For Grandma Marge (may her memory be for a blessing)
Ok, itâ€™s time for me to admit it: Iâ€™m getting scared. In less than 10 weeks (knock wood, pu pu pu â€“ sorry canâ€™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 Iâ€™m getting nervous. They offer comfort, try to allay my fears:
â€œOf course youâ€™re scared. Itâ€™s scary.â€ â€“Daphne (mother of two)
â€œYouâ€™re focused on the first few weeks. I was too. But three months in, everything changes, and you donâ€™t even remember that blur.â€ â€“ Rebecca (mother of two)
â€œToo late now!â€ â€“ 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. Theyâ€™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 meâ€”a lifelong lesson Iâ€™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 Iâ€™m having a minor, belated freak out. He calls from the road 700 miles away to remind me Iâ€™m not alone. â€œIt takes a village, Deb, and a village you will have.â€
And heâ€™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, thereâ€™s Marco, my sweet attentive artistic Marco (author of the â€œ2â€ on my belly in the above photo), who canâ€™t wait to hang our twinsâ€™ art on the walls and take them to see Star Wars and play them Supermanâ€™s theme. We just donâ€™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. Itâ€™s my new mantra, and Iâ€™m trying to buy it. Itâ€™s just that my experience of pregnancy, this experience of being so embodied, has been oddly isolating. Iâ€™m a social person who stops pregnant women on the street and cries â€œsolidarity!â€, and yet there have been many times when Iâ€™ve felt alone, as in existentially, in my discomfort and angst. Locked in, with no escape. Iâ€™ve tried hard not to crawl too far into that dark holeâ€”I have a small history of depressionâ€”and Iâ€™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.Â The last village elder, however, is gone, and I’ve been missing her a lot of late.Â My Grandma Marge passed away a year ago today. Grandma was a certified nurseâ€”head of the department in her dayâ€”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 Iâ€™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 yetâ€¦I am. Itâ€™s my body thatâ€™s primarily responsible, and that seems both a miraculous blessing and a bit of a curse. In spite of my feminism, Iâ€™ve internalized wholesale the cultural mandate that the buck stops with Mom. Because letâ€™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.