I want my mom. I do. I may be thirty-five years old—too old for wanting mothers—but I’m also thirty-five weeks pregnant. And I’m scared, I guess.
“That boy is huge,” says my obstetrician. “A good size. Ten pounds by your due date, I’ll betcha.”
A “good size” for what? I wonder. Survival? Smaller babies survive too. A good size for taking out my vagina like a snowplow clearing a drift? Revved up, powder flying, drift cleared. Is that what he’s a good size for?
And what will it feel like to deliver him? He is my second baby, so I ought to know. But my daughter was extremely premature. Delivering her wasn’t a problem. I don’t know how a full-term delivery goes, how to push a baby through a seriously undersized pathway. It scares me, but my obstetrician says not to worry. “We deliver babies every day.” Click the pen off. End of conversation.
It’s not just delivery that scares me. It’s my body too. My legs and feet have swollen into uniformity; ankles but a distant memory. My skin is stretched red, tight to the touch, mottled and puffy. My toes are numb, their circulation cut off. A simple poke to my leg leaves dents in the skin, slow to fill, valleys in a mass of fluid. Whether I lie in bed, my body coiled around a pregnancy pillow, or stagger up the street to the mailbox in flipflops, my body hurts. Strange pains stab my sides. Hips meander in and out of joint. Breathing is heavy and hard. What is this thing I’ve turned into?
It’s all completely normal, I’m told. The end of pregnancy is always uncomfortable. And that may be true, but I’m still scared and I still want my mom.
She’s not so far away, my mother. The next province over. Manitoba to Ontario. Twenty-eight hours by car. Three by air. It’s not insurmountable. She could come, even with the coronavirus. There are still flights. It’s not impossible; I’d only have to ask.
I picture a visit. She’d cook wonderful things and I’d lie on the back deck under mosquito netting, waiting for the drama to begin, the pains to start, the end to come, my body to return to normal. We’d hang out, reading, being quiet together.
So, I call her. Just to shoot the breeze. And we talk about her. Talk about me.
“You’re not drinking enough,” she says. “That’s why you’re retaining water. How much water are you drinking?”
“What do you mean you don’t know?”
“I’m not keeping track.”
“Fill a two-litre jug. Commit to drinking that every day. Keep track.”
A two-litre jug? Who has a two-litre jug? And how would I know if it was a two-litre jug? I picture my water jugs—plastic juice pitchers from Loblaws intended for aesthetically pleasing picnics, not measuring out hydration. Not marked with litres either, two or any other.
“You have to try, Amy,” she says. “Your water retention will never get better if you don’t try to improve your health. You have to be proactive. That’s why I take my supplements. Proactive, preventative behaviour.”
She lists her supplements or at least the ailments they’re meant to address: ginkgo biloba for dementia (her father had dementia), lutein for macular degeneration (her father had that too), flaxseed for breast cancer (her mother’s ailment), black cohosh for menopause, and a full alphabet of vitamins for immunity.
My mother takes it all.
My mother takes care of her mother, my grandmother, a tough matriarch of eighty-six. Grandma still lives on her own, in one-quarter of a fourplex, as her long, low residential building is known. The architectural simplicity of the fourplex contributes to its popularity on the prairies. Four walls and a simple roofline. Can’t get better than that.
Grandma is fiercely independent yet oddly demanding, a strange combination. She was born in the Depression, grew up during the Second World War and came into her own through the fifties, sixties and seventies. She has no patience for stupidity or sentiment, but she feels the years gone by with a sadness that doesn’t quite hide under her mask of stoicism.
Grandma used to drive Mom crazy, and maybe she still does, but somewhere in the chronology of their relationship, my mother started looking out for Grandma. She attends Grandma’s doctor appointments now, offers her arm to hang onto, a hand to hold. Their caregiver roles were reversed.
Mother. Daughter. Independent yet dependant.
“Eat them now,” I remember Grandma saying. It was 1995 or so. I was a chubby kid with hot pink shorts and a bad hair cut. Grandma’s back was strong and straight then. She held out a box of Smarties to each of us.
