My sister sent me a picture today from the Gumbo Cook-off in Watson LA, my hometown. I’m holding her Grandson in the photo. The pic belies the truth. I have a huge smile, and the baby seems quite content. What really happened was my sister saw a photo opportunity she couldn’t pass up. She was holding her Grandson, she looked at me, and said, “OMG, I have to take a picture of you holding him.” Good heavens, really? I acquiesced. She said the event that I would hold a baby is so rare that she needs to document it in photography. The last time I held a baby, she was there, too. I was visiting my college roommate Angel in Boston. She had just had her youngest son, and I picked him up. Susan grabbed the camera to make sure she took the photo. I tried to find the pic tonight, but I couldn’t find it. It’s somewhere lost in the archives of rare events. Oh, and the baby is now 17. It’s been awhile.
I think I wanted children in high school. I remember talking to my high school boyfriend about it and daydreaming about us setting up house and raising kids. Then, I found out he was a jerk, and my best friend got pregnant. I saw first hand the responsibility of caring for an infant. It somewhat lost its luster. The truth is that I’m just not wired that way. I like kids, and I love my nieces and nephews, but the lifestyle of being a parent never appealed to me. I remember watching a talk show one day about people that were disabled trying to have children. They went to enormous lengths to get pregnant. I called Momma and asked her if something was wrong with me because I didn’t want to have kids. Her OB/GYN asked about me the last time she was there, and she told him that I didn’t want kids. He said, “Well, who says she’s wrong?” We laughed about it, and with Momma’s acceptance of my decision, I put it to rest.
I’m amazed that I didn’t get pregnant in college. None of us used any kind of contraception back then. That was pre-STDs-that-will-kill-your-ass and post-parents-that-will-kill-your-ass, and we just didn’t really pay much attention to it. At least that’s how I remember it. I married a man much older than me the first time, and he didn’t want kids. My second husband already had a 13 year old and a 15 year old when I met him. He was done. He always thought it was hilarious that I asked him on the third date if he’d had a vasectomy. Honestly, it might have been a deal breaker. I was done taking oral contraceptives, and I needed to be assured that there would be no babies.
While in Knoxville, I met three other girlfriends that were DINKS. In the 80s, married couples with no kids were called DINKS – Dual Incomes No Kids. I met them at the gym in the strength-training class before work. I found it ironic that there would be 4 of us there because it was actually difficult to meet women in their late 20s and 30s without kids. But, I guess the fact that they were working out at 5:30 in the morning was an indication that they didn’t have kids. I hear sleep is an issue when those little blessings are around. We hung out as couples until I divorced and then moved to Seattle. My friend Karen and I still joke around about how insane it would be for a child to have either one of us for a mother.
I suppose if I’d been married to someone who wanted children, I would have adapted, but it didn’t happen. And, I’m happy it didn’t. Since I’ve never met my kids, I don’t miss them. My sister used to love baby dolls and dolls in general. She loved playing with them. She had stuffed animals and dolls lined up all across the bed like little sleeping soldiers. She and I would sleep in about a 6 inch space because we had to make room for all those dolls. Perhaps that was the setup for my decision to not have kids. Somewhere in my psyche, I just know that I want more room in the bed, and I want my sleep.
I don’t know what to do with babies. I’m better with teenagers and pre-teens. I can carry on conversations with them. When my first cousin had her first child, all of the female first cousins were hanging out and passing the baby around. My sister remembers that I wouldn’t take him because I said babies hated me. They laughed and assured me babies didn’t hate me. So, I held him, and as soon as I got him, he started screaming bloody murder. Case closed. I know what I’m talking about. I don’t know what to do with their head for one thing. You know, there’s that whole thing that something in their neck or head doesn’t work right, and I’m terrified their head is going to break off, and it’ll be my fault. It just seems to me that if horses can come out ready to go, people should to.
The other thing that I didn’t like was the thought of being pregnant. Actually, being pregnant was okay. It was what happened at the end of the pregnancy that scared me to death. I didn’t want to deal with that pain. I mean, I don’t know how else to say it, but what comes out is a helluva lot bigger than what goes in, and I don’t think that’s fair. Either even up the odds for more pleasure on the front end or less pain on the back end, and I might have gone for it. But, as it is, I just wanted to pass on that experience.
I know there are lots of women who want kids that can’t have them, and I always felt a little guilty that I had this perfectly functioning equipment that I wasn’t using. I even considered donating my eggs one time. But, I was in my 30s, and they wanted younger eggs. Then, I considered being a surrogate mother, but that whole ending part with the baby popping out made that less attractive. So, my eggs just aged and are now pretty much useless. It was a lost cause giving me all that reproductive equipment.
I babysat my niece Hannah when she was a baby. My sister said if Hannah reads this, she will be calling her horrified, “You left me with Auntie?” It just seems really irresponsible in hindsight. But, it was my niece, and I wanted the experience… I think. I had to drop Hannah off at her babysitter’s house, and Susan gave me Mimi’s phone number. She told Mimi that if I called and asked something that seemed really stupid, that I was serious. I knew nothing about babies. I do remember being terrified that I wouldn’t be able to change a diaper or something. But, Hannah is now graduating from college in the next year, so I guess it all went okay. I didn’t break her head or spill her brains or anything. She seems to have her wits about her.
I went to baby showers all my life. And, don’t tell anybody, but I HATED them. First of all, I knew I’d never get the favor reciprocated. But, I didn’t understand what babies needed, so I never knew what to buy. The blue/pink/yellow thing never made sense to me because I didn’t really like those colors. I liked red, green and purple. I hated those games they played. They always had something to do with babies, and I didn’t get any of it. Everybody brought their babies, and it made me so anxious because I didn’t want to be rude and say I didn’t want to hold them, but I didn’t want to hold them in case I broke their heads off. It was just awful. I’m so glad all my friends are in menopause now. Life is much easier. They just drink now.
So, somewhere along the line I didn’t get the baby gene. I’ve often thought that maybe I really was a boy but they dressed me in the wrong birthday suit. I just don’t have some of the natural tendencies that most women have to want kids. I had one woman tell me I was selfish. Then, she followed it up with, “Who is going to take care of you when you’re old?” I mean… to me… that sounds selfish. Why would I have a kid so that they can take care of me? I don’t know if I’m selfish or not. I suppose I am because I think we’re all selfish to some extent. I just never had the desire to raise kids, and I never had a partner who wanted to. It’s sort of the way life presented itself to me. It’s fun to see my friends kids all grown up now. It seems like yesterday they were little. I know I missed a big thing watching a little piece of myself grow up and become an individual. But, I followed my heart. It’s all I could do.