There was an old Cathy cartoon that shows Cathy’s parents driving to Cathy’s house, and Cathy’s mom is noticing that everything is blooming and that it’s spring. “Look at the baby kittens, the baby bunnies…” she says to her husband. Then she goes into Cathy’s house and exclaims: “Babies!” She goes off for a while about babies, and then she tells her daughter: “You go out there right now and have a baby!” Cathy looks at her mother and says “I’ll get right on that.” I’m getting at the age when I feel Cathy’s pain.
Babies are in my head right now. Maybe it’s because it’s Mother’s Day weekend, or maybe it’s because I notice more pregnant women in the stores, maybe it’s because Jamie-Lynn Spears just had her baby shower (and here’s something scary-if I had a baby in 1991, the year Jamie Lynn was born, I would be becoming a grandma) maybe it’s because three of my favorite writers had babies last year, but maybe the final straw was that Michelle Duggar announced she’s pregnant. I don’t know Michelle Duggar personally, but I know of her, because she is pregnant with her 18th child. Yup, you read that right. 18.
The Duggars live in Arkansas and have a website showing all the children studying, working hard, and there’s always a baby around. They remind me of when I was a kid I wanted to have a big family. I went to Catholic school for five years and I was one out of the three kids who were only children. (We were also the only kids who had divorced parents, which made this extra special) I loved movies like Cheaper by the Dozen and Yours Mine and Ours where there were so many children running around. You would never get lonely. However, when I heard about Mrs. Duggar having her 18th baby, it made my uterus hurt. It’s no judgment on her, if she and her husband can afford to have another baby that’s great, but that’s not for me. I’m at the age that if I get pregnant, it might be my only child.
I always thought I would have a kid at my age. It seemed like the plan would be you meet someone great, you get married, and you have a baby. That’s what happened with my grandmother, and it happened with my mom, although her marriage didn’t work out. When she got pregnant at age thirty in 1972, she was considered old for her first baby. “How many children do you have at home” One of the nurses asked her at the hospital. None, my mother said, this my first. The nurse looked at her as if she was thinking “What’s the matter with you? Why have you started at age thirty?”
I haven’t met a man that I wanted to have children with. As I remarked on Susan Browne’s blog yesterday, when people ask me when I’m going to settle down and get married, I tell them “When I meet Mr. Jennifer Gibbons.” He’s out there somewhere, I hope. Yet I wonder if I’ll meet him when it’s still possible for me to have a baby. And then we get to other topics; having a baby on your own, adoption, fertility drugs, or not having a baby at all.
My mother was a single parent. She is one of my heroes, a person who always kept her sense of humor, who never let me feel sorry for myself for too long, and as long as we had money for movies and food, we would be okay. If I had to have a model of a single mother, she is it. And I know if that is my destiny, it wouldn’t be a bad one.
Adopting wouldn’t be bad either,, although I know it has a lot of red tape. Even if it meant adopting an older child, I might do it. One of my teachers adopted two girls and I’ve always admired that. There are so many kids out there that need homes, so if there is a child out there that is meant to be mine, it’s will happen.
I’ve got nothing against fertility drugs; they truly help people that need it. However, I related to what Tina Fey said when she said that seven babies at once is not a miracle, it’s a bit icky.
And then there’s the one that scares me, yet also might be a relief: not having a baby at all. Whenever I hear of women who were childless for a long time but have a baby, I think “Oh, good for them! They had a baby!” When I read about women who didn’t have children, there have been times when I think “Oh, that’s so sad.” Then I think huh? I consider myself a feminist, for God’s sakes. We’re supposed to respect other women’s choices, one of them if they want to have children or not. Why do I feel like that? Why do I feel sad for women who never had kids?
I don’t know. I really don’t. Maybe it’s because one of my fears is that people might think “Oh, poor Jennifer. She never had a baby.” This is absurd. I know it is. I think it’s also that I always cared what people thought of me, and if I didn’t have kids, I would let them down somehow. Once again, absurd.
What I do know is I have to get over my judgmental thoughts, because they are part of my ego as good ole Eckhart Tolle says. We’re all going through stuff, and one of the things we shouldn’t be judged on is if we had a baby or not. It also includes me knowing that if I have a baby that would be great. If I don’t, that’s okay too. I have a niece and nephew I adore and maybe that will be enough for me.
In the meantime, I go about my life. I write and I work and I read. I visit family and friends. I stay open for Mr. Jennifer Gibbons to come this way. Most of all I try to remember what Wendy Wasserstein once wrote:” No matter how lonely you get or how many birth announcements you receive, the trick is to not get frightened. There is nothing wrong with being alone”. So I move on, just keep moving, and when I see a baby with its parents I smile at the baby, and I think maybe.
Causes Jennifer Gibbons Supports
Gilda's Club, Greenpeace, Rosie's Broadway Kids,Westwind Foster Family Agency, Amber Brown Fund, Linda Duncan Fund for Contra Costa Libraries