“But it’s nearly lunchtime, so Mom won’t like it,” my oldest sister said, shuffling awkwardly in her dusty flipflops, squinting into the bright Manitoba summer sky.
Grandma waved her hand to my sister’s objections. “Woo-hoo,” she said flippantly. “Who cares what your mom thinks?”
I giggled nervously. What a gal Grandma is! To be so unconcerned about my mom’s rules and opinions. What bravery.
But maybe most mothers don’t care whether their daughters are offended or not. They’re not slavishly concerned about their offspring’s rules and opinions. And why should they be? Why should they care?
Is that why my mother ignores my protestations? My corrections to her peculiarities? Maybe she just doesn’t give a hoot.
“I’ll come if you want,” Mom says on a phone call.
“If you still have to quarantine when you get back to Manitoba, I don’t see much point,” I counter. “What if Grandma needs you?”
“I’m not convinced the coronavirus is even a real thing at this point,” Mom says conspiratorially.
“What?” I gasp, slightly surprised by this line of thinking. I shouldn’t be though. My parents are always skeptical. “It’s getting better, sure, but Ontario’s numbers still aren’t great.”
“You can’t trust official numbers,” Mom says grandly. “The death counts, the infection numbers. None of it.”
“Really? Testing is pretty widely available now,” I say.
“50-80% of all positive results are bogus,” she claims.
I’m laughing now. “And how do you know that?”
“The mainstream media doesn’t give a full picture,” she says. “There are lots of forces at work that want to keep reality hidden.”
“Like what? Who?” I scoff. “Governments don’t want to keep the economy shuttered and financial handouts flowing any longer than they have to.”
Mom clams up at this point. “There are lots of things going on in this world that are hidden from citizens like you and me.”
“Don’t attribute to malice which could be attributed to stupidity and incompetence,” I say, but Mom is done.
“I’ll come if you want me to,” she says, then hangs up the phone.
“Do you notice the older you get the smarter your parents get?”
Our pastor poses this question with a dramatic flourish and is rewarded by a smattering of chuckles across the auditorium.
“No,” I mutter under my breath.
“When you are a teenager,” he goes on, “you think your parents don’t know anything. But then in your twenties and thirties, you realize how much your parents know after all.”
I cock my head, thinking about this maxim. I feel my experience is directly inverted. I assumed as a teenager that the opinions and prejudices of my parents were the standards of normalcy by which all others should be compared. I balked a little, but I still respected their ideas. Now, I just feel sorry for them.
Since I left home in the mid-2000s, rural internet has improved. Now they daily ingest strange stuff, right along with the vitamins and supplements: alternative news, right-wing bloggers, and—it kills me to admit it—conspiracy theories.
My parents were Y2K preppers and then just regular, garden-growing-variety preppers after the world didn’t end that uneasy New Year. Their farm is littered with alternative energy sources: a pellet stove, a hay stove, and solar panels on the lawn and the roof. They’ve purchased a wood stove for the house, a freeze-dryer for garden produce, and who knows what else to stave off the full effect of a global economic meltdown, a nuclear magnetic pulse attack, or a good, old-fashioned civil uprising.
Funny. They never predicted a global pandemic.
Each time I have a conversation with my mother that reveals their paranoia, I get into a slump. Sometimes, I call my older sister to discuss it, but then she gets depressed. Her voice drops so her kids can’t hear what we’re talking about and unhappiness creeps into her day. I don’t like to depress her since we can’t seem to help our parents anyway. We’ve tried arguing, reasoning, teasing even. But governments are still corrupt; the Illuminati exists, and vaccinations are suspicious at best. We’ve given up and talking about our parents just makes us sad.
Sometimes, I complain to my husband, but he shrugs his shoulders. He doesn’t talk regularly to people who exasperate him. “Just don’t call your mom,” he says when I complain.
But she’s my mom.
Is the apex of adulthood the moment you realize your mother will aggravate more than she will alleviate? That the mother you miss is actually the mother from your childhood? An earlier adaptation?
And is there anything more stunning than to realize the mother you want doesn’t exist anymore? That you really and truly must face life on your own?
But I’m thirty-five weeks pregnant. I’m scared. And I still want my mom.
Photo Credit: Dan Evans from Pixabay