Tuesday, August 29, 2006

Coming Clean

So I told my sister-in-law M that we're not having children.

Sort of.

It was my future sister-in-law's wedding shower, and I was sat at the table with all the sisters and cousins, all of whom have children. I was also seated directly across from M and baby J. I was treated to a great deal of conversation about topics ranging from "I sometimes don't even know my husband anymore" to "I almost couldn't come today because I couldn't find a sitter [and my husband is a lazy hack who wouldn't watch the kids]" and "I'm getting ready to go back to work but employers are so horrible about being accommodating for mothers".

Great, right?

Yeah, so I sat silent most of the dinner. I felt as if I had no allies, especially as these women kept looking at me to pipe up and contribute, but to contribute what, exactly?

There was also the Passing of the New Baby. Just two months old, little J is adorable, with soft tufts of orange hair and a smile that could make anyone melt. She is absolutely adorable, no doubt. But thank you, I'll pass on holding her.

She was tossed from one cousin to the next, cuddled and snuggled while the women talked longingly about wanting "another one of these", missing the little cries, the little whines. "I miss this!" they all say. Luckily I was at the end of the table, so I wasn't put in the awkward position of actually having to say no when someone handed me the child, instead just passively sitting while not asking to hold the baby. I don't like holding babies, in general, for the sake of holding them. If there's a reason, if Mom needs a hand with something, I'll gladly take over, but it's not something I enjoy doing just for the sake of doing it.

So later in the evening, M was sitting opposite me with Sleeping J in her arms and asked me, "so have you guys given any thought to whether you want to do this", gesturing to the baby. She assured me she wasn't judging, just asking, and I believed her. I told her about my career aspirations, that I want to start my own business, A's finishing up school, and we're just so busy all the time, and that I just didn't see fitting a child into that routine. She nodded and said it was good that we were thinking it through, and that we should never let anyone tell us that it's a decision we should make without careful consideration. She conceded she never could have done her previous job while raising a child, and losing that part of her career was a big decision to make.

It was nice talking to her. I didn't close the door completely, but I certainly didn't lead her to believe I was changing my mind anytime soon. It felt good. I knew she would be understanding -- she's not blood. The blood of A's stepfamily is where the judgment comes in that family.

In the meantime, my future sister-in-law is ripping her gifts to shreds and breaking every ribbon she can find intentionally because she plans to get started early on a large family. She'll be a good addition to the family. They'll approve of that.

When I told my mother-in-law that A was going back to school in January, she asked me what prompted him to do so. "We have the money now," I said. "We're financially stable and he's ready." I could read in her eyes when she said "are you SURE that's the only reason? Was there any other reason that made him consider that?" that she really wanted to say "is it because you're finally coming to your senses and realizing that the husband is supposed to support "the family", and it's about time you come to your senses and stop it with these career goals that keep postponing the babies".

Am I putting words in her mouth? Only because she implies it constantly. I know she disapproves of the fact that I make more money than my husband, that she thinks a woman's place is, indeed, at home. She's said it, just not as a direct criticism to me.

I hope my words to M make their way to my mother-in-law. I hope the conversation we finally have is a confrontation, the result of a direct question, because I cannot lie. I'm done smiling and giggling uncomfortably when the subject comes up, and I have my husband's support to tell them. I just don't want to be the one to open the conversation.

Wednesday, August 23, 2006

Thank the Gods for One Pink Line

I just took my first pregnancy test in years.

All the signs were there. I've been inexplicably nauseaus the last few days, along with a host of other symptoms that pointed to babies. I talked to my husband and he insisted I go take the test now, even though he's at work, so I can stop feeling paranoid.

I cried -- a lot -- before I left to get the test. Never is it more clear to me that I don't want children than when I have a scare. I haven't had one in a couple years, but my god, there is nothing more terrifying to sit there watching the reference line coming in and praying to whomever will listen that the other line doesn't come up.

The IUD is as effective as a vasectomy, but it's still not 100%, and that small percentage is enough to freak me out when I'm feeling as crappy as I have been the last few days. I don't get a regular period, so there's no real way to know when I miss it. With my menstrual history I'm probably damn near infertile anyway, but I still get paranoid.

