We had been trying to conceive for more than a year. We were wondering if maybe having just one child would be best for us anyway. I couldn’t tell if my sadness was about really wanting to have another child, or simply about mourning the family I had thought we would have. Meanwhile, I was starting to think about “getting on with my life”: maybe returning to the classroom, maybe doing jukai much earlier than I had thought I would be able to do. And then …
In the early morning hours of the last Friday in June, I woke in a panic. What if I really was pregnant? Am I really up for giving myself over to another new life? On the one hand, life with the Critter has gotten so much easier in the past year. We can have actual conversations! He (mostly) understands me! I (mostly) understand him! How long might it take to reach this kind of understanding with another child? On the other hand, life with the Critter is still pretty hard. Forget work-life balance; I’ve felt like I’ve been living in a pile of crap for much of this year — overemployment, illness, underemployment, etc. How can I possibly give up whatever equilibrium I’ve managed to find?
Panic, panic, panic! I sat in the living room and read for a while. Then I went back to bed, thinking that maybe if I could let go of my thoughts, let go of my thoughts, let go of my thoughts, I would fall back to sleep. And, after the sun had risen and Beckett had left for work, I was starting to drift away … until two thoughts popped into my head simultaneously, jerking me awake again:
- This panic has the same hormonal quality as the panic that woke me the day before the Critter was born.
- My mind might lie to me, but my body wouldn’t.
I immediately took a pregnancy test: positive. Damn, this is for real, I thought.
I had actually been planning to take a break in August all along, but I ended up starting the break somewhat earlier than planned, because I found I could neither write about my pregnancy nor not write about it. The truth is, I spent most of the first trimester in terror and denial. The terror has since subsided, and the denial has faded into disbelief. A baby? In our apartment? Next February or March? Seriously? And good lord, I’ll be celebrating my fortieth birthday just a couple months after we celebrate the baby’s first.…
Blessings to all those who’ve assured us that we’ll figure it out or have offered help.
Blessings to the midwife who assured me that it is completely normal to feel selfish in the early weeks of pregnancy.
Blessings to my father for telling me what his mother told him: “You don’t know how you’re going to love another baby, and then a bundle of love comes along with it.” (She had seven children.)
And blessings to Grace Paley for her beautiful stories, including the one whose title I’ve stolen for this post. It’s about a “middle-aged” woman (I remembered her as being forty-eight, but the story never actually gives her age) who gets pregnant by a much younger boyfriend, and it includes this little prose poem (written by the boyfriend):
The kids! the kids! Though terrible troubles hang over them, such as the absolute end of the known world quickly by detonation or slowly through the easygoing destruction of natural resources, they are still, even now, optimistic, humorous, and brave. In fact, they intend enormous changes at the last minute.
Oh, how I worry about the kids and their terrible troubles! Though Paley’s story was written in the sixties or seventies, and so the “kids” in this poem are all grown-ups now, which somehow also reassures me. And I? I’m intending enormous changes every day….