I’m 34. Even though I apparently look young (I still get carded fairly often) despite my obvious signs of crow’s feet, I feel better than I did in my twenties. I’m more confident, more sure of myself both mentally and physically; in short my thirties have been very good to me, I think. But, never have I felt all of 34 until we started trying for a baby.
My junior year of college, until I graduated, I worked as a freelancer at a television research firm, which isn’t your typical part-time job for a degree-seeking student. Besides the matched 401K, I worked with some of the most hilarious people I’ve ever met, and I remember coming into work one day saying the Captain Obvious statement when you’re in college and have nothing better to do than sleep ten hours a night “I slept like a baby.” A witty co-worker replied, “What, you cried and wet the bed all night?”
And he was right. Babies cry. Often. My mother-in-law tells the story of my husband’s older brother crying for a solid three months, and then one day, he just stopped. I cannot even imagine what crying for 90 days straight sounds like. And they do wet themselves (and worse) like it’s their job–because it is. And I don’t even want to think about what happens when babies become toddlers screaming at the top of their lungs inches from your face because you won’t let them bring their blanket to the dinner table or throwing an epic tantrum in the middle of Trader Joe’s because someone won’t put Pirate Booty in the shopping cart. Then there’s the gross-out factor kids bring with spit and vomit and bloody gashes. One time the dog threw up on the couch and I gagged so hard while picking it up I dry heaved and my husband thought it was the funniest thing he’d ever witnessed. And when my nephew showed up wearing a cast on his arm post-soccer injury, I abruptly put the kibosh on the conversation mid-sentence as he was describing the sound his wrist made when it broke.
Then there’s the stuff I did as a kid. I had extremely messed up baby teeth from either thumb sucking or a fall (neither my mom or I can remember which), so they resembled a gnarled mess for a few years. I split open my chin after tripping on wet stairs trying to collect an aluminum can for my brother’s fundraising efforts to send him to the big island of Hawaii, split open my right eyebrow after knocking my face on the back of my twin sister’s boyfriend’s head while on an innertube pulled behind a boat at my grandparents’ lakehouse, and there’s a skateboarding incident that involves me being pulled behind a bicycle by a jump rope that to this day makes my belly churn thinking of the skidded-up mess that was the end result of a few minutes of a good time. I remember throwing up on my mother once when I was about 8 years old. I was sick and she brought me a glass of cold water which I threw up just after drinking it, and my mom stood there catching the throw-up with her own bare hands. Can I catch my own kid’s puke? Honestly, I’m not sure, but I’m leaning more towards no. Will I have it in me to not start crying and feeling badly if our kid is bullied, or what if our kid is the one doing the bullying? I’m sporadic at best with tending to our herb and vegetable garden, and sometimes I let the dog bark a few extra times outside the back door just because I need a couple more minutes of peace, and I go ballistic when my schedule is thrown off because my internet is down and I’m on deadline–what’s a baby going to bring to this mix?
I’m not sure. But, I do know I want one. Not the way a celebrity wants one for a public relations ploy or a career boost or the best accessory to tote around these days (PS—I wonder who knocked up January Jones), but because I really do want to be a mother, and that hit me around the age of 30. My husband and I both entered into our marriage with the notion that one day we’d have children, we just didn’t know when, but thankfully we didn’t get too many questions about a baby early on, as our older siblings took one for the team on that front. On my side, both my older sister and brother were married for years before they had children, and my husband’s siblings already had given his parents ten grandchildren ranging in age from 7 to 20, so no one from either of our families really asked us anything. For that, I’m grateful, and now any prodding has been because we’ve offered the information, not because we’ve been forced to spill the beans.
Also, around the age of 30 there came a point in my life when not having kids made me feel like something was wrong with my marriage. That thought wasn’t really in the forefront of my own mind, but a seed planted by others. I remember one friend came through town, and while my husband chatted with her husband at a Mexican restaurant, between margaritas and guacamole she badgered me about when we were having kids. After they drove away I bawled and felt inadequate and that our marriage was not enough because it was just us, our party of two. I felt pressure that people were judging us. Having children is such a personal issue to me that it’s taken time and consideration. How do you know the reason people aren’t having children isn’t because they aren’t in fact trying, but something isn’t clicking? Do you really want to be caught in a conversation with someone about her husband’s sperm count (this isn’t our issue)? How personal do you have to get? To be blunt, I shouldn’t have to tell every fringe friend the reason I haven’t had kids is that through the years my husband and I wanted them at different times and now, we finally want them at the same time. And all that takes time, thought, and consideration. You can remove a tattoo, get a divorce, but a baby, well, that’s permanent. And to be even more blunt what’s required even more time is me feeling like I was ready to be a mother and learn from the way I was raised, keep some parts, disregard others, and hopefully arm myself with enough tools to become the mother I want to be.
At 34 I’ve heard all the stories from friends and family–miscarriages, fertility treatments, pregnant without even trying, believe me, I’ve heard it all. I know a couple that was married ten plus years before they finally had their son. I have a friend from high school with five children. I have friends in Atlanta whose household is married lesbians raising twin boys. I have a friend who is the world’s best stepmother, friends that got pregnant in high school or college; the idea of family has changed, in a good way.
I’m not sure what the end to our story will be, but I’m struggling to surrender to the process and try for our baby as long as it takes. Without revealing too much, it’s taking longer than I would’ve hoped or thought. I assumed since we waited so long to have kids and our lives were stable and our marriage solid, babies would just happen on our terms. I’m certain this is the test of many things to come, but we cannot control it. We can do things when we’re supposed to do them, but babies come when they are good and ready both in conception and delivery. But I’m growing tired of counting days between cycles and the roller coaster that comes between those days and missing the spontaneity that once was our bedroom time. So, the truth is this, we’re trying.