Black Friday was expensive, but I bear no guilt. Babies need cribs, and the cribs we chose were 30%. Babies need mattresses, and Ubiquitous Baby Store ran a buy-one-get-one-free promotion that seemed uniquely designed for an expecting twin-mom like me. (Who else buys two mattresses at once?) Babies need clothes, and Gap marked their entire website down 50%. Land of Nod discounted some of the sheets I picked, and Pottery Barn doubled their rewards just enough that I felt entitled to splurge on the diaper bag I’ve been coveting with a mottled guilty desire, but my shame disappeared in the face of its stunning beauty when it arrived on the porch. Here is it:
And it is prettier in person. I rationalize the indulgence this way: I have to carry this thing with me virtually everywhere for literally years, and it still cost less than the black leather Kate Spade I use for teaching. Given how physically miserable this pregnancy has been (not to air my various complaints, like the fact that I would still throw up every night at 22+ weeks if it weren’t for the meds, or the frequent nosebleeds, or this three-weeks-and-counting bout of post-nasal drip and viral laryngitis, or the early onset of edema in my feet from a uterus that is already measuring in the third trimester) I deserve generous chocolate and retail therapy.
The anatomy scan really catapulted the shopping and nesting into high-gear because it was the benchmark we needed to survive in order to separate the anxieties of this pregnancy from the jarring tragedy of the last one. The MFM gave the girls “two A+s” and sent us home with ultrasound pictures that, for the first time, look unmistakably like babies with noses and fingers whom I can now feel squirming and bumping from within. On Thanksgiving, emboldened by the security afforded by the scan two days earlier, we went “Facebook official,” attaching a message of profound gratitude to this little gem of a snapshot:
We announced gender to our families at dinner that night, and since then life has been a flurry of shower-planning, gift registries, small construction projects to make room for everything that currently lives in the second bedroom (my husband’s climate-sensitive guitar collection has been challenging to relocate) along with work and general holiday hubbub. But the tree is up, my belly is big, dresser drawers are filling with sleepers and tutus.
Things are moving along in a spirit that smacks decidedly of relaxed contentment with the exception of one small detail: my mother.The babies unsurprisingly dominated the conversation at the Thanksgiving table. It is the first time our families have really seen me since my belly popped, and the gender announcement sparked much talk of “little girls” and “sisters.” With that came lots of questions about maternity leave and sleeping arrangements, plus all the veteran mom stories that start, “When _____ was a baby…” Most of that warms me because it is a product of their excitement about the existence of these two new little people, but my mother’s interjections always turn toward the dark side, and she seems compelled to take up the cause of scaring the expectant mom with grave warnings about the difficulties of parenting. She’s not alone. There seems to be a whole troupe of these sorts. One friend went in on me via text when she learned that I was in the process of registering to fight me on my choice in double strollers. “Who cares about width,” she said, “just worry about weight. Those things are heavy,” followed by an ominous “You’ll see…” when I asserted that I had confidently chosen a stroller that was celebrated as light, slim, and agile after exhaustively reading reviews. My mother, who has never cared for twins, needs to constantly reiterate how “crazy” my life is going to be, focuses on how little sleep I will get, how bad my stretch marks will be, how few showers I will take, how exhausting children are. With the world at large, I am sometimes tempted to say, “Granted, I have never cared for a newborn, and I know it will be a challenging adjustment, but you have never cremated your baby and had to find a way to keep breathing, and, umm, that’s way fucking worse.” Of course, I do not say this out loud because my social graces always prevail, but I am saying it here to illustrate a point, which is how little the fortunately naive understand about pregnancy after infertility and loss. I am under no delusions about the rigors of raising children, while I am simultaneously humbled by the recognition that this is something I will not concretely understand until I am inside the experience, but treatment and miscarriage are also exhausting, except they are of the soul-sucking sort and entirely bereft of the joys that make parenting gratifying.
My mother, however, cannot claim the same leniency afforded by ignorance to the situation; she has been here these past seven years and seen us suffer, but why should I be surprised? My resentment toward her has historically been rooted in her complete inability to step outside of herself and make choices in word and deed that stem from the empathy that evolves out of perspective-taking. Instead, she has procrastinated for years a knee-replacement surgery that now looks like it will converge with the arrival of her first and maybe only grandchildren, and, in the meantime, she squanders this precious time by filling the air with doomsday prophecies about life after birth. Truthfully, my gleeful anticipation of this new era is impervious to her gloom, but with every clumsy, clueless prognostication, she widens the cavern between us, which is mostly sad because we had just started building a fragile little bridge. I will, however, concede that she surprised me once before, so I am still holding out hope that flesh-and-blood babies in her arms will inspire her to rally for her role as Grandma.