Monday, October 29, 2007

Keeping Up Appearances...NOT!

I have a request to extend to the parents out there. DO NOT come to a party just to prove that you’re still hip and cool and normal and can hang out with all your kidless friends if you can’t be hip and cool and normal and hang out with all your kidless friends. KTHXBYE.

We have a couple we know through some other friends. In another time I’d have called them friends, but that was before an unfortunate (and hugely petty) altercation not involving us resulted in not really seeing each other for the better part of a year. They are now babified and Mom has completely changed. I do not like her anymore. In fact, I think I actively DISlike her.

Many of my friends have become parents without simultaneously becoming horribly unlikable people. I’d argue that MOST, if not ALL of my parented friends have done so. But this girl is too much.

EXAMPLE: She and her husband do nothing but sit on either side of the baby carrier, which sits on the futon. They do not interact with others. They are there to say “we went to a party this weekend”. Yes, their costumes of Mario, the Princess and a tiny one-up mushroom were clever and adorable. But when you don’t interact with people and spend the ENTIRE PARTY SITTING ON THE DAMN FUTON, why bother having the costumes?

EXAMPLE: The one time Mom ventured out into the party early in the night (before drinking had begun, by the way), the host’s new girlfriend, a mother of 3, asked if she could hold the baby. Mom FREAKED OUT and said “NO!”, then backtracked and said, sheepishly, “I don’t want to be the overprotective mom, but I don’t know you.” Your husband’s best friend trusts her with his penis, she has proven herself friendly and likable… hell, the rest of us like her lots. She doesn’t want to breastfeed the kid, she just wants to hold her for a moment and give you (who appears to be struggling) a break to maybe pull your top up to keep you from flashing everybody your boobs. Oh, and no touching either. That’s right. No touching the 4-month-old baby. We can admire her, though. But who knows where your hands have been, even if she’s reaching out to grab your finger.

Mom and I used to have great conversations. We used to want to get to know each other better, hand out. She was awesome and thought I was awesome. Now we have no words to share. She’s weird and standoffish and obsessively overprotective.

And I could not figure out, for the life of me, what they were doing at the party. Other friends in this particular circle (one we don’t usually travel in) have brought their babies to events but still manage to be sociable, interesting people who love it when others show interest in their daughter who’s about the same age. They come to a party to enjoy themselves and we enjoy their company. It doesn’t bother us that the kid is there. This couple, however, is so self-absorbed that it’s just AWKWARD. The party literally did not get going until they left because they made everybody so uncomfortable with their protective wall and “no touching” rules. It was just bizarre.

It felt to me like they were there just to prove to themselves that they could still party. But they failed, and I was actually embarrassed for them.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

On Morbid Curiosity

The babies are coming. One will be here in a matter of days, the other still needs another week in the oven. I’m actually kind of looking forward to the babies of two of my friends. One is getting the boy she was hoping for to add to her two girls, the other struggled for years with infertility and has had a *knock wood* very healthy pregnancy, but I'm also excited because they’re both extremely honest, prolific bloggers. I enjoy reading their words because they know that (a) there is value in documenting the good, as well as the bad, in parenting and (b) it’s a way for me to learn more about it. I enjoy learning about parenting the same way I enjoy learning about science or something—it’s nothing I want to practice, but it’s sure nice to know if the topic comes up.

I don’t know why I enjoy reading these types of blogs. I also enjoy trolling on the Clucky and “trying to conceive” LiveJournal communities... it’s really intriguing to me that I can be so interested in the experiences of others and yet completely turned off (and often creeped out) by the experience for myself. I blame my obsession with psychology for this, and my belief that baby rabies are a biological phenomenon and just because your body wants a baby doesn’t mean it’s necessarily the right time or that there IS a “right time”. I find myself fascinated and a little heartbroken for the woman who try try try, becoming obsessed to unhealthy levels. I’m mesmerized by the girls in their teens and early 20s who are freaking out because their boyfriends don’t want babies RIGHT NOW. To me it's shocking because it’s so the opposite of what I feel.

I think it used to be a masochistic act, because going to these sites used to make me feel deficient in some ways, wondering what was wrong with me that I didn't want what everyone else seemed to want, but now they make me feel powerful. I feel in control of my body and of my life, and I feel secure in knowing what I want and that this is the right path. I’m moved and captivated by the stories of these women because I think it helps me learn about “the other side”, what they’re thinking and feeling, especially since so many of my friends seem to be crossing that threshold. And while I have plenty of strong, likeminded women and couples surrounding me, I feel that having this extra bit of empathy might give me a chance to keep some of the new parents in my life as friends, even if our relationship is relegated to LiveJournal comments and the occasional e-mail.

Monday, October 22, 2007

How I Met Your Mother

I love pretty much everything about How I Met Your Mother, but I became hopelessly devoted to it when, on last week’s episode, they did something I’ve NEVER seen a TV show do, as far as I can recall: They kept Robin single (presumably) and childfree.

