For Grandma Marge (may her memory be for a blessing)

Ok, it’s time for me to admit it: I’m getting scared. In less than 10 weeks (knock wood, pu pu pu – sorry can’t help it), my body will somehow, with whatever degree of medical intervention, bear forth two new beings whose well-being will henceforth depend, in very large part, on me. I confess to my husband, my closest friends, and my mother than I’m getting nervous. They offer comfort, try to allay my fears:

“Of course you’re scared. It’s scary.” –Daphne (mother of two)

“You’re focused on the first few weeks. I was too. But three months in, everything changes, and you don’t even remember that blur.” – Rebecca (mother of two)

“Too late now!” – Mom (mother of me)

Gee thanks, Mom.

Again, I must qualify. I feel blessed beyond belief at the bounty of having conceived not just one but two babies, twenty-first century techno style. I marvel at the way things have gone so far. In spite of bouts of stress (a layoff, a move, the start of a new company), these babies have grown the requisite parts. They’ve passed all their tests, independent of the fact that their maternal host has sometimes felt like a chicken without a head. They are of me, but they are not me—a lifelong lesson I’m sure, something they are already teaching me, something I am not yet wholly convinced of but want and need to believe.

My father, a psychiatrist, gets wind that I’m having a minor, belated freak out. He calls from the road 700 miles away to remind me I’m not alone. “It takes a village, Deb, and a village you will have.”

And he’s right. When the babies arrive, my mother will come for a month, and my father will join her when he can. Rebecca will come for a week or so, all the way from California. The twins I grew up with, Molly and Busy, will each come from Chicago for a few days. Courtney will be across the park. Daphne will be nearby, as will myriad others. And then, of course, there’s Marco, my sweet attentive artistic Marco (author of the “2” on my belly in the above photo), who can’t wait to hang our twins’ art on the walls and take them to see Star Wars and play them Superman’s theme. We just don’t know yet, given his new position, the extent to which he will be able to be at home, in the beginning, with me.

But come what may, I will not be alone. It’s my new mantra, and I’m trying to buy it. It’s just that my experience of pregnancy, this experience of being so embodied, has been oddly isolating. I’m a social person who stops pregnant women on the street and cries “solidarity!”, and yet there have been many times when I’ve felt alone, as in existentially, in my discomfort and angst. Locked in, with no escape. I’ve tried hard not to crawl too far into that dark hole—I have a small history of depression—and I’ve been successful at keeping healthy and busy. But every so often, that feeling of aloneless (is it just a fear?) creeps in.

A village you will have.

And I will.  The last village elder, however, is gone, and I’ve been missing her a lot of late.  My Grandma Marge passed away a year ago today. Grandma was a certified nurse—head of the department in her day—and used to bring great comfort whenever I was sick. Pregnancy is not illness, and yet its symptoms have been physically challenging, reminiscent of times I’ve felt ill. Grandma Marge made it our wedding last year, but she died before the technology worked its magic. How she would kvelled and basked in our news, enabled by money that I, her only grandchild, inherited from her. And how I would have loved to have shared the blessing of these babies with her.

If I can write it, maybe I can will it: these are our babies. They are not mine alone. I will be their mommy. But they will have a daddy, and grandparents, and aunts and uncles and cousins and friends, and if I believed, departed great-grandparents watching over them from somewhere. (On top of it all, I recently joined the notorious Park Slope Parents listserv. Never again will I worry about anything child-related alone!)

I am not alone, I am not alone, and yet…I am. It’s my body that’s primarily responsible, and that seems both a miraculous blessing and a bit of a curse. In spite of my feminism, I’ve internalized wholesale the cultural mandate that the buck stops with Mom. Because let’s face it, in reality, so often it does. How desperately, already, I find myself wanting to rewrite that script. But is it feminism, or existentialism, that I’m grappling with here? I’d love your thoughts.