When I told my husband that I was taking the test, he reassured me, told me if it was positive it was my decision what to do and he'd support whatever I decided, which meant so much. But I was terrified, as i drove to Walgreens, as I stood in the checkout line, and I took the test and watched the pink line form in the reference area... I was more than half-sure this would be it. And I was thinking about my infertile friends, how horrible it would be if this happened to me and not them.

But it didn't. I'm okay. The IUD is effective and I've probably just got a bug.

I hope this helps me with my paranoia, knowing that these physical symptoms have nothing to do with pregnancy. I can go on normally, now. And I'm so thankful.

Monday, August 21, 2006

Law of Averages

My friend's niece was born extremely premature, like as-early-as-a-child-can-possibly-survive premature. It's been very hard for their family and they won't know until they watch her develop for awhile what the implications of this are. There is only one at this point: The child is impossibly small at 4 months old (she'd barely be born by now) and looks like an alien. I know, it's cruel, it's horrible, but she looks like little more than a foetus in clothes. She shows off the pictures of her tiny little niece and she totally creeps me out.

She already has a lot of health problems and it's likely they will continue. It's not just the likelihood of health issues either; it's even more likely that she will have developmental and mental problems.

Now, add this to the fact that my friend's sister was knocked up -- this was a very unplanned pregnancy. She and her now-husband (they wanted to "do the right thing") are incredibly young, don't have the kind of money or, quite frankly, the maturity (from the stories I've heard) to deal with this.

One of my greatest fears is having a sick child. I know it's possible to lead a fun, social life and career with a child, but what about a sick child? Something as minor and prevalent as ADHD, to something as major as Down Syndrome or worse... there goes your life. You're not even Mom anymore, you're Caregiver, in some cases stuck with a baby who is still, functionally, a baby at 30. A woman and her Down Syndrome son joined us in the elevator at my grandmother-in-law's building, and my husband and I smiled at each other and we knew why.

Our friends and family are blessed with children whose worst issues are behavioral problems (specifically, our nephew who has a sensory disorder and my cousin who has a learning disability). My husband is *obsessed* with the law of averages and is convinced that one of the next babies who comes into our life will have a major issue. Even if that is a little extreme, I know I definitely don't want to be a part of that club. It's a chance I don't want to take.

Wednesday, August 16, 2006

If all your friends jumped off a bridge, would you do that too?

The only time I wonder if I'm missing out on anything is when I watch too much daytime television. I want to stress here that it's not that I actually feel I'm missing out, it's that I *wonder* if I'm missing out. It's really the "what's wrong with me" factor.

It's odd, because I spent the entire weekend with my husband at a gaming convention, spending time with friends, meeting new ones, staying out 'til the wee hours, staring in wonder at the families with kids and wondering how they could possibly do this convention with them. Of course they experience the Con differently than we do, spending more time at the Yu-Gi-Oh! booth than with their own friends, and it was really cute to see the dads who were helping their sons with their Dungeons & Dragons games. But, as usual, the moment I get a glimmer of "I could do that", I get hit in the face with "oh my gods I could NEVER do that".

I feel fortunate that I know before making the leap that I am not equipped to handle being a mom. And I feel like I beat a dead horse on this, but I hear the women on these talk shows speak about how it's the best thing in the world to be a mom, etc etc etc, and when this happens, I ask myself "why don't I want that?"

I read and hear it implied that if I don't want children, I must be suppressing my natural instincts, that I'm fighting against a desire because I want something else. Even within the childfree community I hear about people and their surrogate children (usually pets), or finding a replacement for kids, or an alternate outlet for maternal feelings. As much as I love my cat and consider him part of our family, I don't consider him a child-replacement. There's no need for one.

I don't feel like I'm missing out on motherhood any more than I'm missing out on, say, the skydiving outing my friends are doing in a couple weeks. They can go ahead, have fun, tell me how I'm missing out on a good time; but if it's something I have no desire to do, that I fear and find unpleasant at the mere thought, then how can I be missing out on it? Sure, if you want to do something and chicken out because of fear, there might be some regret. It's not that I fear it -- it's that I don't want to do it.

Building analogies helps me understand my feelings and realize they're okay. I think when I watch daytime TV and start feeling this way it's because I'm looking at my situation and seeing it through the Mommy filter. I'm glad I have this blog to sort out my feelings. I'm much better than I was at the beginning of this post.