After seeing so many strong female characters who declared they didn’t want or have time for kids changing so completely, presumably to be “more relatable” to the average tv viewer (Callie on Grey’s Anatomy, Jordan from the now-cancelled Studio 60 and Cuddy from House among the most irritating).

Last week’s episode was an intriguing one. Robin started dating this great guy that Lily set her up with, but he had a kid. She tried to make it work but discovered that she had a real problem with it. And, in the end, when they did the flash-forward to the future, the drawing of Ted’s kids with “Aunt Robin” going to the zoo together, going to the park – they kept her as the “cool aunt” (how I identify myself) , which was so unbelievably cool to me. I love Robin, I totally and completely relate to Robin, and they let her “grow up” and follow a childfree (and apparently quirkyalone!) path.

Obviously a lot of CF women change their minds at some point in life. Quirkyalones become quirkytogethers and live happily ever after. But we all don’t. It was nice to see a tv show take a chance and commit to a character not having kids, and having that commitment not be wrought with tragedy and disappointment.

Anyway, I thought it was really cool.

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Redefining Family

I hate the phrase “starting a family”. Oh, I use it too. We all do. But I hate the implication that my family — me, hubby, and kitty — is not actually a family. Ditto for my single friends and their animals.

Sure, even the dictionary defines family as “parents and their children” and really doesn’t have a definition that includes my husband and myself solely (which is bizarre), but I define the word much more loosely.

My friends are family, the people I love and adore, the people I would bend over backwards to help, the people who would drop everything (and have done so) when someone in the group needs a hand.

And our animals are family. My cat Romeo has been with me for over a decade, and I can’t imagine my life without him. He comforts me when I’m sad, cuddles me when I’m sick and, well, bothers me when I’m busy. When he dies, I will mourn him and miss him. Hell, I cried a lot for my betta fish Marko, and he was “just a fish” who I’d had less than a year. My new betta, Fabrizio, is also family. It gives me joy to see him swim in his tank, and I like to think when he flits about and comes alive when I approach, when flares his gorgeous fins of red and blue and teal that he’s happy to see me too, rather than simply a Pavlovian response to food.

Of course my parents and my grandmother (my only living grandparent… that’s weird to think about) are family as well.

When people ask “when are you starting a family” I reply “I’ve already got one, and I think I'll keep it.” I believe we need to redefine family to the people and animals who love one another, and those with whom one surrounds oneself in order to experience joy and security. Or something like that.

I love my families. All of them.

Monday, October 08, 2007


There are several interesting threads that I pulled from yesterday’s baby shower. The one I found most interesting is definitely the wife of a friend of mine (let’s call her S to avoid confusion among all the female pronouns), one of the three childless women (our of over 20) at the shower. S and I have never really talked, though we go camping with her and her husband, but we truly found a camaraderie amongst the pomp and circumstance and organized fun of the shower. (To be fair, it was a really good time and I’m very glad I went). S and I compared knee scars and when the extremely pregnant girl sitting betwixt us, as S snapped away with the camera (she was designated photographer), asked if S was taking pictures because she was “baby crazy”.

“Oh god no, not yet. But my husband is about 1000x more baby crazy than I think I’ll ever be.” Preggers girl didn’t know how to react to this, so she sat silently between us again as S and I talked, quite literally, over her belly. CREEPY. But I digress…

S feels she’s not ready for kids yet and is starting to fear she won’t ever be. She finally just finished school and is really getting her career started, she still wants to travel, she LIKES traveling to see her husband’s concerts (he’s a musician), she loves his second job as a concert promoter. The fear comes from the fact that he wanted to start having babies before they were even married. And now, she says, he’s just nuts. He approaches every baby he ever sees (often to the dismay of the parents—he’s not exactly wholesome-looking) and coos and makes faces and plays, then goes on and on and on about it for days. She and her husband are both in their early 30s and have been together as long as anyone I know—probably 8 or 9 years now.

It’s interesting to meet someone where the roles are reversed. She married him figuring she’d ease into it, that eventually she’d feel this drive all her friends were talking about. Now she’s left, one of apparently 3 in her circle of friends (if I counted right at the shower), who isn’t currently extremely pregnant (there were 4 women, all due within a week of each other in a month), toting around a newborn or saddled with a couple toddlers. But it’s not happening.

It’s at this point that I’m going to start putting words in her mouth.

I wonder if she wants kids at all. She wants to keep partying, to keep clubbing, to enjoy her work and build her career. She, like me, was the only one to show no interest into the babies who tagged along or the hostess’s toddlers. She’s the only one who didn’t completely freak out over EVERY cutesy little thing she saw. I have a hard enough time dealing with the in-laws; I can’t imagine discovering that my choice is at odds with what my own husband wants. I feel terrible for her.

It could just be cold feet, but I felt a kindred spirit as we spoke, as she lamented again and again, and to more people (who apparently know of her husband’s baby rabies and who speculated that his coming “retirement” from the Biz is so that they can start a family), that he wants this so much more than she ever will, and the sadness in her eyes… maybe I’m imagining it there because I was so needing someone, someone who didn’t know a diaper pad from a breast pad (eeew) or why you have to try a bunch of different kinds of breast pads to find “the one that works for you for the leaky leakies” (double eew).

