A lot of my friends are pregnant this year. Or just had a child, or had one last year. Everywhere I look, people are having kids and blogging about it or talking about it...I know that's normal, as my age group is pretty fertile in general, and getting to that point where kids are economically possible, emotionally possible, etc. But sometimes it feels like I'm the only one I know who's not pregnant or nursing.
I have mixed feelings about that.
In my first marriage I was sure I didn't want to have kids. We got a dog, you see, and that was just a ton of work, and she peed everywhere, and ate floor coverings (seriously), and you can't exactly put a kid in a crate for 18 years--or if you do they insist on having therapy about it and writing memoirs. So I was sure that no way, I didn't want them.
This was largely a psychological workaround to avoid admitting that I was in an awful marriage with someone I had no business having kids with. Especially since he was the only son in a Greek family and I was already being treated as the vessel for their future Amazing Grandson (tm).
But now I'm in a good almost-marriage with someone I love. What's more, someone who really wants kids. (Though I'm the oldest of five and he's an only child, so our varying degree of experience with small humans is occasionally hilarious--as in his disbelief that a child would want to watch the same thing over and over. That doesn't really happen, does it? Reader, I LOL'd.) So I've spent a lot of time thinking about what I want.
I know that I really and truly want to be pregnant. That sounds awesome. A crazy experience I would never want to miss. All the growing and changing and superhero bendy bone action and alien creature moving inside me--sign me up, for serious. Likewise, I really want to nurse. These are gut-level primate things and I want them. I read my friends going through it and I have such envy. I want to get knocked up right now. I even wanted to be a surrogate for a gay couple who were friends of mine in my early twenties. (I'll leave you to guess how the Greek husband felt about that.) I have always been terribly curious and eager to be pregnant. I know a lot of people are grossed out by that part of the process and just want the kid, but the pregnancy has always been a big feature to me. It's this uniquely human thing, connecting, connected, and I don't want to die having missed it. Call it a sensate thing, call it biological "ooh, what does that do?"
It's the kid that worries me.
I'm terrified of losing myself and my world in a child. I was raised in large part by a single mom and I'm convinced I'd have to do everything alone. I know intellectually I wouldn't, but the gut speaks louder than the brain. I'm convinced no one would help me, that my partner wouldn't, that I'd be totally alone. And I have no idea how to keep being a full time writer and a mom. I know Robin Hobb raised four kids while writing and all I can think is that she's some kind of titan with eight arms. I know people have full time jobs all the time and raise kids. I just don't really get how. And especially, how to be whimsical and creative and have the same output I do now with a wee one underfoot.
I go back and forth. Some days I'm so glad we don't have kids. Sometimes I really want one. Mostly, I've always been proud that my brain speaks louder than my uterus and just because I want something doesn't mean it's good for me. I got puppies and a cat instead. This is a cheaper and more direct way to get something to cuddle and love you, which is often what girls in their early twenties really want. It was always deathly important to me to deeply want a child before even thinking about having one. Not to do it because it's expected. Because it's just What You Do Next. Because I need to kill time before I die.
I'm not sure what I want right now. I feel my body wanting to do its thing, but my brain still says: I'll never write another book.
It doesn't help that we have a paucity of adult narratives in this culture. The hero story ends with marriage. The coming of age story is all we want to talk about. Once someone is of age things get vague, especially if someone is a woman. (Sylvia Plath is not a good role model for the mother/writer. But she's what I'm afraid I'd become.) Baby and then fast forward to death. Wizard or crone period optional, if one is lucky. But the part where people are grown, mature adults raising kids or not raising kids is usually fast forwarded--unless there's adultery in there, or the death of a child, and you're in a realist sad-sack tome. So there's no archetype for being a good mother and a good writer. No story I can cling to--just a feeling of tipping headlong into the fast-forward part, and being so much closer to death. (And isn't it worthwhile to explore the human story of life without offspring, of what you can be if you don't take part in the universe of reproduction that takes up huge chunks of most historical lives?) I've joked for awhile that it would be easier for me to get pregnant accidentally than to make the conscious decision to have a child.
Sadly, no matter what science fiction will tell you, birth control actually works pretty damn well.
So l look around and see people entering into this phase of their lives and I tell myself: see? Their lives didn't end, stories lie to you. And I don't know what I want. I do love kids and I think we'd have awesome ones. Kids are awesome rogue AI and fascinating and bizarre alien insurgencies. I want that part of the world. But it's terrifying--even if things were financially perfect, it's terrifying--and I feel like I will inevitably lose myself in some ineffably way if I have a kid. That I'll lose, somehow, everything I am. Of course, the Beast and I are dorky enough that we picked out names a long time ago, should we ever have kids. But the having? Is fraught and complex, but I think about it a lot, and I wonder how it will all work out.
And since I'd want to record every moment of being pregnant and raising a child on this blog, since I'm a declarative living kind of girl, I want to record my worries, too.