Jeanne, our surrogate, is at 17 weeks now and just starting to show. Two weeks ago she had a routine OB appointment, the kind we don’t usually travel to because they’re quick, and reveal little. But when she got to the office, she was told that ultrasounds would be performed at all remaining appointments. Because she’s carrying twins, the doctor needs to note the babies’ positioning, and observe the heartbeats individually. That way, anything unusual can be attributed to either A or B, as they’ve been lovingly termed by the medical community.
The ultrasound room itself buzzes with mystery. Lights low, machines whirring, and a sense of hushed anticipation. But when the wand made its first passes over her abdomen, something seemed odd, she told us. A & B were bonking each other about their heads, kicking up a storm, and stretching out their tiny in-utero hands to touch their womb-mate’s. They were p-l-a-y-i-n-g ! Even the doc, not usually a wellspring of joyous observation, noted that so much gestational clamor is rare at this point.
I was driving back to Brooklyn from Rhode Island when I got the call from my husband, Lin, with the details. I jettisoned a ton of accumulated baby stress I didn’t even know I’d been carrying. I hooted, hollered, and let loose a ferocious yeeee-haaaa like you can only do when barreling down the highway alone. I-95 never felt so good.
In the past few weeks, Lin and I have gone from keeping the twins a bit of a secret to letting more people know, which is exciting—and vulnerable—feeling all at once. If everyone loves a baby, everyone is certifiable for twins. So we talk about it. A lot – about sleep training (with twins, hell yes!), about must-reads (Baby 411 seems to come up a lot), about how inconceivably exhausted we’ll be, and how we have no earthly idea “what we’re in for”– the last part is typically accompanied by head-shaking and a tone of foreboding commonly reserved for unhappy events.
Because we are invisibly pregnant, telling people is always a choice on our part. While Jeanne will have to negotiate a minefield of queries from countless strangers over the next five months, not a single person will rub my belly uninvited, flash me a knowing smile, or offer me surprise congratulations. We may be telling, but we’re not showing.
And telling is a delicate dance, one that reminds me in ways of my coming-out experience years ago. Those closest to me knew first, and everyone else needed to be sized-up and judged fit to trust with something deeply important and personal to me. It helps that the response to the news, this time, has been universally greeted with glee. Yay progress!
Of course, there are upsides aplenty to not actually being pregnant. We aren’t curtailing coffee or oysters, or shying away from stinky cheese or the occasional stiff Manhattan. And I can happily report that there should be no need to up-size my shoes for the sheer quantity of liquid reposed in my feet. But I do wonder sometimes if having a whole lot of biology going on doesn’t pleasantly distract expectant parents from the main event – those seconds and minutes and years after baby’s first halting breaths have been drawn. Is it possible that Lin and I have too much time to anticipate the joys and pitfalls of parenthood?
Being a parent, a dad, one-quarter of a very modern family; it rattles around in my head a lot these days, and has since we began this journey. I want to be ready, whatever that means. Recently, my internal dialogue began reflexively assuming a parental perspective over the reliably rebellious one I’m used to. It was a shock, then a comfort, to know that my circuitry is busily updating itself in the background, even when I’m not looking. Of course teenagers shouldn’t be able to drive!! My parents will chuckle to hear that one.
I’ve been thinking about them a lot, too. My own parents did plenty of things right, and flubbed others with a flair all their own. But when I do find issue with my parents’ methods, some thirty years ago, I console myself that while I’ll inevitably repeat some of their mistakes, I’ll probably repeat much of the good stuff as well.
Jeanne, Lin and I will be in that ultrasound room again in a week, when we’ll find out the sex of the little pugilists. I really just hope I get to be a non-theoretical parent in June, and until then we’ll be waiting, telling, wondering, hoping, freaking out, laughing, crying and otherwise going about our lives until the day comes when everything will change in a moment, and become very, very real. Stay tuned…