The Early Birds
By Jenny Minton
I HAVE ALL BUT CONVINCED DAN we are having girls. I have communed with my soul in dreams and awakened knowing there are girls inside me. The additional weight I'm carrying feels just like me. My in-laws have five granddaughters and no grandsons; a tendency to bear girls clearly runs in the family. At our twenty-week ultrasound, Dan hints at the gender question by asking the technician whether the babies are different sexes. She answers that they are in fact the same. I say, "See, they're girls. I knew it." As the technician finds each body part on her list, she says, "Looks good," and I exhale. Finally I say, "Okay, tell us the sex."
"Both boys. Definitely boys. And from the look of it they're well-endowed." I laugh, but Dan's in shock.
We head down York Avenue toward our offices and we don't say a word. We are rearranging everything in our heads. Just the day before, on a Labor Day visit to the Jersey shore, two of my nieces called for me to join them on their rented surrey run by foot pedals. As their father, Bruce, drove us around the streets of Cape May, his two girls, ages five and three, and I sang "The Surrey with the Fringe on Top."
"This is a pretty great surrey," I said at some point, resting my feet on the dashboard.
"It's okay," the older one answered. "But it's not like the surrey in Oklahoma! This surrey doesn't have any fringe on top and its wheels aren't yellow."
"And there aren't any isinglass curtains you can roll right down," the three-year-old added. I thought, This is what it would be like having girls.
On the walk to my office, the specifics of our future family begin to take shape in my mind. Our nuclear unit will consist of me and the guys. Dan will pass down the Quigley name to our sons, who will each grow up having a brother.
If you say anything to Dan about his older brother Matt, just some harmless comment like "Isn't it funny that he's a Democrat and you're such a close-minded conservative?" or "I wonder why Matt's so generous with money while you're such a tightwad," he'll jump on you. He'll say, "Leave Matt alone, he's my brother." Lately Dan's been complaining about having once been an interesting person, about needing an adventure to avoid becoming a boring, middle-aged man. He brainstorms about trips he might take before the babies are born-dogsledding expeditions in Antarctica, rafting tours down the Amazon-and after each idea he proclaims, "I bet Matt would love to go with me. I should call Matt."
Football season is just starting and we've already spent a few weekends watching games from the couch. When the Giants played Tampa Bay, Tiki Barber went to the line to face off with his twin brother Ronde. You could only imagine how many times as kids they practiced together in the park. A boy tosses a football; it lands with a thump in his brother's arms, and back it comes. They might talk about anything then, with the ball going back and forth.
The tube-socked boys I knew in grade school whose eyes welled up in frustration after losing on the basketball court, the untucked, baseball-capped teens at Groton whose teasing cautiously hinted at affection, my male colleagues who have been arriving at the office lately wearing navy button-downs and Kenneth Cole black loafers in their first attempts to dress fashionably, all suddenly evoke in me such tenderness I wonder how I could have been numb to these feelings before.
Cannon is planning a baby shower for me, and at the beginning of October I take the subway to Grand Central from our new apartment on East Sixty-sixth Street and catch a train out to her house in Larchmont to register at Buy Buy Baby.
First we stop at the house of Cannon's friend who has newborn twins, a girl and a boy. The mother has offered to show me some of the gear I'll need. We arrive just as she's getting ready to breast-feed. She pulls out an enormous blue Styrofoam square with a U cut out of it. "You will definitely want a double boppy." She fits the device around her waist like a life preserver, pours herself a glass of water and rests it on the coffee table, then lifts both babies out of their playpen simultaneously and floats them on either side of the boppy. "Come stand behind me on the couch so you can see," she says. She sits down, unhooks both straps of her nursing bra, and attaches each baby to a nipple. She picks up her glass of water. "Voila, I even have my hands free. It's easy and the best thing for them."
For the first time in several months I am nauseated.
At Buy Buy Baby I register for a million essentials from a list my friend Holly forwarded to me. While Cannon is looking at crib sheet patterns, I find a spot on the floor beside the information booth and sit down.