I have always been the “I just don’t think kids are in my future” kind of gal. This was always stated breezily, easily, with absolute confidence. I’m a perennial University student of literature and philosophy (presently earning a Master of Letters); a vegan, tattooed traveler who, being aunty to six terrific nephews and nieces, felt that I was surrounded by enough kid-love to forgo cooking up any of my own.
I was so certain of this that I had even convinced everyone around me that this was how it was going to be. I was not the child-free thirty-year-old that people raised a knowing eyebrow at and said, “You’ll see, you’ll want your own.” Everyone — my mother, sister, brother, partners, friends and, especially, me — believed I was one of those women who would happily kick through this life as the adoring, crazy, child-free aunt who did wonderful, exotic things and was fun to visit because she was so permissive and didn’t know what a normal kid’s bedtime was supposed to be so let everyone stay up until midnight.
My sister is a home-schooling, home-birthing, additive-checking, vaccination-avoiding, nappy-free, breastfeeding-kids-with-all-their-teeth kind of earth mother who just about lives for her kids. I assisted at the births of three out of her four children. While she has sometimes said she would love to be on the other side aiding me through my own birth journey, she was very supportive of my child-free status. I was never judged. I was left alone. I was terribly sure of my plans.
I have to admit it now, without shame: I want a baby. It snuck up on me and blind-sided me. If I’d seen it coming I might have managed to dodge it.
One day, my beloved and I got a little carried away and weren’t so careful in the contraceptive department. We thought “oops” and waited. I desperately wanted my dear old reliable Aunty Flow to show. I checked my undies like a compulsive. She did, with her familiar punctuality, arrive. The very odd thing was, I cried when she did.
I reasoned later that I was under the influence of hormones. I was premenstrual — damn it, I was smack-in-the-middle menstrual, it wasn’t that I was sad about not being pregnant. I was hysterical with relief and awash with lady hormones, right? We had two more “accidents” after that. Something unsaid was happening, something neither of us could dare utter to each other, or to ourselves. I caught myself sneaking onto pregnancy forums; I learned acronyms for ridiculous things like BFN (Big Fat Negative in a HPT [Home Pregnancy Test]), BD (Baby Dancing = sex), and so many more.
If my partner came near me I’d switch the web page back to the Brooklyn Vegan blog or McSweeny’s. I wiped the browser history and emptied the cache. It was as if I was trawling porn sites and had to cover my tracks. After about three months of these occasional “accidents” which led to agonising two-week waits (2WW for all you TTC ladies out there) to see if we’d had an “accident,” the situation came to a head.
We were in the bathroom and I’d just “peed on a stick” and stared deeply into the little window faced with what was clearly a very solitary pink line. I looked up at him and said, “Nope” in my best “whatever” voice. I tried to smile, but my lips wobbled. I was scared I’d given myself away until he said, “I’m sad, too,” and that was it. There was some slobbering, hugging and tears that came in a kind of embarrassing release. My secret was out: I wanted a baby.
I wanted it bad. I still want it bad and I hope that it happens. I have to admit it now, without shame: I want a baby. I’m going back on thirty-two years of robust assertions that I was never going to be a mum, that it “just isn’t me,” that “I just don’t have those feelings.” I feel like I’m betraying my child-free sisters and I am very sorry. It snuck up on me and blind-sided me. If I’d seen it coming I might have managed to dodge it.
But here I am, yearning to be an Offbeat Mama. I’m longing to see what happens to the daisies tattooed on my belly, I want to cycle to class with a big belly in my lap. I want to see my beloved with his baby swaddled in a sling on his chest, I want to see him asleep with our baby beside him, I want to kiss that baby’s hair, in that spot at the back of the head where all babies are just so sweet. I want to see that baby grow, I want to hear it form words with its little mouth, I want to save its drawings in diaries and folders, I want to take it to piano lessons and take it swimming in the sea and hear its laughter rise into the sky like a handful of balloons set loose.