Why Our Conversations on Parenthood Always End On A Pregnant Pause

Last night, I dreamed that Warrior Poet gave me the nod for us to start trying to get pregnant. I was clearly surprised by his definitive declaration on a topic that usually inspires his vagueness. I reminded him that I would need to wean myself off some of my medication first, so if he were really ready, I would have to start doing so pronto. He reassured me that I was physically strong enough to get through the journey, that he would be there to support me every step of the way. With the extremely lucid details, the dream felt so real. But alas, it was just a dream.

It’s not surprising that the question of ‘Will we or won’t we—or should we or should we not—not have children of our own?’ has been on our minds. A co-worker of WP’s recently urged him (and us) to decide soon whether we want them as we’re rapidly approaching our 40s. And for the last couple years, my lady parts doctor has been reminding me of the ticking biological clock. And after we made it official as husband and wife, our friends have been increasingly encouraging us to be parents—citing our wisdom, compassion, encompassing perspective and emotional stability. Plus, we’re just so darn fun, ha.

But it seems like there are just as many reasons to not have kids as there are to have them.

What You Give Up to Get

While abstractly we both feel that we’d be fairly decent parents, the logistics of parenthood raises questions. Are we willing to give up so much of our freedom and mobility? Are we financially mature enough to start saving and planning for the expenses of raising children?  And are we prepared to lose our precious sleep? And if not, would we consider adopting older children? The sleep depletion is one of the most important factors of early parenthood to me, as a sleepless me always means a much sicker me.

My health, of course, is also a huge question mark. Would I go into remission with pregnancy, like many of my friends, or would I be one of the unfortunate women with serious, chronic illness who get significantly sicker when carrying a child? It can be a real struggle on my off days to shower, cook and take care of things around the house, let alone manage anything or anyone else. Would I crumble trying to manage a child, or simply get more efficient with my energy and time?

Keep Your Head In The Game

“Keep Your Head in the Game” Danielle Guenther Photography

I also wonder if WP could handle the noise, mess and distraction of children, especially when doing dishes in his hearing zone alone can set him off. As it is now, when he comes home from a harrying day of work, sometimes it takes an hour for him to even decompress enough to take me fully in. Once we have dinner, he physically and mentally shuts us down, and it isn’t long before he nods off. On the weekends, he needs his long escape into gaming when he’s not at the gym—at least until the sun starts to go down. I can’t help but wonder if I would wind up raising a child mostly on my own?

When I had more of a village surrounding me, I had more confidence in taking on the myriad challenges of parenting. But now that we live more than an hour away from our families and almost all of our friends, I can’t help feeling like we exist on an island even without kids. Of course, we’re still fairly new to this area, and I could make more an effort to connect with a community here now that the weather is nice and I’m feeling significantly more physically energized and mentally awake again.

Other Perspectives on Parenthood

Last weekend I was fortunately pepped up for a couples’ night out with friends, which was really fun and emotionally nourishing for us both. Toward the end of the night, the men and women split up as the guys went on to have one more drink, and we gals sleepily settled at a table to chat. While the boys were likely talking about martial arts and their manly adventure trip coming up, the girls wound up talking about children and parenthood.

The sole mother of the group had previously let the cat out of the bag that she and her husband-to-be will be trying to get pregnant next year. Now, she informed us that an abnormality in her baby-making hardware meant that her time for having more children was also running out, although she’s only in her late 20s. She lives for being a parent and is an incredibly doting and nurturing mother to her school-aged son. For her, it’s especially important to her to have more children while she’s young and able.

My doctor has also been urging me to be aware of the passing of time as I am already considered a high-risk pregnancy, and that risk jumps exponentially beyond 40. Of course, I’d like to be able to simply cite the research that claims older mothers have better educated and more physically resilient children. But with an autoimmune disorder that affects blood clotting, I have to be a bit more realistic about the physical risks of older pregnancy to both a potential child and to me. That is not to say that if we’re having children, I’m going off the birth control tomorrow. It just means that I realize I can’t just postpone making a decision for another five years without consequence.

Our other friend is in her mid-30s—and like WP and I—she and her husband are both on the fence about having children of their own. They both absolutely love kids, but they are open to adopting. They also, like us, are content being the great aunt and uncle to their nieces and nephews and the children of their friends if life passions lead them elsewhere.

FB-expecting-a-babyNow when I was younger, I absolutely wanted a soccer team of children of my own, but as I’ve grown older, the urgency of that desire has faded as reality kicked in. I didn’t meet my lifemate early in adulthood. I lost the overwhelming baby-making desire that threatened to derail my life in my 20s. Years and years of chronic illness forced me to alter my perspective a little bit and put more focus on self-care and self-love first. I’ve certainly enjoyed the role I’ve been able to play being a present and active aunt with my niece and nephews, literally watching my niece being born and caring for the older two when the third was born. I love playing soccer with them, reading to them, learning from them and snuggling them. Yet I also have been grateful to step back in hectic times and moments of exhaustion.

This indecisiveness of WP and me is what always causes the conversation about potential parenthood to simple fizzle out into ellipses…Unanswered, equally as unsure. And having and raising children should be one of the most important decisions you make in your life. Shouldn’t you be sure? Shouldn’t you decisively say, I definitely want to bring new life into this world—or at least to help raise new life in the world?

A friend who is a father says it doesn’t work as neatly as that. He says nothing could have prepared him for experience of parenthood, both its challenges and its immense rewards. His certainty about being father only has strengthened with time and experience, he tells me with the awe of one on the brink of bringing in his second child. Sometimes, he says, you have to take the leap.

