I'm 28 years old. 28. That's 30 minus 2. Well...30 minus 1 year and 5 months to be exact.
In July I will have been married to the same man for nearly 7 years. From the first month of our marriage at the all too young ages of 21 and 23 we were assaulted with the question, "when are you having a baby?" For six years, 9 months, and 11 days, I have cringed at that question.
Last year, when this topic became valid enough in our lives to begin talking about talking about starting a family, (by the way, I dislike this euphemism. Isn't that we did in 2003 when we decided to get married? Isn't that we did in 2004 when we adopted Marble our first puppy, and again in 2004 when Harley, our second Aussie, came home? Isn't that what I do every time I am with my friends who love and support me and who in turn I love and support?), last year, when I was at the end of my 27th year and Phil turned 30, it was "time" for the talk. My fear, I expressed, was that I never wanted to feel like a baby is what I needed to make me happy or to complete me.
I'm not trying to cast judgment or criticize women who truly and honestly feel that they are called to be mothers first and foremost. I am often envious of these women who live with such certainty. How many times have I looked deeply within myself to see if I had what it took to be a mother. Do I have the generosity, the patience, the kindness, the wisdom, the courage? What I'm saying is, although I've never doubted that I would be a mother someday, I do not ever want one role in my life to define who I am. And, let's face it, I've seen it happen more often than not that a woman with children comes to a point in her life when her children are adults and she's left with a void. What then? When her children are grown, who is she? A grand-mother in waiting?
And then there are the children I see everyday. The 16 and 17 year olds whose closest definition of family they have is the one we create in my classroom. The children whose parents, for whatever reason or combination of circumstances, can't or won't parent. When I bring them home with me in my heart every night what room do I have left to preserve myself and another person? I watch 16 year old girls become mothers; most of them have mothers who had them at the same age. You can't tell me that age doesn't matter. And you can't tell me that 28 is getting "up there."
American women in the 21st century are already placing enormous expectations on themselves to be innovative, sexy, intelligent, successful, clever, popular, warm, generous, assertive, competitive, funny, etc. I must be the consummate housekeeper, cook, dog-walker, teacher, student, friend, sister, aunt, daughter, wife, philosopher, reader, writer, advocate, WOMAN. Fulfilling these statutes that I set for myself is all-consuming. We are inflicting cruel and unusual punishment on ourselves when we set ourselves up to be Superwoman and then chastise ourselves for falling short by a centimeter.
When we do fall short, when one shoe drops and then another, our "happiness" drops, too. And what's worst of all, our self-worth plummets. I'm speaking from experience here. After a few years of a regimented house cleaning routine every Saturday of every month that ate away 6-7 hours of my weekend, one day I sat down and cried out my frustration and exhaustion. I told myself that twice a month would suffice, and the week in between cleaning would be full of fur-bunnies hidden in corners and trails of cat litter peeking out of the utility room. So what?
This is one reason I am not a mother in the technical sense of the word, not yet. I am still plagued by the self-inflicted inflated expectations I long ago chiseled for myself. If I were to have a child and then fall short of my own ideal, not only would I be disappointed, but so would another human being much closer than anyone else ever could be.
I've made the mistake of thinking that one path will constitute utter and complete happiness, only to discover several years later that no one path can do such a thing. A baby will not make me happy.
What am I waiting for then? To experience the moment when I can say, unequivocally, that come what may....I will still be me. I'm waiting for those ghosts to stop rattling their bones in my metaphorical closet. I'm waiting for parts of my past to fade away like the mist dissipates over warm water on the first cool Autumn morning. I'm waiting to be comfortable with stillness. I'm waiting to feel confident about my body. To feel healthy and strong and ready for the gargantuan changes that will happen to me, physically, spiritually, and emotionally.
I'm closer than I've ever been before. So, in 5 months and 4 days when I turn 29 you can tease me all you want. I don't mind.
As Elizabeth Gilbert so candidly put it, "Having a baby is like getting a tattoo on your face. You really need to be certain it's what you want before you commit."
I have tattoos, but when I got them I put them somewhere I don't have to see them all of the time. Once I have a child, I will never look any where else. This is as it should be. And so it will be, when I'm done waiting.