I think I was seven when it first occurred to me that I probably didn’t want to have kids.
I know that sounds silly because, at seven, most little girls are playing with Barbie’s and Baby Alive (Or, at least that’s what we were doing in the early 90’s. I guess now they’re playing with rolling papers and dreaming about fucking a Jonas brother, but whatever.) For me, seven was the magical age in which I got my little brother. My parents say that I asked for him. They remind me, emphatically even, every time he does something stupid and I start raising money around the neighborhood to send him to a boarding school. I remind them in turn that, unless you want to know which Care Bear is which, you shouldn’t be looking to six year olds for guidance on major life decisions. Either way, the experience of getting my little brother was one of the more traumatic endeavors of my young life. My mother, in her pursuit of raising a well rounded daughter who was attune to the world around her, decided that I should understand the concept of birth and labor in a “first hand” kind of way.
Internet, there are things that you cannot unsee.
I remember four details surrounding my brother’s birth.
1. I was allowed to bring my Duplo’s and my Tiger games to the hospital for my mother’s labor.
2. My parents had no idea what to name him and chose his name only because the hospital wouldn’t let them go home without filling out the name on the birth certificate.
3. We dressed him in a 101 Dalmations outfit, complete with ears. This first experience with incognito dressing would come back to haunt us in years and years of “I don’t wear clothes! I wear Barney/Superman/Big Bird/Woody/Wonder Woman!” screams from the afor mentioned child.
You know what, I can’t even tell you about four. This is the one time I am going to get up and call this experience a unique little snowflake. All I can really say is I didn’t have a cheap seat or, to use another euphemism, this was not an “above the curtain” viewing. I’m pretty sure I can still feel my grandmother’s fingernails digging into my shoulders.
It goes without saying, but my first real understanding of child birth was graphic, gory and utterly repulsive. Add that in with the particular variety of little brother I got – one that has gone far beyond the usual reaches of stealing your stuff and tattling when you sneak out of the house on Saturday night and into… well, suffice it to say that my little brother has endeavored to become everything I ever hated about other people. I’m sure he and I will iron it out later in life after he has a few life experiences and grows the fuck up but in the interim, we’re not doing to well.
Either way, I’ve spent every day since his birth very confident that I never wanted to have children. I don’t blame my mother for this in any way. In fact, she inadvertently stumbled upon the best form of contraceptive on earth. Never has there been a more careful or conscientious person when it comes to keeping the risk really really really low and I’ve been exceptionally dedicated to ensuring my own little corner of the world doesn’t contribute to the climb in teen pregnancy rates. I pass out condoms like they’re candy and we’ve taken every teenager in reasonable reach to Planned Parenthood.
As I got older and the people around me started having kids and settling down, it started to make me anxious. It took me a lot longer than it should have to come up with that word but it really is the most appropriate one for the emotion. When one of the girls at the office gets pregnant I get physically uncomfortable. When a family member pops out a kid I back away. God forbid someone in their late teens or early twenties gets their girlfriend pregnant accidentally – when that happens it’s a little like pulling the parking brake for the first time in a few years – the whole drive shaft seizes and smoke starts coming out of my ears. (Perhaps my understanding of pregnancy, child birth and child rearing was slightly skewed by my friend embedding a bullet in his skull because he knocked his girlfriend up and she wouldn’t have an abortion. That might have had something to do with it…maybe a little.)
I’ve developed a nervous twitch when people mention that they’re trying to have a baby…It’s just completely surreal.
I get that my reaction is irrational and that my behavior may read with a wink of “thou dost protest too much” but I can’t ever help it because it’s how I feel – completely and utterly repelled.
About two years ago, I got pregnant. I was on the pill but karma, in that way that it does sometimes, reached into a disastrous situation and decided to make it just a little bit worse. The sex that lead up to the almost baby was had on the cusp of Mike’s near suicide attempt. That’s right ladies and gentlemen, my boyfriend told me he’d bought a gun and intended to eat it because he was on the edge of financial ruin and what happened but I went and got myself knocked up. A lot of factors went into my decision to have an abortion but, to be honest, the emotional turmoil and our status as completely unprepared to raise a child really didn’t factor in that much. I didn’t want kids and, for his part, I don’t think Mike really wants kids either, though I think he’s far more inclined to tolerate them than I am. To boot, I was a miserable pregnant girl. I didn’t have morning sickness – I had all day long sickness, and it wasn’t just eat and wretch it was a simple inability to eat, period. Was part of that psychosomatic? I’m sure. Had I wanted to be pregnant the fact that I had to drink all of my meals for a few months probably would have seemed a lot less problematic. I might have even gotten over the fact that taking fifteen steps was enough to make me want to pass out I was so dizzy. I probably could have avoided the anemia if I’d been planning a pregnancy.
