When I was a little girl, I was THAT girl. The one who wouldn’t let go of her baby dolls, who never played any game except for ‘house’, who wrapped an empty bottle of dishsoap in a baby blanket when her dolly wasn’t available. When I got a new doll, one of the first things I would do is take it on a tour of our house, so it would be comfortable and know where everything was.
I was that girl who made herself a fixture in other people’s houses, holding the babies and ‘helping’ the moms, and when I was older, I was the babysitter of choice for most of the neighbourhood. I didn’t have a lot of friends but these little kids, these babies, were my friends, and probably on some level, my surrogate children. I would have taken care of them for free (though imagine my delight that people actually seemed to want to PAY ME for this service.)
I knew I wanted a house full of kids, but no husband, thank you. (I was also THAT girl.) My mom still enjoys telling the story of how she asked me how I planned to have a lot of kids with no husband, I, at six years old, stuck my hands on my hips and replied with an impatient sigh, “Mom. I’m going to go to a sperm bank.”
I wanted to be a teacher, from the time I was five years old and realized what a teacher was. I devoured the Babysitter’s Club books, and to this day, my favourite book continues to be Baby Island, a story of two sisters who get shipwrecked on an island with four babies. That was my idea of heaven, building a blanket tepee and cracking open coconuts for a small herd of children.
I don’t know when all that changed. I discovered writing, something I was good at and that got me a good amount of praise, and then I became a writer instead of a teacher. I traded dollies for books. I traded babysitting for blogging. I traded wanting to have babies for wanting to write books.
And in some ways, I think, I traded love for fear. Instead of wanting to love something and be in the world, I wanted to sit back and observe.
I’ve felt for a long time, years and years, that I’m a deeply cold and uncaring person. That I’m too detached, a clinical observer. But now I wonder if that’s true. I wonder if that loving and nurturing instinct is still there, it’s just been smushed down for so long.
And lately there has been something. Something.
I’m 32. My best friend had a baby just three months ago, and he is sweet and mild and perfect. Other friends have babies who are now toddlers, who are now starting school, who are growing into real people with opinions and ideas and talents and struggles.
So lately there's been something. Somewhere deep down, all muffled, like a bomb wrapped in a hundred blankets, there is a ticking. There is that dang biological clock, finally running after all these years. I’ve been thinking about the girl I was then, and what she would have wanted, and I am thinking about the woman I’ll be someday, and whether she’ll regret not doing this.
But the desire is mixed with equal parts fear. What I would be giving up. What Shaun would be giving up. Whether I’d be any good at it. Whether I have the heart and the stomach and the nerves to parent a teenager someday. And, of course, there are six very chilling words that continue to haunt me: We Need To Talk About Kevin. (Seriously. Do NOT read that book if you’re thinking of having kids. Jesus.)
I’ve been eating up stories, lately, of how people decided. How they decided to have a baby, or not to have a baby. Whether they regret that decision, either way. Whether either life is what they expected. I’ve read this Dear Sugar column about thirty times. I still don’t have an answer, not even a little.
I don’t know what I’m saying with this. I’m writing it just to write it, to pluck apart the shimmering strands of this cobweb, to see the girl I used to be, and where she might go next.