naturally three

Gemma, the OT, is pregnant. So pregnant, in fact, she gets asked dozens of time a day how much longer she plans on coming in, as if the questioner thinks she’s slightly crazy, and they’re worried they’re going to find her conducting a patient assessment with a baby bumping along behind her, still attached to the cord.

‘Because you really are so big and out front,’ says Faith, stirring her hot chocolate slowly, before licking the spoon and then using it to trace in the air the generous arc of Gemma’s belly. ‘I imagine this means you will be having another boy.’

‘I don’t think so,’ says Gemma, leaning back against the sink. ‘The scan was pretty clearly a girl. But I’d be happy either way.’

‘Ah – you see! But these scans and things, they can be wrong. I had a friend back in Zimbabwe, she was forty-two years of age, and she had one more baby, and she decided enough was enough. So when the baby came she called him Finish, and she went straightaway and had her tubes tied. But then, you see, the next year, because of recanalization or something else I don’t know what – the very next year, she fell pregnant again. And she gave birth to a healthy baby girl. And do you know what they called this baby girl?’

‘Miracle?’

‘No. That would have been a good name. But no! They called this baby girl Stop!’

‘What were her middle names? Please Dear and God?’

‘I don’t know that she had any middle names. No – it was just Stop, I think. So then she went back to the surgeon, and he said okay, okay, and he tied the tubes a little tighter this time, and that was that. Six children, and hardly room to put four.’

‘I’ll be happy with three. I think three’s plenty.’

‘Yes. Three is a good number.’

Faith picks up her hot chocolate and takes a sip, then cradles it ruminatively beneath her chin.

‘But you know something, Gemma – I can’t think of anything in nature with three of anything. Can you? Four legs on an elephant. Four legs on a cat. Two on a kangaroo. But three…?’

‘I think an octopus has three hearts,’ I say, squeezing in between them to rinse my cup at the sink.

‘Ah! Well! There you go, then,’ says Faith. ‘You wouldn’t want to be like an octopus, would you? Although, maybe that wouldn’t be such a bad idea. That’s one thing you definitely need more of with babies.’

‘What – hearts?’

‘No. Arms.’

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