I recently found an old girlfriend online who, a couple of years ago, birthed a beautiful baby boy. My usual reaction to this is to high-five my husband, who will inevitably sing: "Another one bites the dust" as we giggle and laugh and think how happy we are to be without strings right now, as most of our newlywed friends have become pregnant over the last several months. However, this time was different:
This last week, the temperature in Virginia Beach was a remarkable stunning 108. I very much dislike being uncomfortably warm, I am not a huge fan of summer, my cars do not have air conditioning and I find that I am not an advocate of sweating. For these reasons, I find I am particularly prone to heat exhaustion and found myself drinking like a camel at work. In fact, I would return from retrieving water and my water cup would already be empty as my girlfriends were yet finding their seats. Due to the extraordinarily high levels of estrogen in my office and consequently a heightened awareness of all things baby-related, they swarmed my desk and in lowered tones asked The Question: "Cailin, are you pregnant?" Me? The one who has loudly and vehemently declared she doesn't want children until after summer of 2011, when she finishes graduate school, has published her first book and her parents return from Asia Minor? No. Certainly not.
The Question got me thinking though. With viewing my girlfriend's son, who is now four, I began to think: do parents look at couples without children the way married people sometimes look at single people? Am I a lesser being for not changing over my studio to a nursery? For not giving up my dream of education? For not pursuing the American Dream of a white picket fence, a dog named Spot and a baby on each hip?
When Joshua and I first met, he wanted to marry a woman whose entire life calling was to be a mother. He got me instead: a goal-oriented, Type A, driven, high-strung working woman. Time has changed that of course, but we grew to understand that we had very varied but similar goals: I wanted to become a curator which meant setting aside dreams of a family and a home life until I had nestled my way into the world niche for art historians which did not include diapers and daycare. Joshua wanted a family and a warm home environment, but he knew increasingly that he had neither the preparation of head knowledge to effectively rear a child and he wanted to be ready. So we agreed to wait.
But now several of our friends ask us incessantly: "when are you guys going to have children?" As if my life wasn't complete without offspring. Can life not continue without children? I feel as if my entire marriage isn't validated until we procreate and that I can't call Joshua and me a family unless we have that third wheel. It's not that I'm opposed. I am a woman of lists and I already have names. Joshua and I speak of them often and fondly and laugh at the things we think they will do and say. We dream of them and their antics and prepare how we will handle their "child-isms" that will come as they grow to test limits and see that we love them enough to enforce them.
But when does one decide, in all of this 'growing-up' and becoming the people we dreamed of when we were kids, that we are "ready"? Is it just that I'm scared that I push the deadlines so far out? Summer 2011. Who plans that far in advance? I told a friend counselor this once and she laughed and said, "perhaps you should come by my office for a chat". Am I so controlling that I need to have everything in order before I join the ranks of all those bold women of history who handled life with ease, even with a baby on the hip? Am I too scared that I'll fail? Am I overwhelmed with the permanency? I mean, I can decide to go to school, but then realize I'm in over my head and take off a semester, but with children it doesn't work that way. There is no changing of one's mind.
I think of so many people I know that had children prematurely in life. They were kids themselves and what a mess they made of things. I think it scares me to think that in my controlling mindset I should encounter something that I cannot foresee or be able to manipulate to work perfectly in my grand scheme of things. I suppose that is how faith enters the picture. I will not be able to handle it all on my own, nor will I have to. Whenever I should be greeted with the news of my children, I will rejoice and be glad for I know that at that time, the timing will have been right.
But for now it's just the two of us and that's just fine for me.