When I discovered just before my 35th birthday that I was pregnant with my first child, I was euphoric. But as the days went on, panic began to boil inside me. I started sleeping 16 hours a day, awakening from naps sweaty and exhausted, my face sticking to the leather couch.
Fears zinged through my mind, like the worry that my baby's cells wouldn't divide properly if I skipped my nauseating pregnancy vitamins. More than anything, I was afraid I wouldn't be a good mother. Hoping for some reassurance, I called my own mother in Tucson, Ariz.
"I'm so tired," I said.
"Try not to think about it. It's all in your mind," she said.
"Weren't you tired when you were pregnant?" I asked.
Her girlish laugh tinkled over the telephone. "Oh, I never felt better than when I was pregnant."
I should have known not to call her. How could I have a baby? I had no model to draw on for being a good parent. My childhood wasn't the happiest, with my father sinking into his quicksand of alcoholism and my mother trespassing incessantly into the lives of my sisters and me.
After school, while she sliced green apples for a pie, my mother probed into the minutiae of my day until no secret compartment of my adolescent self remained. If I veered into dangerous territory, such as the screeching fear I felt as I boarded the junior high school bus, she would wave her paring knife. "Just sit with your friends and stop worrying," she would say dismissively.
As I lay on the couch, remembering this, panic clutched my throat. I closed my eyes and sank into a heated sleep.