They’re 4 Grownups Now, but I Still Live in Mother Land, and I Always Will

Even after all the fertility struggle, parenting with my female partner has been so much more (and better) than it's cracked up to be.

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I wanted to be a mother so, so much, for many years before I actually became one. Only in this era could it have happened the way it happened. It has all gone by in a blur, as life does. I remember the number of medical interventions, expensive ones both monetarily and emotionally, that were increasingly OK with me, all the way up to surgery and dozens (hundreds?) of hormone injections. I remember the longing and the failed attempts, over a couple of years, and going off to dig in the dirt as some kind of consolation and healing. (Our flower beds during that era were spectacular.)

I remember finally achieving that elusive thing, pregnancy, as feeling I had made it to the top of a snow-capped peak, knowing there is no way out, now, but to slide all the way down—an odd combination of exhilaration, accomplishment, entrapment, and terror, not to mention anticipation of some new world you are about to enter.

I remember lying on the couch, holding a three-week-old baby boy, wondering if there was anyone in the world ever as able to define and understand the word “bonded” as I was at that moment. I remember how well I immediately fit into motherhood, how right it was for me from the start, as if I had just crossed into a new country but where I spoke the language fluently without effort. Then to have twins! Holding their sweaty little bodies that first summer, looking around at the unbelievable scene of three little tiny human beings that were, oh my God, my children, and hoping I could be what they needed, completely indescribable. For every person who said to me, “You’ve got your hands full,” and there were thousands, I knew how lucky I was, and felt it even on the days I was overwhelmed by it.

I remember my gratitude at how perfect it was that my partner, now wife, and I wanted and achieved the same thing, motherhood, together, and what a perfect parenting team we turned out to be.

I know that it was even more unusual, and lucky, that she then could also become pregnant, and with my help. Who gets to have motherhood in two different ways, each equally essential to her life? Hardly anybody. But I did. The fourth child, what an unbearably sweet gift to not be pregnant and still to have the experience of going through pregnancy and becoming a mother again.

The time has gone by, as I was saying, in a blur, but now I experience the intelligence, the adventurousness, the kindness of my children as the summary of my own life’s achievements. People tell me how well they have “turned out,” but if you are a parent you already know this: They were who they were when they were born. I looked at them in their cribs, and I saw who they were right away. It has been a joy beyond description to be there as they grew into those personalities. To have been along for the ride, to be the person they can always come back to . . . as my own mother used to say, “That’s what mothers are for.” Nobody will ever tell me I didn’t achieve my purpose in life.

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