Tuesday, March 8, 2011

On Clocks

A few years ago, a friend came over with her baby. The child was perhaps two, a solid little toddler. I did a quick baby-proofing, and decided that as long as she didn't stick her fingers into our uncovered outlets, we were pretty safe.

Then we started chatting, and seconds later, the child wandered out of the bathroom carrying the sharp hair scissors I keep on the bottom shelf of the open cabinet. It had never crossed my mind.

No harm, no foul. She wasn't injured. Her mother laughed. But it proved something to me. I am not a natural mother.

Perhaps I spent too much time as a babysitter in my youth? I wore out all my mothering-ness? I babysat from the age of twelve to twenty-two. That's ten years of spit-up, diaper-changes, and juice-boxes, and I was only a nights/weekends kind of gal, nothing like actual parenting.

Did I wear out that part of myself?

I heard my clock tick once. About four years ago, the alarm (which had never made as much as a peep before) rang, and I couldn't find the snooze button.

As I do with all new things, I got REALLY excited about it. I researched every option available to my partner and me, finally figuring out that the perfect combination of ease and affordability came with knowing the donor. The procedure, to be legally protected, had to take place in a doctor's office (whew), and it would be a little less than fifteen grand, which was the low-end starting price for every other option, it seemed.

So we thought about it. Who would be the best person to tap (as it were)? We ran through our mutual friends and came up with one name. Rob. I'd known him for twenty years, and loved him like a brother (really, only like a brother). He was married to a woman he loved who already had almost-grown children--Rob and she weren't interested in having any more. But maybe he wouldn't mind being a bio-dad?

I called him. I can't even remember what I said, and I'm sure I bargled it all up, but after he talked to his wife, he agreed. With happiness! He was excited! How great it would be to be the special relative, to have a little piece of him running around.

Then my alarm stopped ringing. Jobs were gained. And lost. The money was never there (and while charging a pair of shoes might be all right for some, I couldn't imagine putting the cost of optional pregnancy on a credit card). Time passed.

I lost interest, probably when I started something new: photography, or spinning (recently it's weaving that has my attention). My wife (who was fine with anything and left the whole thing in my court) asked, "Hey, what about Rob?" I shrugged and stayed up too late reading about how to make artisan bread.

And after a while, Rob asked, "Hey, what about me?"

I said, "Well. About that, what you were going to give us? We'll pass." Of course, I said it much better than that. I was sensitive. Loving in my let-down. But that's what it came down to. I'd wanted a baby like I'd wanted my iPad, probably for about the same length of time. Then I got an iPad, and used it for a while and actually wrote two books on it, but now it really only comes in handy for playing Scrabble on planes.

Think if I'd treated a child like that. I'd get two books out of it, and then shelve it under a stack of trade journals. Then CPS would haul me away, and I'd get another book out of that . . . Well, perhaps I should rethink . . .

It makes me sound hard, doesn't it? I don't feel hard, but I can admit it appears that I am. I have all the love in the world for my nephew Isaac, who truly is the smartest almost-two year old in the whole wide world. He will be the first banjo-playing-rock-star-astro-physicist-president, I just know it. I love being with him.

But then I love going home and having a glass of wine and staying up too late, just for fun. And outside in the back yard, in the grass, next to the broken vacuum cleaner, the old gas grill, and the lawnmower with the broken chain, my clock rests. In peace.


Adrienne Miller said...

You're not hard, not even a little bit. You did what was right for you, and there's no hard or soft about it. Really. Really, really.

Lisa Hughey said...

You are not hard. More like gooey, special, softness. There is no hardness in not having children. It isn't for everyone. Sometimes it's not even for people who actually HAVE children. However if you had made the choice, you would have been a *great* mom. And extra-special, gooey soft auntie is just as important. xo

Sophie Littlefield said...

oh smrmnnmf. hee hee. love that last paragraph desperately, and if there's an apocalypse i'm sending dozens of foundlings your way because you're like Auntie gold...

Juliet Blackwell said...

I think it's important to acknowledge that sometimes the gooiest, most loving choice is NOT to have children.
But that said...I never imagined having a child, until I had one. I didn't know anything about kids, didn't even like them very much. But once my boy arrived, I fell in love. Desperately, head-over-heels in love. And I never tire of him because as a human, he is constantly changing -- rather unlike other craft projects ;-)
You would have been a fabulous mom, but now you get to spend that time and energy being many fabulous other things, to many people ;-)

Hard Boiled Mysti said...

I truly believe that having kids is like taking up writing. You should only do it if you absolutely cannot stand not to.

And I agree with everyone else, and science confirms, as did the sudden and permanent shifts in my brother's goals and perspectives when they had kids. Once that bond forms, hell nor high water can keep you from loving and caring for the little critter.

Rachael Herron said...

HB Mysti, that line is genius. You're totally right. I could stand not to. (Kids, not the writing.) :)

Anonymous said...

There are enough "shelved children" in the world. Not all women are meant to be mothers.

Dani in NC said...

Since you are such a loving person, I doubt that CPS would ever have to be called on you :-). However, it is good that you know yourself well enough to know that parenting isn't right for you. I never was a person who dreamed of having kids and yet, here I am, the mother of four. Now that they are teenagers, they are the most fascinating people in my life, but I spent quite a long time feeling trapped. I hate associating that feeling with people I love so much.

Tom Neely said...

It's funny....for the longest time Adrienne and I were completely and totally happy being married folks without kids. We had jobs and careers and each other and that was just right. And then one day the deafening sound of two biological alarm clocks going off came ringing and our lives changed forever. For the new biologically changed us, it was one of the best decisions ever and for the "old us" it would have been the worst of ideas. Having been on both sides, content without and desperately in need of children, I've gotta say both are totally cool places to be. And that you and you're rockin' wife's opinions are the only ones that matter.

Amy said...

I agree with everyone here. I chose not to have kids as well and it is a very hard decision, but ultimately you have to know what's best for yourself.