One by one, my friends are becoming parents. There is a certain logic to this: we are in our early/mid 30’s, and it follows a few years of annually attending more weddings than I can count on one hand. But there is also something quite shocking to me about how universal it seems, like they are all reacting to cues given from off-stage that I cannot hear.
How are they all so coordinated, did I miss the memo? Maybe there was a letter that I should have received on my 30th birthday telling me that I should be preparing for parenthood with a sequence of events: wedding, home, stopping birth control, followed by labor and then 2am feedings. I imagine this memo must have hit a practical tone, with enough inspiration that everyone reading it saw a realistic, but exciting possibility and was eager to start down this prescribed path.
I am not at all sure that I want a kid; some days the idea is compelling, and other times overwhelming. As friend after friend tells me they’re have a baby, I keep wondering, how did I miss this? There have been some friends that I knew all along wanted kids. They were the ones that would mention children in a vague future way, and so it makes sense that that vague future has come to meet the present, and now must be shaped into a firm reality with cute cat-patterned onesies. But what about the rest of my friends? The ones that I’d assumed were not so sure about kids or the future? Even they seem to be falling in line with this next life stage.
Let me clarify: I understand the appeal of raising a child, the prospect of bringing a tiny, lovable thing into the world. I have a taste of it already as an aunt; I obsessively check every few hours for new photos of my nephew, and often zoom into his adorable, tiny face, stare and smile. And I know that there is no perfect time to start a family. But still, the puzzle for me is in the decision. How did they all decide? When did they all feel ready for this responsibility?
I can’t yet imagine giving birth and shape to a child when I am still shaping myself. I feel that I am still forming even at the age of 33, soon to be 34. There is still so much that I want for myself. I want to write a book, become a good coach, figure out my career, sip coffee in Cuba, try a ballet class, and learn to get through life with less angst, and more honesty and presence. I am still learning how to be myself, and I don’t know where I would find the time to devote to diapers and breastfeeding. I don’t know if I want to.
Thinking about the tidal wave of babies that are surfacing among my friends fills me with a sense of dread. I am happy for them, and even happy to spend time with their babies. But it is a reminder that I might miss out on the whole child thing just because I didn’t get the memo and didn’t get it together, didn’t get myself together, to plan the future and start a family.
It is a reminder that I have never before been so off track compared to my peers, never been so outside the norm. I’m worried about both choices; I am scared to make a different choice and forgo this essential human experience that so many around me are choosing. But I am equally afraid of giving my life away to another. I am afraid of not knowing which path to take, and which struggle to choose and which to avoid. More than anything right now, I am at an utter loss when it comes to how to even make this decision that everyone else seems to have already made. I sure wish I could just get my hands on a copy of that memo.
Images: “Woman in the Night” (1967) and “Maternity” (1924) by Joan Miro.