Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Mothers and Daughters

As much time as we spent hoping, for various reasons, that this baby would be a girl, there were a few things that I either brushed over or avoided thinking about altogether. The first of these was that, when it was all said and done, I would be someone's mother. This made my eyes cross when I thought about it too much. Being a mother meant something very different from having a baby. Being a mother meant sitting up nights with a sick, unhappy child; it meant nagging about homework and chores; it meant school activities and decisions about colleges and wondering if your twentysomething child will ever find their place in this world. I am well into my twenties and my mom is still my mother; it's not something that ended when I was born or got my two-year molars or learned to tie my shoes. My brain would whirr and click like a confused computer when I tried to grasp all this. When I was a kid in Sunday school, our teachers told us that God is infinite, and the human mind is too puny to grasp the true concept of infinity. At seven, I had no problem with infinity. Goes on forever? Check. God is everything, everywhere, all the time, this time and all times before and after? Not a problem. Turns out it was the thought of being someone's mother that caused my brain to grind to a screeching halt.

The other thing that was difficult for me to think about was being the mother of a daughter. My own relationship with my mother has always been a difficult one; we were frequently like those huge fighting elk and goats you see on Wild Kingdom: bashing heads, locking horns, each trying to drive the other into submission, until we let go, circled 'round and did it again. My dad frequently had to seperate us and send us to opposite corners of the house. The dishes not being done properly or speedily, my choice of friends, the way I dressed, my choice of college major, the boyfriends I chose, the jobs I applied for, my choice of wedding invitations - anything was cause for a fight. The fights didn't stop as I grew older. If anything, they grew more intense because the issues had been building up for so long. Once I was old enough, I learned to just pack up my car and move out of town to end a fight, because I had lost all hope of ever forming a truce.

When I found out that I would be the mother of a daughter, I thought of all those fights. I wondered if one day thirteen or fourteen years from now, this child and I will scream at each other across a kitchen and my husband will have to step in and send us to our rooms. I can only hope not, I can only strive to parent in a different way than my mother did and try to avoid the same pitfalls. And who knows? Maybe I'll learn something along the way. Maybe I'll finally be able to admit out loud to my mother that yes, she was right, when you are a teenager, dating someone four years your senior with no job and no permanent address is not the best idea.

Friday, February 16, 2007

The second child

Last week, we finally got the long-awaited ultrasound and discovered the sex of the baby. It's a girl. I was pretty surprised by my reaction to the news. Which was no reaction at all. After all this time, waiting and waiting to find out and both of us wanting a girl so much, all I said was "Oh." I didn't high-five my husband. I didn't pump my fist enthusiastically and shout "YESSSS!" Nope. Just "oh." I know we've been saying for weeks that at this point it wasn't really that important anymore, but I wasn't entirely sure if it was true. Apparently it was.

As we walked across the parking lot at the OB's office, clutching our pictures of the grainy V that revealed a lack of boy-parts on the child inside my belly, we discussed the news. max said he'd felt like it was a girl, but he knew I'd had a strong hunch all along about which way the pendulum (or lack thereof) would swing, but I had steadfastly refused to say anything for fear of jinxing it. I am terribly paranoid about jinxing things, a paranoia that closely matches the superstition of wizened old ladies with herbs drying in their kitchens and horseshoes above their doorways. My husband asked me if I would, at long last, reveal honestly what my hunch had been.

"I knew thought it was a girl."
"What, like today? Before he told us?"
"No, the whole time. From the very start. Like how I had that really strong feeling we'd succeeded and I was pregnant on the first try, but I didn't want to say anything because I didn't want to jinx it. This was the same. I just really, really felt it was a girl. Even when your mom was running around saying that she was so sure it was a boy. I kept quiet, but I knew."
"I have another...feeling. I mean, the same thing that made me think it was a girl is telling me we'll do this again."
I stopped walking, in the middle of the parking lot. "AGAIN? Are you crazy? You want another one already?" I probably sounded panicked. We've been in agreement for a long time that one is plenty, and if we do get the urge for another we fully intend to pursue fostering or adopting. We debated long and hard about adopting this one, but didn't have the patience or outlay of cash needed to adopt an infant, and he really wanted the whole Infant Experience. So what the hell was this shit?
"No, it's not that," he said, tugging my arm and pulling me toward the car. "I just...have a feeling. I have a feeling that we'll do this again. And that if we do, that one will be a boy."
"You have a feeling I'm going to accidentally get pregnant? Because after all we've discussed, 'doing this again' would mean the next one really will be a surprise."
"No, it's not that, it won't be accidental..." He was floundering.
"We're going to do this again on PURPOSE? I'm going to get hit with those supposedly-huge post-baby hormones and beg you for another baby? Or you're going to beg me for one and I'll give in?" I was definitely starting to panic. Even in the supposedly-magical second trimester, I have not been a big fan of pregnancy. I spend a lot of time wondering if I'll ever feel like "myself" again, and as time goes by I have forgotten what "myself" feels like. On top of that, I often wonder how we'll manage this baby with everything else we have going on.
"No, it's not that I super-want another one already or anything, I just have a feeling."

I let the discussion fade away as we got in the car and went on our way, but he has mentioned it several times since then. After a commercial featuring siblings and cellphones: "See? See what we'd be depriving our kid of if it's an only child?" Veiled references to "the next one," "next time" or "when we do this again."

It struck me that when people become parents for the first time, there is always an assumption that there will be another kid somewhere along the way. The parents themeselves assume it, their friends and relatives assume it, everyone takes it for granted that there will be more than one. The only question seems to be "when?"

I'm not one of those people. I think that one kid is a good number, for us anyway. The assumption that there will be another has always somewhat mystified me. Why? If you like the one you have and things are going great, why throw another one into the mix? The responses I get when I ask this question always seem to involve women's out-of-control-hormones, men's manly desires for a son, or the woe and tragedy of the pitiful only child.

And when they don't cover those options, there's always "well, I wanted First Kid to have someone to play with." Which makes me think on all the times my brother and sister and I played together. Much of that "playtime" involved one of us beating the everloving crap out of another, or two of us torturing the third. I also think about all the times we nearly drove my mother to choke us out of sheer frustration. I remember how hard it was when I was responsible for the two younger ones, how hard it was to get them to shut the fuck up and stop bickering. We all love each other fiercely, but we still fight. When I'd come home from college on breaks, my brother and I frequently got into fistfights over control of the television remote control. When I was 25, I got into a screaming match at 3:00 am with my sister over useage of the word "bridezilla." And then I thought of my mother's siblings, how they cannot go three months without fighting and rumor-spreading and "I'm not talking to you"-ing. Even my grandfather and his siblings spent a good part of our last family reunion bitching about who got what when their mother died thirty years ago.

So when my husband talks about "the next one," I have to wonder about his sanity. I'm just not sure I'm up for hearing my kids fighting every day until I die, and then having to spend my afterlife listening in as they bitch about who got my collection of carnival glass.

Thursday, February 01, 2007

The quickening

In the past couple weeks, I have started to feel the baby move. It has grown from " that gas or the baby?" to "What are you DOING in there?!"

It did not feel like "flutters" or "butterflies" or "bubbles" or any of the other froofy language the books used to describe it. It felt like tiny muscle spasms down in my abdomen.

Last week, I lay down with Max for a late-afternoon nap. I snuggled up to him, with my front against his back. I could feel the tiny spasms very low down. The baby was kicking just above my pelvic bone. I started to laugh.

"What's so funny?" Max asked.

"The baby is kicking you in the butt right now."

"Damn. Kid's not even born yet and it's already kicking my ass."