Thursday, October 27, 2005

To Parent, or Not to Parent?

This is the eternal question. For some of us, anyhow. Married women age 20 to late 40’s (thanks, Geena Davis!) cannot escape the question that comes from perfect strangers, co-workers, and family members alike:

“When are you going to have kids?”

There are other variations, of course. When you’ve been married over 5 years like me and all you have to show for it is a dog who thinks he’s human, you might hear, “So, don’t you want to have real children?”


“So you don’t like kids, huh?”

When hubby and I were newlyweds we couldn’t call any of his extended family members without hearing a sharp intake of air on the other end.

Hubby: Hi grandma, it’s me.

Grandma: Gasp!

Liz isn’t pregnant.

Grandma: Oh.

They’ve given up by now, methinks. Hubby’s brother and his wife made endless fun of us two years ago when we sent a Christmas card that included a picture of ourselves holding the dog up between us. When we went to visit, there it was on the mantel, surrounded by pictures of their friends’ “real” families. I heard second-hand that my sister-in-law said to hubby, “Don’t worry, Liz will change her mind one day.”

I don't know that I ever truly had my mind made up at all.

Growing up, I was never a girl who longed to be a mother. I babysat and worked with kids all the time, for pay and for free, so it had nothing to do with not liking children. I just never felt the urge to have my own. And until recently it’s felt like I had all the time in the world to be ambivalent about it. Geena Davis and others have proven that the clock ticks a lot longer than it used to, but I think at that age I’d rather be dreaming of early retirement, rather than changing diapers.

We had an interesting experience last summer. We had just arrived in Mexico for a vacation and I wasn’t feeling quite right. I can’t really explain it. I felt tired, almost like I was in someone else’s body. I woke up the first morning and suddenly remembered that over the last two weeks I had vomited a couple of times for no good reason.

After I peeled myself off the ceiling, I told hubby, “Don’t freak out, but I have to tell you something. I don’t know for sure, but...”

For the first day I think we both looked like Alex does in my avatar: wide-eyed and nervous. This had not been in the plans. But as we slowly got used to the possibility, we found ourselves feeling amazed and excited.

This parenting thing, I remembered thinking, we could do it!

Then, on the day we were going to fly home, there was blood and a lot of abnormal cramping.

When I called the 24-hour nurse hotline upon returning home, I described my symptoms. The nurse was kind. She read from a script that said, “You may have been pregnant, and you may have suffered a miscarriage. You should know that if you have suffered a miscarriage, it is not your fault….”

I took a pregnancy test a couple of days later, just to be sure. Only one line.

We were a little sad. We still thought about it over the next few months. I thought about how we had both moved a little in our placement on the child-rearing readiness scale.

A little bit. I am not saying that I’m ready yet.

Because last night, when I was really tired? I was really glad that I could drift off to sleep without worrying about anyone else. And when hubby and I decided that we’d like to go to Mexico again next summer? We knew we wouldn't have to arrange care for anyone but the dog. We can go out when we want to. We can have quiet evenings. I don’t have to lock my cabinets, or put the soap out of reach, or clean handprints and spaghetti sauce off the walls.

Let’s just say I am keenly aware that parenthood is not all roses and Johnson & Johnson commercials.

But more and more I feel that those inconveniences are not as staggering as they used to seem. So one day, if the scale tips significantly in the direction of “Totally Willing to Make All Sacrifices, Gladly!”, then we’ll know we’re ready.

The possibility of that happening seems more real now.

Of course, you can’t always account for surprises. But here’s hoping that this time in Mexico, I can enjoy a margarita and toast whatever the future may bring.



Blogger Bearette24 said...

You're a good writer ;) I have nothing to add, except I hope I'm ready sometime in the next 4 years. I heard all the risks go up at 35.

3:54 PM  
Blogger Lisa said...

From what I've heard---although I'm not expert---the risks for the mom are higher after 35, but babies born to mothers over 35 are healthier than those born to mothers under 35.

So . . .

But what's floating around the ether these days? Everyone is talking babies!

4:11 PM  
Blogger bdogg_mcgee said...

There's definitely something in the air right now....

I'm ready, but I'm scared as hell, too! At least I don't have to worry about it for a few months, though. We're deciding when would be the best time to start trying.

5:00 PM  
Blogger Bearette24 said...

I read in an MSN article that the risk of Down Syndrome increases to 1 in 400 once you turn 35, and that's when they start monitoring the fetus more.

9:19 PM  
Blogger Frema said...

The entire Internet has baby fever! Or, at the very least, baby thoughts.

10:09 PM  
Blogger Bearette24 said...

It's spreading like wildfire ;)

10:40 PM  
Blogger Liz said...

We all seem to be around the same 30-ish age, so maybe that has something to do with it. ;-)

9:01 AM  
Blogger Lisa said...

I'm not 30 yet!

But it's coming faster than I'd like to think (10 months and counting down).

10:16 AM  

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