It’s almost Easter again. The purple tips of the blossoming magnolias, the moist scent of last winter’s dog poo awakening in the sun. Also, everyone’s pregnant with their second child. And by everyone I mean my next-door neighbour, 97% of the girls in my mama group who popped with their first within the same few months as yours truly, and – most importantly – my sister.
My mother is about to come stay with us for two weeks and she’s on a mission like one of those groggy police negotiators who take jumpers down from the edge of buildings, unharmed, unsplattered. If I want to survive the upcoming holiday, I need to prepare to fend off the numerous, unrelenting conversations about this epidemic of second human conceptions that’s holding me under siege.
Look, I love my kid with the impetus of a thousand panicked elephants. Imagining a life without him and without the life-changing experience of becoming his mom is a sick nightmare I don’t even want to start considering. But otherwise, to be perfectly candid, I’m not all that fond of children. To me, saying “I love children!” is like saying “I love people!”. What do you mean, you love people? ALL people? Well, I definitely don’t love ALL people, and that includes kids.
My mother spent the entirety of our childhood telling us that whatever we choose to do in life, we should never have children. Because having children is the worst form of slavery that can afflict a person’s life, a tragedy that needs to be avoided at all cost. But then, when she saw that both my sister and I were already well in our thirties and remained single and childless, she started wondering what was wrong with us – why were we not starting families like all her friends’ children?
She decided she needed to fix this. She started giving us small gifts (amulets? spells?) in the form of objects she had or clothes she wore in the times she was pregnant with either of us. Additionally, she began sharing with us puzzling statements such as that having children is the best cure against solitude, and advocating the health benefits a pregnancy can have on a woman’s wellbeing. You can laugh, but soon enough her younger daughter got married and produced her first grandson in less than a year, followed by runner-up moi who delivered the second only 5 months later, unintentionally and out of wedlock.
I would not be surprised she’s convinced that these births are a fruit of her machinations and now, after giving us the gift of a childhood drenched in existential guilt, she has somehow become grandson-greedy. The second round of pregnancies worked with my sister, obviously, and now she’s onto me.
Here’s a few subtle conversation starters I will most likely have to face and examples of how I might retort and wiggle my way out of them:
My Mother – You know that having a second one is going to be so much easier, right?
Me – Mom, please. I just finally pulled my bass out of the garage for the first time in ten months. I’m still working on getting my fingertips hard, I’m not even warmed up yet. I’ve been armpit-deep in baby breath for almost three years here – can I take a moment to play some tunes, for a change? Also, it sounds quite hard to believe that having a toddler AND a baby is much easier than having “just” a toddler (biting into your thighs every time you sit on the toilet). I’m normally not short of imagination, but seeing how adding a (colicky? crying? never-sleeping?) baby to this mix will make things easier is, honestly, beyond me.
My Mother – He’s going to be lonely! Friends come and go, but a brother is for life.
Me – I really wish you knew what Netflix is and had watched the first season of Bloodline, so you’d realise that that’s not always a good thing. Besides, my tits need a break – seriously. If I could, I’d send them on one of those vacation cruises around the Mediterranean with open bar, swimming pool, and male hookers on every deck – that’s how grateful I am for the work they have done [DONE being here the operational word].
My Mother – If you won’t do it you WILL regret it one day, I tell you. The more children you have, the greater the chance that one of them will stick around to take care of you when you’re old.
Me – Mother, the argument you just used technically qualifies as emotional blackmail which, albeit not being illegal, is something you nonetheless shouldn’t do to someone you respect. Look, you can’t blame a first-timer for not knowing what she’s getting herself into. But I don’t want to be the one who knew, who had all the necessary evidence to make an informed choice, and STILL got pregnant again. I don’t want to bear a grudge against myself for listening to your pro-grandson nonsense – I want to be smarter than that!
My Mother – If you don’t make him a brother or sister, he will grow up to become someone with narcissistic personality disorder who will steal money from your wallet and drink your booze – you do realise that, don’t you?
Me – But I’m scared of the Vagianus! The first time, I got away with only two second-degree tears and six stitches, but what if I’m not that lucky the second time around? What if I end up with an irreversibly shredded perineum, or one of those prolapses from hell that you hear about on Horror Hour at your mommy club? I don’t wanna live the rest of my days with the tip of my cervix knocking on my thong! Besides, I want to be able to go out to the movies with my man again and sleep until noon on a Sunday before we both die of very old age. Not to mention having sex in our own bed!
My Mother – Ah! So you DO have sex?
Me – Ehm, no. I mean, yeah? Very seldom though.
My Mother – And do you use birth control?
Me – Mom!! You are really crossing a…
My Mother – Well, DO YOU!?
Me – …
My Mother – …
Me – * a pearl of sweat trembles on the forehead *
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