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Standing next to the dryer and our Mt. Never-rest of laundry, I could hear my young children. They were alternately crying and cheerfully chattering in that easy, emotion shifting way that little children are known for. My husband and I have 26 of them. Not really! But when you are eight months pregnant with your sixth child, you have five previous young children, and you don’t feel well, you might briefly feel sort of like you feel like this.

“It’s OK, mommy will help you” I heard myself say patiently over and over again that morning. But who was I kidding? I felt awful. Was I getting the flu? I wasn’t a lot of help. The oldest ones tried to help. I tried to help the oldest ones help.

Really, I just wanted to crawl back under the covers and wait for my mommy to come and save us all. But mom was 3,000 miles away, on the east coast, with my sisters and brothers and dad. We had moved to the west coast for my husband’s job. He loved this job, even though it tried to strangle him periodically.

We were in one of those periods. He was down at the office, trying to wrestle the job monster—the mega load assignments, the critical deadlines—to the mat. I knew, I always knew, that if I really, really needed him, he would figure out a way to get home. He could kill the monster. Of course, like in the movies, the monster would eventually return. But he could kill it and walk away.

I needed him that day. But I wouldn’t call. His immediate help was like a metaphorical fire extinguisher. I wasn’t willing to break the glass. I wanted to be supportive. He was already helping us by working so hard in our behalf. I was OK, wasn’t I?

I went upstairs and tried to lie down. The minute I did so, three tiny children climbed all over me, like kittens. I wanted to read and laugh with them as we so often did, but my heart wasn’t in it. My concern was that everyone needed something—food, a fresh diaper, fresh clothing—and I needed to rally troops and get it all going. I gently peeled off the layers of children and got up. I spotted an overflowing hamper of laundry. I could take it to the laundry room. I was going downstairs anyway. So I hoisted it up, in advance of my burgeoning waist, and tried to head down the stairs. Calls of “Mommy!” followed me down. I was pretty shaky, trying to juggle that hamper and my girth. I was also just…shaky.

Then, like an apparition, there he was. My husband was standing at the bottom of the stairs. He had come home to help me. It was the middle of the day, his job was an hour away, and he had come to stay. How?

Inside, I collapsed with relief and joy. How did he know I needed him so much? I had never asked him to come. Had my voice sounded different on the phone when we spoke earlier that morning? Did that “still small voice” of goodness that lives inside us all whisper to him? Whatever it was, I was so happy to see him, I couldn’t speak. I just stood there, holding that enormous hamper, little children all around my legs, a huge smile on my face. He took the basket. I took a nap.

Everything would be OK. Monsters come and go. Family is forever.