Monday, December 12, 2005 9:59 PM

Illustration Friday: Surprise!

I got the biggest surprise of my life on a morning in September about two years ago.

I was songleading again at church for the first time since Sophie was born. One minute, I was standing in front of the congregation, singing; the next, I passed out cold and took the podium down with me. After several tiny cups of orange juice and "I'm not diabetic, I think I'm pregnant"s later, the EMTs decided to take me to the emergency room since my blood pressure was amazingly low. The only way out is up the aisle during the next mass. "We're NOT." I beg. "Close your eyes." I'm told. The hush that comes over the church as I'm carried out on a stretcher, oxygen mask on face, makes me squinch my eyes shut even tighter.

Paul and Sophie follow us the hospital and my parents are phoned. Nobody will let me eat on the off chance the pregnancy is ectopic and they have to operate, which makes me want to throw up just thinking about it. Starvation and nausea duke it out. Starvation wins. While they're getting someone to do an ultrasound, we urge Paul to go eat something at the cafeteria; they'll page him, maybe he can smuggle me back a burger or something. Anyway, I just went through a year of ultrasounds, so this is old hat. So when they tell me 15 minutes later to go in, I figure we'll start without him.

I say hello to the technician in the darkened room and get ready to be told the worst. Or at least, the usual. "Is everything okay?" I ask as she starts poking around.

"Fine. Everything's fine."

"Oh, good." I breathe, finally. "As long as it's not twins," I joke.

She doesn't say anything.

She has the screen turned slightly away from me but I know enough to know that what I can see definitely does not look like Sophie's sonograms did. There are two sacs. Two little dots.

"It's not twins, RIGHT?"

"Let's just wait until your husband gets here, and we'll go over things, okay?"

"It's TWINS, ISN'T IT?! Oh, my God!"

I continue along in this vein for about 60 more seconds when blessedly, Paul walks in the room, eyes adjusting to the darkness, 7-month-old Sophie on one arm, her backpack on the other. The poor man immediately gets hit with, "Look at that screen! LOOK AT IT! DO YOU SEE WHAT'S ON THAT SCREEN? TWO! TWO! TWINS! WE! ARE! HAVING! TWINS!" And I can see the look of absolute terrified shock that comes over his face that I know must be on my own. The poor technician takes this opportunity to point out the nicer points of the ultrasound; they're probably fraternal, they don't share a sac or a placenta, and all I can think is THERE ARE TWO OF THEM IN THERE OH DEAR LORD.

It took me a looooooong time to get used to the thought. Peter and Angela were a surprise, as defined on Roseanne back in the 90's. Her son asks if he was a mistake. "No! You're a surprise. A surprise," she tells him, "is something you didn't even know you wanted until you got it."

Surprise. Their sticky kisses, the way they yell "Mama!" when I walk into the room like I am the greatest thing EVER, their belly laughs, the way they shake their little butts and dance when we play "Linus and Lucy" for them and Angela yells out "Chaba-Shoopy! Chaba-Shoopy!" (Charlie Brown and Snoopy), the way they worship the ground their big sister walks on - nobody is more surprised than I am at the way my heart is so amazingly wide open to overflowing with enormous amounts of love. They've multiplied my capacity for loving and caring and feeling, exponentially. It's been a long, hard, exhausting road to get here, filled with surgeries (mine and the kids'), months in the NICU, monitors, medications, and therapy, but I can actually say it's all been worth it.


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