I should just end this post here, because I don’t think I’m going to write any better than that line.
Where we left off, I was kind of flapping my hands about babies and going “Ennghhh?!” And now I’m kinda dragging my feet about babies and going “Ennghhh.”
Seriously, best writing IN THE WORLD, available on this here blog for the bargain price of FREE NINETY NINE.
Two years ago, I had so many misgivings about having kids. I’m here to tell you that today… I still have them. All. Of them. They haven’t gone anywhere! I’d like to be able to say that with time I’d had an epiphany; that I’d finally woken up one morning and heard the DJ on my biological clock radio smoothly intone that it was time to make zee babies. Nope! I’m still just as fearful and resentful about procreation as I ever was, with the added bonus of being older and more withered.
I guess I’m not completely the same. I do feel slightly better about the general idea of having kids. Over the last few years, in my feverish quest to collect intel on the topic, I’ve read enough about parenthood and talked to enough parents about parenthood to glean some themes — themes outside of even the classic “It’s the best, it’s the worst, you can’t possibly understand.”
(Parents, please stop telling me I can’t possibly understand.)
I’ve gathered that even though parenthood knocks you down like a rush-hour train and drags you over a physical and emotional third rail, you can still make what you want out of the thing. That having a kid doesn’t necessarily send some sort of signal for your psyche to self-destruct in 5, 4, 3, 2 …. As someone who deeply fears losing myself to some murky underworld of mommy tropes, this has been reassuring beyond measure.
I also feel more enthusiastic about the idea of becoming a parent. This crazy science experiment where you throw a bunch of DNA together, shake it around, and watch to see what comes out is unnerving yet fascinating. I do want to see what kind of a person we could end up with, if he or she would be funny or serious, driven or content, studious or sporty, or any of the variables in between. I do want to see what it would be like to try to raise someone to be a good person. Very sporadically I’ve experienced what resembles mildly positive feelings about this process; borderline maybe-I-can-actually-do-this feelings, even — but don’t tell anyone or it could ruin my street cred.
So two years down the road, I feel like I’ve got some things about parenthood mentally handled, or at least sort of hemmed in with pitchforks and blazing torches. What I haven’t gotten a handle on is, well, pretty much everything else.
Like, you know, just doing the damn thing.
We were supposed to start trying in 2012. Definitely in early 2013, we were supposed to go for it then. But stuff kept happening. Stuff for which I did not want to be 100% sober, if I can be honest. Packing! Saying goodbye to friends! Moving! Unpacking! House-buying! House-remodeling! Birthdays! Holidays! Tuesdays!
I know how that makes me sound, but there it is.
Why the hesitation? Oh, I don’t know. Pregnancy only terrifies the living shit out of me. I know it’s the logical next step to becoming a biological parent, but taking that one step has tormented me. It’s a dark specter that constantly haunts the edges of my consciousness. I may have mostly reconciled the concept of being myself as a parent, but being myself while pregnant does not compute. I just don’t… know how to be a host and a person at the same time.
So I’ve stayed in this holding pattern — needing to move forward but not really wanting to go.
I’m too scared to do it and too scared not to.
People have told me: don’t do it if you’re not ready. I say: what if I never actually feel ready? What is ready, anyway? Is it a joyful desire? If it is, that’s a problem, because my current emotional approach to having a baby is one of resigned anxiety. So I could wait more, I could put this all on hold until I am ready in the proper manner. But what if I never am? What if I wait so long I lose out on my chance?
They say: don’t do it if you’re not 100% sure you want to. I say: what if I’m never 100% sure? What if I simply max out at only 80% sure, or 70%, or 52% sure? What then?
The only thing I am certain of is that I would like to be a parent slightly more than I would like to not be a parent. What exactly am I supposed to do with that information? Neither option feels quite comfortable, quite right. It feels a lot like politics, in that you’re forced to choose the lesser of the two evils, which is kind of not how I’d imagined key life decisions are supposed to go.
Maybe the problem is that we are conditioned to see any decision as a yes or no answer instead of a spectrum of answers. When it comes to babies, I am blessed (cursed) to fall somewhere just off-center on that spectrum. My personal solution reads more like a conditional statement than a raw emotion. If x > y, then z. It’s a series of careful calculations over gut feeling.
And that makes me wonder if I’m TOTALLY FUCKING NUTS. What kind of person goes about having a kid like this? What kind of woman am I that I’m forcing myself off the ledge when everyone else seems so willing to jump? What’s wrong with me that it’s taken so long to even get to this point?
Part of the problem, perhaps, is that we just don’t talk about the baby process, which I suppose is to be expected because it involves FILTHY DIRTY SEX. But not talking about it creates a false sense of what the process really involves. Not talking about it makes it look like it’s all result and no effort. Babies appear as if conjured from the ether, BOOM, greeted with welcoming arms by wholly enthusiastic parents. From the outside it seems like there is never any room, in having a baby, for reluctance and indecision. Like nobody ever had a second thought, or a third or nineteenth one, for that matter. It makes it seem like no couple ever fought about the choice, or cried over it, or boiled it all down to a pros and cons list.
When it comes to kids, there’s little room in our cultural narrative for being unsure of what you want. I struggle with whether I’m “normal” or not because I rarely hear stories that mirror mine. It doesn’t help that everyone else in my life has already chosen a side and set up camp with the Parents or the Non-Parents. But I know I can’t be the only fuzzy-logic-mumbo-jumbo holdout. Which is why I’m trying to stay transparent, here.
So to recap for those in the back1, then: I want to be a biological parent, but I don’t want to be pregnant. This is a fun duo of stipulations which, however I slice and dice them, result at some point in me having to host and then extract a human from my loins. I have been an absolute miserable little shit about this! With the feet-dragging and gnashing of teeth and rending of garments. I can count on seven hands the times I cornered my partner without warning and hollered at him about how lucky he was that he wouldn’t have to deal with any baby stuff for essentially the first year of its life and also FUCK YOU WHYYY! I am pretty good at being reasonable and respectful in long-term relationships, how is this dude still with me, etc. etc.
But despite my propensity for being an ass, it finally got to the point where it felt like we couldn’t wait any longer. And that we didn’t really have any good reason to wait any longer. So, we’ve been “trying” since September. Each cycle has been a strange mix of relief that I still get to be “me” and disappointment that we’re still no closer to accomplishing anything.
Working my way through this the past few years has been a long, strange mental trip, and I question what exactly I think I’m doing daily. But I don’t know what else to do. No matter how afraid I may be, it seems like trying to have kids is my best answer, even if only by a hair.
Let’s hope it’s not a wrong answer.
1 This is every day tit for tat / you owe your dealer and can’t pay back fee / suddenly he’s the bully