Magazine got me pregnant.
To be specific, it’s
Kay Blakely’s fault, with a little help from Robin
Morgan and Letty
Cottin Pogrebin. You see, I was an avid reader of Ms. when it
started, back in my glory days of boarding school and Sisterhood
is Powerful. The young women of the Class of 1977 were
told we could do anything, we could be anything, we could have anything...
and by golly, we deserved everything.
Pretty heady stuff for
a fifteen year old who isn’t quite sure what she wants to
be when she grows up. Life was much simpler when the options were
limited to Teacher, Nurse, and Mommy. But, being a good little baby
feminist, I internalized the message, and made plans to go to law
Well... I internalized
some message, anyway. Never the one to conform completely, the message
I actually absorbed was the one that involved perfect daycare and
Baby X, dressed in gender-neutral overalls and sporting the de rigeur
bowl haircut. And five years later, having dropped out of college
to pursue a theatre internship, and then dropped out of that to
pursue something that would actually pay my rent, I got pregnant
with that perfect little Baby X.
And her twin sister.
Suddenly, life underwent
another transformation. Adrienne
Rich didn’t have twins. Letty Cottin Pogrebin didn’t
have to figure out where she was going to find daycare for two infants.
This was not in the plans, thankyouverymuch, and this wasn’t
at all what I had in mind when I thought about “having it
all.” And I certainly wasn’t going to look to my own
mother for a role model. She’d been a single mom in the early
sixties, when Women Had No Choices, and I didn’t have to grow
up to be her. Ms. Magazine told me so.
So I reinvented, and
Hippie Mommy was born.
My daughters will never
know how close one of them came to being named Sky Andromeda. I
cloth diapered, grew organic vegetables, and demonstrated for the
right to midwife-attended births. I traded Ms. for Mothering, read
Ina May Gaskin and Ashleen O’Gaia, and toyed with the idea
of joining a commune. I breastfed, of course, then made my own baby
food. I painted rainbows and stars on the gender-neutral overalls,
and then handed them down to other babies named after colors and
trees. I wanted to be a midwife when I grew up, and determined to
withstand not only the rigors of nursing school, but the siren song
of the medical establishment.
So again, I reinvented.
I became Tired Mommy,
juggling Girl Scouts (feminine bonding, doncha know), soccer (so
no one could say my girls couldn’t understand teamwork), microbiology
classes (it conflicted with School Advisory Council, but what can
you do?), and a job as a student nurse (great experience, low pay).
I bonded with my girls over homework, and they gained the notoriety
of first-graders whose Mom keeps a sheep’s brain in the crisper
section. We scrubbed specimen dishes together in the micro lab for
extra credit points, and ate cheap fast food afterwards. In return,
they developed great immune systems. We moved to student housing;
one daughter acquired a great left hook and the other learned to
run fast. Playdates were scheduled around study groups. I wrote
patient care plans while they slept, and they watched cartoons on
the rare occasions that I did.
Nobody told me at the
time that insubordinate nursing students grew up to be psychiatric
The midwife dreams lasted
a scant two years, and somehow I found my way into a world of disorders
and delusions, Karpmann and Adler and Freud. My children suddenly
had a mother who knew about behavior modification, and wasn’t
afraid to use it. They spent sixth grade helping to bring pizzas
to trauma survivors on the Women’s Mental Health Unit. Their
vocabularies grew to include references to “pedantic psychobabble”
and “art therapy”. They also learned to get themselves
breakfast and off to school unassisted, since I was often working
odd hours and their sitter’s chief qualifications were that
he worked cheap, was fun to hang out with, and was totally uninterested
in girls. As for me ...I had access to leather restraints, and it
was totally unrelated to any pretensions of a social life.
But eventually, as happens
with girls, mine discovered boys.
Shortly thereafter, I
discovered boys, too.
We became a family of
four when my daughters began high school. Gone the sorority house
atmosphere, gone the days of intense femininity, synchronized mood
swings, chick flicks, and dried flowers in baskets in the bathroom.
There was mischief afoot, laden with testosterone, and the world
once again was changing.
Boy did it change.
As if we hadn’t
enough proof that the Divine has a sick sense of humor, we were
joined by more twins just as Medicare changes sharply curtailed
my ability to bill for my work. I reinvented once again, and became
No, I don’t own
a van. No Suburban Assault Vehicles grace my driveway. But my wallet
holds a PTA membership card, and the words “gymnastics”
and “religious ed” have crept onto my schedule. I’ve
become fluent in acronyms, flinging NCLB and IEP into conversations
with mad abandon. I can tell the difference between Polly Pockets
and green army men, barefoot and in the dark. I’ve been to
the petting zoo twice in the last six months.
I own scrapbooking supplies.
Heaven help me, I can
even tell you what this week’s Happy Meal toy is.
But this, too, is passing.
One of the babies in hand-painted overalls has a daughter of her
own; her sister has graduated from college. My status as mother
and grandmother has led me back to my activist roots, to protests
and political rallies and long discussions involving the phrase
“blue states”. I’ve rejoined the National Women’s
Political Caucus, and Monday I have an appointment to discuss law
Maybe Tuesday I’ll
handpaint overalls for my granddaughter.
Maybe Wednesday I’ll
resubscribe to Ms.
mmo : December