Baby Steps for Grandmothers
By: Lex Jacobson
Devon and I are in Mexico right now, having a splendid two-week vacation in the sun. My parents are here at the same time and although they did help us get here (by donating points from their vacation buy-in, however that works), it is clear to both parties that our respective vacations are very separate. We have spent most days apart, only coming together for a meal here-and-there, which has worked wonders for us. Although my relationship with my parents has become heaps better over the past five years, I still do have my moments of reverting to my 16-year-old self, much to Devon’s (and my) frustration. (Granted, who wouldn’t feel like an overly embarrassed 16-year-old when your cheapskate parents shove all six of the mini jam jars from the restaurant table into their backpack, not really caring that the waiter is directly behind them? Although apparently “it isn’t stealing, because we’re paying for the meal.”)
This morning, we decided to treat them to a champagne brunch, as a thank you for their generosity this year. As we were eating, Mum started to talk about how blessed they both felt to have six healthy grandchildren that they are young and spry enough to run after. She drew a comparison to her friend, who is in her mid-seventies, about ten years older than my parents. This friend’s 39-year-old daughter has recently had a very sick child with Down’s syndrome plus a heart condition plus bladder complications plus severe reflux, to name a few things.
Mum went on about how “old” mothers do often suffer with unhealthy children or difficult births. And then she continued on to how she can’t imagine people in their forties starting families, because they essentially won’t be around to see their grandchildren. Mum makes it clear that she is glad I’m doing this at my age (32 in a few months). I flash a look to Devon, who is sitting on my right, and try to give her a sympathetic smile. Shortly afterwards, Devon leaves for the bathroom. I make sure to use this as an opportunity.
“Mum,” I say sheepishly, “please mind what you say about ‘old’ mothers when Devon is around… she’s feeling particularly vulnerable about this situation, considering our circumstances.”
Mum looks at me as though my words don’t make sense and I have to remind her that my very young-looking wife is turning 40 this year. That Devon’s mother had her at age 38 and that she was dead by the time Devon was 25. That her father was 52 when Devon was born and was gone even before her mom was.
My mum’s answer? “Well, I think of Devon as the dad… so it doesn’t really matter how old she is.”
The fact that it came from such a well-intentioned place made it a little less of a bitch slap, but I did have to bite my tongue.
I couldn’t even make it into an educational moment; I just kind of sat their blankly, relieved when Devon came back and the conversation was swept under the table.
I really can’t imagine how my parents would feel if the tables were turned and Devon was the bio mom and I was in the “dad” role. I wonder whether they would have the same excitement that they do with the potential that I will be pregnant very soon. Probably not. Because apparently the “dad” doesn’t have much to do with the pregnancy at all. Yes, the childrearing, but not the pregnancy.
And that is true, in a sense. Technically, I could be doing this part without Devon at all. She doesn’t have the sperm I need, she doesn’t possess anything that can help me get pregnant faster, and she doesn’t even have to be in the same room for the conception of our future child.
But she is the mom. Just as I am the mom. She brings me my prenatal vitamins to make sure I don’t forget them every day. She puts up with me talking about the state of my cervical mucous. She doesn’t even get mad at me for the damn thermometer beeping at 4 am as I’m taking my temperature. She checks in with me to see how my mood has been with the changes in medications getting ready for this pregnancy. She spends just as many hours as I do obsessing over the characteristics of our donor. She holds my hand and looks at me with this indescribable look that distracts me from the discomfort of the syringe entering into my uterus during the inseminations. She holds me afterwards as we both stare at each other with a sense of excitement that this one could be the one. She dreams of becoming a mom just as I dream of becoming a mom. We are in this together. And I am so lucky.
Maybe one day, I will explain this to my mother. But there are baby steps to be had, and through this whole process, I do give my mother a lot of credit for the steps that she has made.
As we walked out of the restaurant, my mother points to a family portrait on the wall next to a photo booth. “Your father and I bought three canvases to print photos of each of our children’s families to put up in our home, but we can’t do it yet. We are waiting for your family to become complete.”
She was looking at both of us when she said it.