Early Marriage | Part 22
July to August, 1968. I watch and feel my protruding belly take prodding kicks at all hours of the day and night from this unknown-gender life inside me. It’s almost impossible to get comfortable lying down. Or sitting down. Or standing up from sitting down. I have to pee every time I turn around. The Boston heat is sweltering.
I go to the Boston Lying In Hospital Clinic regularly, watch my weight and diet like a hawk, and arrange for a 6-week leave in August and September from my position as organist/choir mistress at the First United Presbyterian Church of Cambridge. I also arrange to work in the dean’s office at the Harvard Law School until two weeks before the due date.
D and I need to move out of Mr. Griswold’s house by Christmas. We know we’ll have an apartment, thanks to friends moving out in the fall. We’re at the top of the waiting list, though they’re not sure when they’ll move out, or how much furniture and baby equipment they’ll take with them.
Even though I’m the oldest of four daughters and have experience taking care of my sisters, I’m anxious! Not so much about giving birth as about the kind of mother I’ll be. Will I know what to do and when to do it? Will D be able to help me, or will I be pretty much on my own?
And then there are D’s fears. He’s been a child of divorce since he was 3 ½ years old. He didn’t see his father often; his single mother raised him the majority of the time. What does it mean for him to be a father?
I’m a worrier from way back. My intuition, experience and observation of friends tell me this could be the end of life as I know it. I fear that once again I’ll lose my identity as Elouise. Instead of being Mrs. D, I’ll become Mom. Generic Mom. The kind people tell bad jokes about or worship as though Moms were at least near-perfect.
Money, time, health (mine and Baby’s), David’s studies, my need for a life of my own. All this and more weighs on me. It feels like getting married without being ready. Maybe a bit like driving without a license, training program or instruction book. We already have Dr. Spock’s latest edition, but I haven’t read it yet.
In the end, these unknowns softened us, even though we were both anxious. It was like getting married. We didn’t have a clue what was coming next, yet we were committed to getting through it together.
I don’t think my experience was strange or unusual. Yet that didn’t make it easier. Just the thought, much less the reality of being responsible for the life and wellbeing of a helpless baby was enough to set me off.
There’s grace in not knowing too much about what’s coming down the road. Or about what you’ve already met up with down that road back there called Childhood. I was clueless about my past—not about what happened, but about how it had shaped me.
Not knowing this may have been a disadvantage. But it may also have been a gift. I didn’t feel pre-programmed to become a certain kind of parent, as though history would inexorably repeat itself.
I’d always thought the process of giving birth would be the most difficult part of all. It wasn’t easy, but it wasn’t the nightmare I expected. Becoming a parent was much scarier and way too real. No going back. We’re it! Coming, ready or not!
At first it was stranger than strange. Yet from the moment our son was born, something began happening in us. It happened when we held him and fed him. Watched him breathe in and out. Counted his tiny fingers and toes and responded to his cries and baby talk.
He was part of the family now, and we were at least ready enough.
To be continued….
© Elouise Renich Fraser, 8 July 2015
Photo credit: DAFraser, August 1968