Two years later and I’ve never regretted the decision to have that abortion. It’s a decision I revisit often, like I’m sure I’m going to change my mind about it at some point – like I’m supposed to. Pop culture and the media pumps you full of the notion that if you elect to abort you will live to regret it – to miss the little life that could have been – and maybe that’s true for the spiritual but for me I’m still sure that this was absolutely the right decision for me. Sure, the protestors outside the clinic were scary – it seemed like the wrong moment to be pouring salt in people’s wounds. The fact that they had bomb doors and a video intercom system was more than a little foreboding, but when it was all said and done it was a comparatively painless experience.
I’m older now than I was then. While my eight year long relationship with Mike has always raised eyebrows and the question “when are you crazy kids gonna settle down and make babies?” over the last few years, the tone of the question has changed. People ask now with a lot more sincerity than they used to. Co-workers who I barely know stop me and tell me that I’d be a great mom and ask when I plan to have kids. The office pregnant girls, who are more than aware that “no, I don’t want to touch your stomach and feel the baby kick – tks” smile and point out that they wish they could be half the mom that they know I would be if I had kids.
They don’t do that to everyone and I’ve never really understood that because I’ve always had the hunch that I would be a horrible mother – a selfish one. I like watching bad tv and would do everything in my power to ensure that my child was enriched by PBS, not Dora the fucking Explorer. I wouldn’t give my kid Disney cd’s, I’d teach them to love metal and big band and blues and indie rap. There would be no cutting the crust off of the edges of peanut butter and jelly sandwiches because that’s some pink bullshit right there. If my kid fell down roller skating, I’d probably be laughing when I went to help them up because I don’t care what you say, it’s kind of funny. Just because I made you get your drivers license doesn’t mean you’re ever getting to use the car and I think it’s fabulous that you want a $200 pair of jeans…come to think of it, they’re cute – I want a pair too. Oh well, now we both need a weekend job cuz there’s no way in hell I’m buying those for you just because you want them. I’m happy to make edible play dough and stay up all night making a costume for the talent show but god help us all if my kid ever took an interest in t-ball or fishing (or became a Heather… shudder) because I would have no idea how to relate to them.
When I look back on the mother’s that I’ve known – my own included – I see women who have made incredible sacrifices for their children and, while they don’t seem to resent them for it, are certainly a little worse for the wear. My grandmother stayed in a marriage that is ultimately bad for her simply because she had children. My mother is, to a large extent, doing the same despite the even larger sticking point of her sexual orientation. She has effectively swallowed that in order to maintain her relationship with my father so long as my brother is still in the house. From the outside, I can see nobility in their actions, but I can also see the negative impact it’s had on their children. Exempting myself from the conversation, I know my brother was ready for my parents to just get a divorce and move on from the age of twelve – I think he’d rather. Conversely, I’ve had pictures of the bad moms too. My other grandmother is a cold, calculated, manipulative truly evil woman. I won’t say that the abuse her children suffered at her hands was the worst kind but I think Loralie Gilmore said it best when she said “Honk if Emily Gilmore thinks your mind is her personal playground.” My grandfather is dying of liver cancer and the entire family is afraid to go see him because We Dare Not Speak It will be there. I’m pretty sure that’s some bad juju.
At the end of the day, I’ve never been able to pinpoint what it is that these relative strangers are seeing that makes them think I should be entrusted with another human being.
I don’t read “Mommy Bloggers” – but I do read a lot of Bloggers that have gone Mommy over the last few years and, I have to be honest, they’ve done a lot to change some of my perceptions about parenthood. Their missives on raising their own children have gone a long way toward making me feel less alienated…a little closer to whatever it is that people see before they feel the need to grab me by the arm and encourage me to “marry that man and have a little baby!”
I have a post in my near future about finally finding a “cool” pregnant girl that is actually tangibly here – it feels a little like finding a unicorn. I’m not saying that I want to go home and get myself good and pregnant right now. M is still knee deep in classes, we’re planning a move in the not so distant future…It will be a few years before we’re really settled enough anywhere to even consider having that particular conversation, and I do still hold strong to my convictions about being able to afford college funds and private schools, but I think, as long as there are still people out there who teach their kids to laugh when they get hurt rather than to cry I might have some more options than I thought I did and that’s nice.
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