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2003-12-27 | 9:32 p.m.

Home alone with Jinx and it occurs to me--mind you, this is not a wish--but it occurs to me that if he had come first, I would have stopped right there. My life would be so much different, and almost certainly easier. I love my daughters. I LOVE my daughters. But Jinx is the child I first imagined having, and I always imagined him as an only child. When I first got pregnant--go ahead, laugh, I donít mind--I saw myself trekking across Europe with this wonderful, imaginary only child strapped to my back. Weíd go to Prague, damn it. I practically had the plane tickets reserved.

Then a few months into the pregnancy, I noticed that I seemed big for my dates. (Thatís pregnancy lingo.) I looked in the loathsome What to Expect When Youíre Expecting at a list of possible reasons why one would be big for dates. The first reason on the list was "multiple pregnancy." I just rolled right over that one, because it seemed so preposterous, so statistically unlikely, so (admit it!) grotesque. The next possibility was "excess amniotic fluid."

"Thatís it!" I cried. "I have excess amniotic fluid!" I was immediately convinced that I was carrying a surfeit of amniotic fluid rather than a whole extra baby. I told Duff about it.

"What if youíre just having twins?" he asked.

I was horrified. The gall, the impertinence! I answered indignantly that I could not possibly be having twins, that they did not run in my family, and I would rather he not even say such a thing out loud.

"Well, my motherís a twin," he reminded me. Yikes! I had forgotten!

"Still," I said. "I canít have twins. Can you imagine? Having two six-foot-five teenage boys? A trip to McDonaldís would cost eighty dollars!"

Then I sealed my fate forever with this declaration: "I could easier imagine myself having a purple-and-green baby than twins."

A few days later I was in a prenatal clinic for my much overdue first appointment. The midwife rolled in an ancient ultrasound machine and slicked up my belly with clear gel. I mentioned the conversation Iíd had with Duff and she laughed. "Youíre not having twins," she assured me. She had measured my girth and the numbers were within the normal range. When she fired up the machine, the tiny black-and-white screen showed what appeared to me to be a nest of lizards.

"Thereís a baby," she said calmly, tracing its outline with her finger. "And thereís another baby." As her words crawled into my brain, I started to shake all over. My eyes filled up with tears. I felt terrible and fantastic all in the same moment. One part of me was saying How are we going to do this? How will we support two children? How will we put them through college? and then another feeling took over: that we will muddle through somehow; that this is good news, that this is like winning the lottery.

I had made plans to meet Duff for lunch back in Emeryville, where he was working at the time. Driving back, I kept checking my speedometer because my foot was shaking and tingling so much I couldnít tell how much pressure I was applying to the accelerator. I didnít stop shaking for at least an hour. Duff for his part was nonplussed by the news. He says now that he suspected it was twins all along. Of course, he barely said a word for the next six weeks, except when he quit his job in a fit of pique, but it all worked out for the best. And now we are five.

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