Stella, a blitzkrieg of a snowstorm and winter’s swan song. A state of emergency declared in New York City with most above-ground transportation suspended, schools shut down and businesses encouraged to close save essential staff.
In the case of my workplace, the essential staff was the bachelor and me. Following HR’s “work from home as necessary” guideline, neither of us could validate the necessity of staying home, us single Manhattanites with no kids.
I was productive on a quiet day. Three incoming calls total. Even had the chance to read some trend and research reports.
Around 5PM I figured I’d get home before it got dark.
“See you tomorrow,” I told my trench mate. He was watching ESPN on his computer.
“Yup! Get home safe.”
We had held down the fort of single people, a space free of pancakes, hot chocolate, snowball fights and puzzles. We stayed warm under the glint of fluorescent lights and stared out of aluminum framed office windows waiting for the storm to abate–so that we could scurry home to frozen dinners and chilled beer.
She’s here. The child I could have been a mother of. Kinda. Sorta.
When James and Kris approached me jokingly (but really not) about sharing them my eggs, I laughed it off–I was too old to be in the business of donating eggs. But of course I dwelled on it for weeks on end reading extensively about the bioethics of fertility medicine. As close as I was to them, and as alluring it was to pass on my genes without financial or legal responsibility, ultimately, I decided it wasn’t the right decision for me.
When I saw my bestie last year, I sensed something was off. Three months later she would disclose she was in New York (Connecticut) not for a business meeting, but to have fertilized eggs of James and Kris (surrogate egg donor) implanted. Intellectually I knew she was telling me as early as she could, but I still had to work through the feeling of not being privy to the intimate arrangement of my very good friends.
Thankfully, I came around quickly enough and was part of the support network of the unconventional pregnancy. When the bestie needed to vent because a gay man was still not a woman and didn’t quite appreciate the physical sacrifice she was undertaking, I was there. (Not that I really know what it’s like to be pregnant, but I pretended.)
Well, she’s here now, this child of James and Kris. Gone are the days of hitting gay clubs in Chelsea and Fire Island, watching RuPaul’s Drag Race, or James chastising me about what a hot mess I was. My gay male friends, the couple that I sat with at wedding tables, the ones who were up for a late night drink on a school night, the ones I would make stupid jokes about tea-bagging with…
“We welcomed this lady earlier today and our lives will never be the same,” James posted on Facebook. That’s right. It certainly won’t be the same for me either. I love you Gaby. I am one of your aunties and will always be here to support and guide you. And I knew your parents in the days before they were parents (sigh). And perhaps I could have been your biological mother. But no matter, I am here for you.
Ugh. Why didn’t I see this coming?
Stuck at a table with three of my friends, one expecting for the first time breaks the news to the two parents.
Gasps, congratulations, accolades and induction.
“It really is the greatest gift.”
“It’s just…so special.”
Polite smile from me. Faking empathy, encouragement. I mean, what the f–k would I know. This get together is no longer fun for me. Waiting for this moment to pass so we can move on. But it doesn’t.
“Your life’s really gonna change.”
“There are no words to explain the joy.”
Yeah, me too, no words to contribute to this conversation. I can’t tell if I’m imagining an awkward silence in which they are cognizant of the single barren elephant at the table and are weighing whether to change the topic or whether to ask what, err, my plans are. Please don’t make them ask me, please don’t make them ask me.
The moment passes, no question asked.Maybe the threat was all imagined–they were basking in the glow of the magical world of parenthood.
Found this dialogue between Yossarian and a shrink in Catch-22. Because I’m quite an ass myself, I replaced the word “fish” with “baby” in my head as I re-read it.
“What does the fish remind you of?”
“And what do the other fish remind you of?”
“Do you like the fish? Do you have any hostile or aggressive emotions toward it?”
“No, not at all. In fact, I rather like the fish.”
“Then you do like the fish.”
“Oh, no. I have no feelings toward it either way.”
I’ve been thoroughly enjoying the quality essays in this book, a book that wasn’t around when I started this blog. These writers have become my imaginary best friends, my older sisters and mentors, individually and collectively soothing my frayed nerves– “It’s okay, we didn’t have kids, and we turned out alright.”
My new BFF Courtney Hodell introduced me to a new word, “allomothering.” Observed throughout the animal kingdom, it describes parental care given by a non-genetic mother. Sounds familiar–like that aunt who researched and offered to pay for a tutor after a parent-teacher conference she wasn’t even at, the aunt who is reading sex ed books for tweens with a glass of wine in hand to pre-screen them for content, the aunt who is routinely texting her niece’s mother to make sure her Halloween costume is completed in time… yeah, that hag with maternal sensibilities and no umbilical cord.
Hey kiddo, when you grow up and turn out alright, maybe you’ll remember me.
Spent the past few days hanging out with a very old and dear friend. She’s on maternity leave with number two and stranded at home and bored out of her mind. I didn’t bother with a hotel–just stayed with her and experienced this whole baby business up close, driving back and forth from daycare, watching her nurse every three hours, smelled for stinky diapers and played with the older one.
I was hoping I’d either be magically inspired or totally turned off. Neither happened. There was a part of me that found it very natural, and there was a part of me thinking how drastically different of a lifestyle it was. There was no hormonal gush in my uterus or maternal certainty that this was what I wanted.
“You’re really good with kids. You’ll be a great mom,” she observed.
The friend has a bunch of letters after her name having spent most of her adult life in higher education and specializes in child psychiatry.
I’m a board certified mom with no mommy yearnings.
The “childfree” vs “childless” thing–neither really resonates. Frankly I have no opinion. Personally, I prefer what I’ve been using in this blog: “sans enfant.”
The yellow indicates where “sans enfant” fits in: