Twenty years ago, only a week and a half after 9/11, I made my way to my first ultrasound. Since this was my first pregnancy, and everything had been progressing as it should, my ultrasound had been scheduled for 19 weeks, almost halfway through the pregnancy. Thanks to the events that occurred earlier in September, mixed feelings and questions coursed within me as I walked to my appointment: Were we right to bring a child into this world? What would the world look like for them as they grew up? Were we even prepared, at all, to become parents? And since both Tim and I were graduate students at the time (with several years still ahead of us), one overarching question nagged at me: What in the world had we been thinking?
Despite the questions, despite the shaking in my legs and the grumbling in my belly, I reclined on the table and pulled down my overalls. The jelly, warmed by the technician, spread over my stomach, and I glanced at Tim, who looked like he was about to explode with eagerness. Had I not been an overworked physiology graduate student at the time, perhaps I would have preserved the words that altered my existence. But I did not, and so, as I have written about before, I can only imagine the technician said something along these lines:
1. Here is one head. And here is another!
2. Well, looks like you are having twins.
3. Did you know you are expecting twins?
4. Are you only scheduled for one ultrasound? Because we are going to be here longer. You are having two babies!
Honest to goodness, I feel like #4 is the winner, but I can’t be sure. What I can be sure of is that after heading back to the lab and scarfing down a sandwich, I called my mom, who was visiting her own mother and sisters. Mom has three sisters, and when they used to get together, the house would roar with their laughter (and fill with cigarette smoke, but that’s for another post). So when I called, I wasn’t sure what was going to happen after my announcement.
“How’d it go?” Mom said.
“Fine. Great. Uh . . . we’re having twins.”
I kid you not, I had to move the receiver away from my ears. She and her sisters hooped and hollered, screamed and shouted. It was a better reaction than I ever could have imagined, and to this day, I still hear the smile in my mom’s voice when she signed off and said, “I love you.”
That voice is what I miss now. I woke up today on this 20th anniversary of that ultrasound with an urge to remind her of this story, to see her smile and hear that same “I love you” again. For no matter how complicated our relationship might have been—and it was, it so was—at the end of the day, she’s my mom, she was a fantastic grandmother to Z and T, and I miss her voice.
Lingering on the tragic side of Alzheimer’s does no good, though. Instead, when I went to visit her and my dad, I retold the story of that appointment so long ago. When I said the word “girls,” she lifted her eyebrows, and when I moved on to talking about two babies, her sisters, and the cacophony over the phone, a genuine smile stretched across her face.
Her reaction makes me think of those questions I asked all those years ago, and I realize that while Tim and I might have been naïve and unprepared to be parents, no one is ever “ready” for that journey. The world, though changing, still holds hope, and we’re raising good kids, good people. They bring so much joy to my mom and us that I can’t believe I ever wondered what we’d been thinking.
I’m a lucky mom. Mom is a lucky grandmother. And I’d like to think that’s one thing she remembers.