To be fair, I’m responsible for this reputation by turning the conversation to my dog every time someone mentions their kid and how fun, exhausting, smart, needy, cute, messy, fill in the blank they are. I’ve also said explicitly “I don’t want kids” and at times softened to “I would have them if I were rich and could fork out for a nanny.” As if that wasn’t enough, I have also published an essay on the subject in the upcoming anthology I’m co-editing, Talking Taboo (White Cloud Press, 2013).
So I’m embarrassed already to tell you about my holiday revelation last year. It was small and mostly unimportant, except it was a first, a noted first on Thanksgiving, the first time I looked around a room of adults in pleasant clothes sitting on stain-free couches and picking up wine glasses off the table only for the passing of wagging tails and thought to myself, “This would be more fun with kids.”
My four year-old niece may have started priming my thoughts back in August. It was impossible (impossible, I promise you) not to fall in love with her Cabbage Patch hair and naked little body wrapped in a sheet. She was sassy and smart and sensual; her sense of humor was spot-on. When I feigned surprise that her favorite hiding spot was the closet, adding with that dopey adult voice, “Wow! Can you even fit in there?”, she responded deadpan, “I’m not fat.” It didn’t hurt that she favored me over my husband who always gets the wee-ones swooning. I think it had something to do with our matching anatomy but maybe she just prefers wryly, awkward twenty-somethings.
My husband and I took a walk into downtown Durham to melt off the stuffing on Black Friday. After I’d done my typical logistics rundown of our schedule for the next week, I blurted out, “I might actually want to have kids.”
“Oh yeah?” he asked.
“Yeah, I mean, who’s to say I can’t change my mind? And if we want to adopt older kids, I would feel a bit absurd being a 28 year-old with a 10 year-old. That would be stupid at PTA meetings.”
“I don’t think, so. But either way, it’s going to take some time, time for you to figure out if this is how you, we, really feel and time for our decisions to play themselves out,” he assured me.
Time, yes. Time was good. Time would be enough. To consider how much of a life I could have hosting dinner parties and eating at new restaurants and buying fabulous new kelly green coats and traveling. Traveling was a hard one. Sleeping, too.
Don’t freak out, just yet. I’m not there. I’m not convinced it wasn’t just a moment of weakness when the pleasantry of Thanksgiving small talk pressed in on me. Christmas, after all, brought sleeplessness and sickness, and I once again resolved that I hadn’t the stamina for kids of my own.
I’m glad I went to the support group on Sunday. It opened a door for what might be to come. I finally quit talking a big game and starting listening to the real pain. Of bodies being given and taken. Of marriages being stretched and neglected. Of families being torn and worn. And yet still, I had sweat under my brow as I sat on the couch and told Rush, “It doesn’t sound impossible.” And yet still, we agreed that it was a long way off. When we have a bigger house. When we have two cars. When the dog is dead.
For more of my baby-free saga, you’ll have to read the anthology (which you can pre-order for the next four days on Indiegogo). But in the meantime, I’m scrolling through Facebook posts a little more gingerly, feeling kinder toward all those baby updates. And trying to be a bit more critical of my dog’s shortcomings.
Does the ugly rash under her armpit count?