A few months ago, a good friend of mine sat beaming at me from across her living room, holding her 3-month old daughter. I can’t actually remember if she asked me if I wanted to hold her, but I remember being anxious she would. I never know what to do with babies, especially in their floppy early months when I’m not sure I’m holding their head correctly or if they’ll start crying and I’ll feel embarrassed I couldn’t comfort them. I almost always want to decline the “want to hold them?” offer, and sometimes I do when I feel comfortable around the person.
At 36, I spent more time than I want to thinking about babies. Most people around me have had children, trying to have children, wanting to have children, or have placed themselves firmly in the “no” category. I find myself suspended in the middle of them, paralyzed with the fear of making the wrong decision. Would I suddenly turn out to be a doting mother, flanked in Doen dresses and making my own baby food from garden-grown vegetables? Or would I star in my personal The Awakening?
This morning, I spent a little bit of time reading Why You Want to Eat Babies Up: It’s Science in the New York Times. Like the author – I don’t have the innate feeling to squeeze babies because I find them cute. I smell nothing when I hold a newborn, except spit-up. The sheer thought of getting pregnant terrifies me. Years ago, a boyfriend broke up with with an argument built upon the fact I vaguely said during a previous conversation I didn’t ever really think about having kids. He was right to break up with me, we really had nothing in common, but my confusion around having kids remained: why don’t I know?
But, when I look at my husband, I would love to have his child. Is that feeling enough?
My husband seems to have flexible patience as we figure out this stage. Adoption? Childless? Try for our own? They are all sitting on the table. I’ve found one friend in the same boat as me, though we’ve only discussed our confusion once. It helps, knowing there’s at least someone out there with the same inability to find direction. It’s not, as the New York Times article implies, my inability to say “I don’t want kids.” But a tightening understanding that our lives are not infinite, that decisions I make today will deeply impact my tomorrow, and this is a choice I wish I could find an answer to.