It was the fall of my first year of college when I showed up at my GYN’s office for a routine PAP.
“Mind if my med school intern joins us for your exam?”
“Not at all!” I chirped, glad to be helping another person with their educational path, even as I started my own.
“Whyy Hallo they-ur, yew muhst be Lee-ah!” The drawl caught me off guard, as I live in New England.
“Nay-o ahm just gonna take yer blood…” I squirmed, and began to sing old MacDonald. Something I have done since I was three because needles and blood and that rubber band thing freak me out. I started on pigs and moved on to horses and cows.
“E, I, E, I, O!” I crowed.
“Well nay-o, yew are just gunna have to lurn to deal with blood, silly, what are yew gunna do when yew have lil babies?”
I was instantly furious.
“Get her out.”
It continued in various humiliations over the years: assumptions about when I would graduate leading to random friends giving me advice on timing childbirth. Even magazines, books and TV series indicating in one not-so-subtle-form or another that hey, the clock was a tickin’ and I had better make the best of my fertile years. Whatever.
Thing was, I never liked babies. They were loud, delicate and sticky. They needed things, indecipherable things and they smelled like poo. No thanks. They were not interested in the same things as I (cocktails) and seemed very irrelevant to me.
Last April, I was shocked to read a double line on my First Response, the first one I ever even felt the impetus to take. I looked up into my bathroom mirror and said, clear as day, all alone, “Oh. Holy. Shit.”
And I suddenly wanted to have a baby. After 26 years of NEVER wanting kids.
Disclaimer to this article: don’t use it to tell women of any age “they will come around” or “things will change– you’ll see” (insert condescending chuckle here) because that’s some serious bullshit, and none of it is true. The only reason that it became the truth for me, was, in short, because of what I like to refer to as the “solar eclipse” rarity of circumstance under which I felt comfortable and indeed confident enough to procreate. Here is my list:
- I wanted an advanced degree completed
- I wanted to be married to the father of the child
- The man in question had to be DAMN impressive
- I needed to own a home in a decent school district
- I needed to know, beyond a doubt that working would not be required of me. If I wanted to be a SAHM, I could and if I wanted to be a working mother, I could. It was a matter of choice.
This was my list. With my masters degree completed and the baby’s father being incredible. I only had to have a few targeted conversations to determine if this was going to work out. Everything did.
Yet, I think back to the messages people conveyed to me (largely from older men too…what IS that about? Do they need to feel as though the world will go on as it always has, women will know their roles blah blah blah?). Messages that indicated I needed a good talking-to, that I needed to come to my senses, that childbirth was like, totally, the best thing ever. And besides…BABIES ARE SO ADORABLE, DON’T YOU JUST WANT ONE? Yeah, it was right up there with a frontal lobe replacement. If that even is a surgical procedure.
And so, I wasn’t exactly trying when I got pregnant. But then again, if I am being honest here, I wasn’t NOT trying, either. In truth, what I was doing was playing a little game we all know as Russian Roulette and thinking that hey, this was THE guy and if I did get pregnant, it would be a gift from God. Yep, I went there. But only in the very back of my mind. You see, I had some compelling reasons to assume I was unable to conceive…but not empirical proof. Rather, I just assumed I couldn’t and that was just peachy by me. Then my husband and I started dating. And for me, everything changed. I could actually want children with this man.
I hear you. It certainly doesn’t look good on paper.
But I do pride myself on my outstanding intuition (I like to think that “the force is strong with me”) and have never regretted following its directives. When determining if I should use birth control with my then-boyfriend, I felt deeply (and proactively let him know, of course) that birth control was simply not interesting to me. That though I sincerely doubted I would get pregnant, if I was going to start a family with someone, it would be him. Unlike me, his life-long dream to be a father supported an abiding desire to have children, so he was just fine with the arrangement, knowing full well what I expected from him to make it work. We were then, and are now, very much in love, and still maintain an excellent partnership. And so it was decided, in exactly that way, that we would forgo birth control, come what may.
Truth. Mushy, gross, sentimental, truth.
I had reservations about even telling the truth because it is such a feelings-based way to determine parenthood. But here is the kicker: I am learning that in many ways, parenting is largely about following instincts in the face of many uncertainties. I had no idea. For me, there remains an inkling that parenting has a lot to do with listening to one’s gut, weighing outside information against long-held assumptions, then making choices out of intuition. Maybe the way I chose to move forward with this pregnancy will also inform my ability to balance many opposing ideas and concerns about how I want to raise this baby.