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The other morning Zoe and I went to St. Elmo’s, which is Zoe’s favorite coffee shop because they have toys. While we had breakfast she checked out the dolls (and asked me to babysit, so she could go to a coffee shop) and stuffed animals and games and books. St. Elmo’s is a popular place for parents and kids, and soon a youngish mom came in with her toddler and infant and their grandmother. They sat near us in the toy corner, and were soon joined by friends who had come to meet them. We chatted briefly but mostly I was attending to Zoe. I overheard the grandmother tell the friend that the baby was just shy of a month old. I asked the mom how old the big brother was and she said 21 months. She said “They’re too close together, it was poor planning,” with a smile that suggested she’d made the comment many times before.

My first reaction was to think how could she possibly be unhappy about having two perfect little people, even if they were a handful at the moment. Since we’ve been trying for nearly three years to bring another person into our family, it’s hard for me to imagine having a baby as anything but a wondrous miracle. But I just smiled.

We were sitting so close together it was impossible for me not to feel like a part of their conversation. So a little while later, I heard the mom telling her friend about a mix-up related to her husband’s recent homecoming. He’d sent her a message about what flight he was coming in on, but not the date, and she’d gone to the airport a day early. She was prepared to return the following day and then he ended up catching an earlier flight. He called her from the airport to say he’d arrived earlier than expected, and she offered to come get him right away, but he said he’d take a cab. “You can’t take a taxi home from war!” she told him, but he said she was busy with the boys and he did, in fact, take a taxi.

So my thinking about her situation immediately changed. Her husband had been at war, somewhere, and she had been dealing with this newborn baby plus a not-yet-two-year-old on her own (and perhaps with her mom, but not with their dad) for at least a month. Definitely tough. But, I thought, at least he’s home now. So that’s good.

Then her friend asked if it went well during the time the dad was home. “We had a really great two weeks,” she said. Then he left again. “We’ll see him again in August.”

Wow. This changed my perspective completely. Where I was jealous of her and her two kids a few minutes earlier, I sure wasn’t anymore. I so want another baby, but I am so very thankful that my husband lives at home with Zoe and me all the time. I am grateful that he’s not in danger every day. Eavesdropping at a coffee shop can be humbling. Everyone has their stuff. Some joyful and some really tough.

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