Two things happen when you’re a woman and you get married, and it doesn’t seem to matter if you’re 24 or 40. The first is that suddenly, everyone expects you to reproduce.
The second is that everyone loses their manners and openly asks you pretty direct questions about it, like, “When are you and Steinvic going to have a baby?”
If someone knows us well and asks us this, I don’t mind so much. I know that when family members ask, it’s because they love us and they all have kids and they think it would be super-cool-neato-mosquito for us to share the experience.
However, they momentarily forget that Steinvic and I are not young (we aren’t old, either, but for our comfort, a little too old to start our own family) and that Steinvic already has a wonderful son, Young Man.
So, those are the answers we give to the questioners. “We have a baby! He just happens to be 20 years old with a beard!” or “Nope, we don’t want to be the only 60 and 70 year old parents at graduation.” (Please note: I am not criticizing my fine 40 & up friends who choose to have children now. This is our personal preference for our lifestyle.)
However, if I’m honest, since getting married, a third thing has also happened: all of the well-rehearsed, sincere responses to the “when are you having babies?” questions have finally sunk in.
I actually now realize that I am not having children of my own.
I’m ok with this for many reasons. I’m not selfish, but I LOVE my free time and have no idea how I’d ever get away with simultaneously painting my toenails, watching girl stuff on TV and creating something artful between toe polish coats like I do now if I were a mother. (Of course I wash my hands after touching my toes – c’mon! I would not create art or anything else with feety hands.) I also know that I would be a complete wreck every time my child was not in my sight and I can’t imagine how edgy that would make me. I might be the kind of mom who got too involved. I might be too strict and expect too much of my child, or perhaps I’d be too permissive – either doing the same or exact opposite of my own upbringing. I might be a complete, psycho mess. I sometimes kid Steinvic, saying I’d be a crap mom, but what I’m really saying is that I don’t know if I could deal with the emotional challenges and major responsibilities of being a parent. I don’t think I’d abandon a child – even though it runs in my family – but I might do something worse for my child, like stay. (I know that sounds odd, but some people should not be parents.)
Not to mention that physically, I likely can’t have kids. (Which, by the way, is another one of the questions that near strangers ask that I really can’t believe: “What’s wrong?! Can’t you have kids?” with no pause or sensitivity whatsoever.) Since surgery, I’ve had about four years to get that through my head, even though I know that with the miracles of science or adoption, I might still have been able.
So, while I know that I’m not having babies, and I am logically fine with that and emotionally very happy to have Young Man in my life, it is bothering me, ever so slightly.
What has dawned on me recently is that I am realizing just what I’m missing. And maybe it isn’t marriage that has triggered it, but more things going on around me. That a good friend of mine – just my age – recently had a baby and plans to have another this year. Or that J’s kids are so wonderful and creative, with such great personalities…they really give her purpose and happiness. Or the way that Young Man looks at Steinvic sometimes. I see it and it goes straight through me – he really, really loves his Dad.
I will never know what it is like to love and be loved by someone who is part me and I won't have the chance to raise a person who could go into the world to experience life and love and do meaningful things. And I guess that realization is what is giving me a little pause.
But I’m okay. I realize that chapter is finished and for now, I think I’ll put a place marker there and set the book aside for a little while. Just long enough to rest my eyes. And then I can think about it again and about what I might do instead of parenting that could fill those pages.