As WP and I try on and grow into what it means to be man and wife, we have answered questions and uncertainties as they present themselves. We are forever defining, refining or clarifying our needs, desires and approaches. In time, we always make the choice that’s best for us. And I have no doubt we eventually will when it comes to parenthood, as well.

Almost a mother, almost a wife on Mother’s Day

Kids Say the Darnedest ThingsThis past Sunday, I was sitting at the dinner table with my family—my niece and nephew, brother and sister-in-law, my beau, my dad and last, but not least, my mom. With the exception of the Warrior Poet and I, everyone was feasting on two scrumptious desserts when my 6-year-old nephew, who adores his tía, said he counted three mothers at the dinner table: “Mom, grandma and Tía [me].”

Considering that I have no biological or adopted children, I was a bit puzzled. I was a bona fide cat mom until a couple months ago, sure, and my family has a habit of saying Happy Mother’s Day to everyone. My nephew’s earnest grinning reminded me that the closest I’ve come to parenting was caring for him and his sister over the years.

I think it was my brother who asked his son what his criteria was for being a mother. He responded with a laugh, admitting he didn’t know what the word ‘criteria’ meant.

Almost a Mother

After the question was rephrased, my nephew clarified, “You’re almost a mother.”

“Why is she almost a mother?” my own mother asked.

The impish first-grader replied, “Because she has almost a husband.” He pointed to the Warrior Poet, whom he’s embraced with glee during the multiple family visits and holidays, as he’s not afraid to get playfully hands-on with my nephew.

Treating his observation seriously, my nephew was asked, “How does having an almost husband make Tía an almost mother?”

He responded, “Well, when you get married, then you have children.”

There was laughter and a little bit of embarrassment. But come on–he’s 6 and adorable. The Warrior Poet knows me well, but I wouldn’t put it a different person in a different relationship to stage that sort of cuteness. I was even getting paranoid that my family members would think that we were pregnant and that my nephew had somehow picked up on it.

Warrior Poet replied, “Well, I can’t argue with that logic.”

I sighed a breath of relief as the topic of conversation shifted. It’s not that we haven’t ever talked about the future. The fact that we plan to be together is a given in both of our minds. We’ve even discussed the kind of spare but lovely ceremony we’d like to have if we get married. We’ve come up with endless imaginary children that we’d have. But it’s all fantastical mind-play.

Last night, while talking about insurance, the Warrior Poet said, “I could marry you so you can be sure you get good coverage, but that’s not very romantic.”

True, but does that mean he doesn’t plan to marry me any time soon?

Throwing Out the Ticking Clock

Though there is no need to put any pressure on our relationship, we are not getting any younger. If I ever have children, I will already be an at-risk pregnancy because of my health conditions. I’m over age 35, so that just ups the risk factor. My parents always point out that I could adopt, which both Warrior Poet and I would theoretically consider, but that’s not as big a concern as it once was for me.

As much as the Warrior Poet enjoys other people’s kids, I don’t think he really sees himself ever being a father. Which is fine, really. I went from wanting a soccer team of children to being resigned to the fact that I may never have children of my own. Yet I have nieces and a nephew, my friends’ kids, and I’ll probably wind up teaching children again sometime in the future. It’s not the same as having your own kids, but it might be enough to satisfy the urge to nurture.

A Mother’s Love

This Mother’s Day was the first in eight years where I haven’t been able to officially proclaim that I was a cat mom. It may sound ridiculous to people who don’t love animals and welcome them into their home or who don’t pour their love and attention into caring for their pets. But when you allow yourself, you can form such a strong and powerful bond with your animals. And for those of us who aren’t mothers of children, our fur babies can often feel like the next, best thing.

This is not a post to trivialize motherhood. My own mother is the epitome of compassion and self-less love. She raised her three children with grace and great strength, and, along with my dad, instilled in us empathy for others a strong moral code, drive for creative expression, deep appreciation for education and learning, and the ability to value all aspects of life—work, play and travel.

As for marriage, Warrior Poet says he gains inspiration from the marriage of my parents, and that he has the same realizations about our love that my dad has shared about his love for my mom. But where he was seriously looking at rings and such for his ex, despite how wrong they were for each other, I know that his mind is not there as far as we are concerned. We’ve signed on for another year of our lease, but he hemmed and hawed when our insurance agent suggested we might save in our respective car insurance bills if we got it as a couple.

Our almost decade younger friends, who have been dating one month longer than we have and had a horrifically tumultuous first year plus of their relationship, are certain that they will get married. The guy knows he’s going to propose soon. With her child in the picture, they have already become a lovely family.

We are not young. We know what we want in life and in love. We know we have a near ideal relationship (though we’re definitely not perfect, haha) for each of us. We always are talking about how happy we are and how lucky we are to have found one another at long last. But there’s an unspoken barrier about the future that feels strange to me.

 Not Yet…But Ever?

Warrior Poet has been with me the through some of the roughest times and been an awesome champion through that—so maybe he’s just waiting to see if I return to the super energetic and active woman with whom he first fell in love? It wouldn’t be the first time, by any mans.

Or maybe he’s scared to make a wrong decision about someone again. Or maybe he just realized he doesn’t want to participate in the institute of marriage. Or maybe deep down, a lifelong partnership is just not the way he sees his life going in reality.

This would have put me in full panic 4 or 5 years ago—it did in fact put me in panic in the relationship I was in at the time. Yet that was largely because I knew the person I was with was not meant for me in the long haul. I know I don’t actually shrivel up in three-and-a-half years when I turn 40, but being single at 40 would be a completely different ballgame than single at 34.

Either way, sweet nephew, while the Warrior Poet and I may be almost husband and wife in a lot of ways, we are most definitely not married, nor does it seem to be in the picture for my love any time soon. But I think he’ll still be around to fake-wrestle with for a while longer yet.