.

Somehow this little drooling bundle is bringing out the best in all of us. The girls pass her from lap to lap and brag when they make her laugh. My rough-and-tumble son gently pats her cheek with his kindergarten paint-stained hand. My husband is once again singing his silly, made-up lullabies. I must have forgotten how sweet they are. My heart swells when I hear him because I know he's not just singing to Lucy, he's singing to them all.

Make no mistake, life is certainly more complicated than it was a few months ago. And my days are neither peaceful nor easy. Getting all the kids loaded into the van and delivered to school on time is a victory.

Babyhood after a five-year break is a challenge. I've forgotten the diaper bag, run out of diapers and pinched my finger in the infant seat. Waking up in the middle of the night was easier in my twenties and these last few pounds don't seem in any hurry to fall off like before.

In fact, life is nothing like I had envisioned for myself just a year ago. My little tornado changed nearly everything. But as the dust has settled (yes, literally, in my living room), I see the important things in my life still standing. Well, three are standing. The littlest one can't quite sit up yet. But, boy, can she smile.

Susanna and her newly expanded family are enjoying the dust in their living room along with new rattles, teething toys, and blankies. Recently relocated to Germany from their home in Charlottesville, they will be missed.

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