Good Things Come in 3’s!
No one ever really thinks that life imitates art… until it happens to them.
I created a character in my novel, Emma, who is the mother of seven sons. The inspiration for Emma came from my own lineage of amazing, strong, determined women. My grandmothers – and my husband’s grandmothers – were women who crossed the prairies in covered wagons, raised children in challenging circumstances, endured hardships I can’t even imagine, and still managed to maintain a sense of humor and a love of life in general. Yeah. They’re a pretty amazing group of women.
But let’s go back to “mother of seven sons.” In the story, Emma and her husband Jake have two sets of twin boys. When I wrote the book, there were no twins in our family. The idea of twins was fun to think about, but I didn’t have any first – hand knowledge of what it would be like to give birth to or raise twin boys.
As my book hits the streets – or stands, or whatever books hit when they’re published, my daughter-in-law is pregnant with our first grandbabies. Yes, that is plural. Twins. Twin boys. They’ll arrive sometime this fall. (Shhh…. don’t tell L that Emma had seven sons. That’s as cruel as the husband who starts talking about baby number two when his wife is in the recovery room with their first child after 20million hours of labor.) But not to worry. She’s not the only daughter-in-law.
Because awesome things happen in threes, my OTHER daughter-in-law will be bringing the first ever Melnick girl into the world sometime around Thanksgiving. I’ve seen my tiny granddaughter in a fuzzy, blurry ultrasound. She waved at me. Really. She did. I could at least recognize the little hand as a hand. The rest of it, I had to take on faith that the ultrasound tech knew her stuff.
The notion of twins has now transformed from the highly romanticized version in my head to the reality of two of everything. That means L is making room as best she can for two growing babies in her not-so-long-ago itty bitty body. And she’s learning on the fly about the dozens of medical terms and complications that come along with the double blessing of twins. My son and his wife are making huge adjustments in their lives to make room for these two wonderful baby boys. And their two cribs, two car seats, two high chairs. Well, you get the idea.
So of course, I can’t help but ponder what it was like for Emma when she was pregnant with her twins, back in 1884. Was she aware she was having twins? Probably not. Ultrasound technology was a long way off. Did she have to scramble after the babies’ births to find another cradle, another everything? Probably! Did she have help with the two newborn babies? Again, probably not. And she didn’t have a phone, google, or a community of mommy-bloggers to go to for advice. No wonder she’s so unflappable now.
So often, we tend to romanticize past eras. Maybe that’s just me. I envisioned a life of riding horses across an open field instead of racing around in rush hour traffic. I imagined peacefully hanging clothes on a clothesline while the sheets snapped in the breeze instead of waiting for the appliance repairman to show up. I dreamed of the joyous freedom that would come from a self-sustaining lifestyle while compiling a sales presentation at midnight amidst stacks of unopened bills. The reality is that our modern life is complicated. But with our complications, some tremendous improvements have also come about.
According to the Center for Disease Control, at the beginning of the 20th century, for every 1000 live births, six to nine women in the United States died of pregnancy-related complications, and in some U.S. cities, up to 30% of infants died before reaching their first birthday. (CDC MMWR Weekly, October 01, 1999 / 48(38);849-858)
With that being said, I’m very, very happy that MY grandchildren will be born in this time and place, to mommies with excellent nutrition and access to good medical care. My grandbabies have mommies and daddies who are making sure that they’ll have all the stuff on hand that these little ones will need. And, possibly a lot of stuff they won’t need. (Don’t judge. There are some irresistible baby things out there! And grandmothers get excited.)
Don’t forget the amazing technology at new parents’ fingertips. Colic? Teething? All of those “is this normal?” questions that usually come up in the wee hours of the night. With just a tap or two on your smart-phone, you can find suggestions, advice, and pages and pages of whining mothers who blog about stuff that makes you feel like a superstar for coping without drama.
So, I’m feeling a lot of sympathy for Emma. Sorry I made your life so challenging, girl. But I’m also thinking that right now is a good era. I’m looking forward to the adventures with my grandchildren that will take place in the not-so-distant-future.