To be honest, I hope I *am* reading too much into it, that she isn’t as ambivalent, because that ambivalence just means bad news for their marriage and for the kids that she’ll have to please her husband because it’s the right thing to do.

Friday, October 05, 2007

The Drive to Procreate (+ tangents)

I’m just going to say it, because it’s been on my mind and it’s making me crazy.

I don’t believe in infertility treatments. I also don’t know where to draw the line, but to me it is the ultimate in selfishness to spend a gazillion dollars to have a child that’s biologically “yours” when there are so many children out there who need homes.

That said, I also believe adoption is absurdly expensive and should be made more accessible in order to make it a more reasonable option.

Add this to the list of posts that will lose me friends if spotted by anyone I know.

I have a friend who dealt with infertility for years. I am not minimizing her pain—it was very difficult for her, and this belief of mine does not diminish my joy that she was finally able to conceive and will, in a month, hopefully deliver a healthy baby girl. This is also the friend that told me that the fact that health issues would likely mean I would have fertility problems as well made her feel better about me being childfree because I wasn’t wasting a perfectly good uterus.

I have very mixed emotions about the choice she and her husband made, which is one many make, to put their money toward conceiving a child that was biologically theirs. They were so close to choosing foster care or adoption. They have friends who are going through the process. There was a part of me that wanted to see them make that choice, perhaps to help shatter the whole idea of family being about blood that is battered about with my husband being the “last of the family line”.

There’s a lot of guilt that accompanies feeling this way. I don’t resent this new baby girl (for whom I just bought the most adorable quilt), or her parents, but it brings to light a conflict in my mind.

A huge motivating factor for me, second only to the fact that I have no desire to be a mom, is the fact that there are too many children in this world. I cringe when I hear the Mexican girl in the office talking about her 62 cousins, the children of her father’s 18 siblings. She is one of 7. Yeah. Exactly.

So seriously, we need more children in this world? I have no romantic illusions about adoption. I know it’s hard for many couples to find a child. I know interracial and international adoption both come with their own completely unique sets of problems. I know it’s full of conflict and in no way is it the “easy” alternative. But my god, to go to such trouble just to give birth yourself and to have a part of “you”?

With my complete lack of understanding on this, you can see why I have no business even considering being a mother. I completely don’t get this drive, this desire that’s insatiable until a baby is growing in your belly…

All I can think of is that bit from Aliens…. What’s in-f**king-side me?!… I’m creeped out by pregnancy, I dislike babies and their excretions… it sounds foul to speak of it that way, but I don’t like it. Being pregnant, caring 24/7 for baby, cleaning up *EVERYTHING*... It just sounds like hell….

Tuesday, October 02, 2007

The Magic Number (Part II)

So back in January of 2006, I mentioned that my husband and I had come to the decision that when I turned 30, then we’d start looking into getting him snipped. Well, that day has come. I turned 30 last week, and I’m surer than ever of my childfree path. But we’re still not getting the vasectomy. Since the discovery of my PCOS, we figure that as long as I have my IUD it’s simply not worth bothering with it. Not worth the risk to him or the pain he’d go through when my chances of getting accidentally pregnant are ridiculously slight.

So far, the biggest part of 30 is that I’ve noticed that I’m 30. Things like retirement accounts, and general lifepath questions are coming up a great deal. I’m more concerned about the interest rate on our savings account and our plans to buy a home this year, more conscious of the fact that if we want to retire in 25 years, we’ve got to start saving hardcore as soon as my husband gets out of school. But I’m also conscious of how happy I am with my life, which is why I think 30 was no big deal for me.

I celebrated my birthday with my Chicago group of friends, 20-some people, ages ranging from their mid-20s to mid-30s, all childless, many childfree, gathered together for a night of music, drinks and fun. We spend two nights a week, sometimes three, surrounded by friends. We can go dancing on Thursday nights and get home at 2am only to go to wake at 6:30 to go to work. We can spend weekends at concerts or having late nights with friends. We’re financially secure, we’re happy. It’s a damn good life.

I’m also much more secure in my choice to remain childfree; a lot more secure than I was when I started this blog. I’ve met more childfree women and couples, gained the acceptance of more friends, and inched toward opening dialogue with less supportive family. In that last year and a half, a number of new babies have entered my world, and to my relief have had no maternal effect on me. Even as some of my closest lifelong friends become mothers, as I attend showers and meet their new babies, I am now left feeling not dysfunctional, as I did before, but secure, able to love these kids without fear that they’ll spark an unwanted biological desire.

Of course, there are still people in my life who don’t get it. There always will be. But those people are either phasing themselves out of my life or learning to deal with the fact that it’s my decision.

Yes indeed, life is good. I love my childfree life, my childfree marriage, my childfree and childfree-friendly friends… Life is good.