Shh, do you hear what I hear?

Long, long time ago…wow, a full Chinese zodiac rotation ago (12 years), there was a thing called Team Angie vs Team Jennifer, namely, nosy third parties who took a position on the love triangle of  Mr. & Mrs. Smith and Rachel Green from Friends.

Me? Team Angie. I mean, why wouldn’t a man be drawn to a badass bitch who flew planes when your wife complained 24/7 about being type-cast? Though completely neutral on her acting skills (honestly can’t tell if she has them or doesn’t,) I was turned off after reading any interview because it was one whiney rant. If I want that, look no further than this blog, or open an email from my reliably pessimistic older sister–I don’t pay for Vanity Fair to hear the rich and famous puff and pout about how life is so unfair.

Oh but Jennifer, that was over a decade ago. How times have changed. Girl, you and I have more in common than I would have ever imagined. Remember the days when you were on a tabloid every week for having a bloated belly at the beach or some invented source talking about how you were getting fertility treatments? It was rather relentless and brutal. Simply put, it was bullying and I’m sure there’s some pop psychology class at some hip college that is dissecting it now (not that these college kids know who Jennifer Aniston is, oh but their professor does…oops, I digress.) Oh yes, our parallel developments.

Shhh, listen. Do you hear what I hear?

Nothing. Yup, no one is talking about how you’re trying for a baby any more. Me, neither, about a year ago, people stopped bothering with social perfunctoriness like “Oh you never know.”

The air is thick and heavy with the unmentionable.

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Pregdar

“What are you doing here?!”

Super excited about the coincidence of running into each other, we chatted up a storm to condense our respective seven years into 90 second spiels, then switched to near future plans.

“Well, I hadn’t planned any of it,” she said of her decision to move, “but when I got pregnant, things changed.”

And that was the first time during our four minute encounter my eyes drifted below her face.

“Oh my god! You’re pregnant!!! Congratulations!!!!”

She laughed so hard. She assumed her six-month bump would be the first thing anyone would notice.

That would be anyone, but me.

When I was younger the wedding-band-scan was like an involuntary muscle. A while ago I stopped caring what people’s marital statuses were. Turns out I never even went through a phase of worrying about the Joneses in the pregnancy department, and I doubt I’ll start to care now.

A Perfect Neutral

Five years ago, I was tense all day. A good friend gave birth and everyone was stopping by the hospital to congratulate the new parents. The social pressure was mounting as much at the same rate of my internal stress–fuck babies! Fuck this shit! I don’t like babies! I want life before babies! Here’s another friend who’s leaving me! Why don’t I want babies?! Why can’t I figure it out already?!?!

By the time I talked down my inner angry voice, I had missed visitation hours, but I put on my best unbitter face, sweet-talked my way past security and swallowed the growing knot in my throat to open the door–there they were, the once weekend-warrior-stoners, holding in awe their very own creation. I peered into her red wrinkly face, scrunching, stretching, squinting, smiling. Her tiny hands and feet with perfect miniature nails, nailbeds and all. Life–the science class videos and metaphysics course readings all blurred–couldn’t recall who said what, but here, undeniably was a miniature being throbbing with it.

Of course the miracle of it didn’t stop the rolling tears on the subway ride home, streaming frustration and confusion about this thing called life I wasn’t part of.

Fast forward to today. Another dear friend gave birth after a very long and difficult conception with all the scientific assist money can buy. “High risk pregnancies,” we’re told, but brush off because there are 50-somethings doing IVF, but in her case, there were multiple complications, a reluctant C-section, and a full day of not being able to hold her newborn as she was tethered to an IV. I don’t visit every baby at the hospital, but I figured the mom could use a friendly face.

I knew this was one of the last newborns I’d see, given most of my friends are done with building a family. I had some anticipation–namely, I wanted to know how I would react to a newborn. Perhaps if they’re not screeching or running from one side of the house to the other, a baby would be attractive. I peered into the swaddled red face scrunching her nose trying to figure out this stranger. She popped her tiny little hand out of her cocoon and moved it like a starfish before making a loose fist against her ears. There they were, those perfect baby fingers, nailbeds and all. I matched my breathing to hers in hopes she’d relax a little.

But I was also trying to locate the connection with my inner voice.

Isn’t life amazing? 

Yeah.

Look, just look at this tiny baby. A perfect human being.

Yep.

….anything?? I mean, anything????

no, I’m trying…I’m trying, but…. sorry, negative. No biological squeal, no jealousy, no I’m-ready-for-mine–nothing, absolutely nothing.

Enter Gaby

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.

 

 

Subconscious (Part 2)

On the other hand, I was looking through the list of destinations of JetBlue’s sale. Jamaica, Caymans, Haiti, Key West…oh how nice would it be to get away when New York enters its long, cold, depressing winter.

Zika did not concern me for one second–maybe the subconscious is telling me I have no desire or intent to get pregnant any time soon.

And anytime soon is all I’ve got.

 

Pep talk (ped talk?)

You’d think you’d be immune to it by now, but sometimes, a childless gal gets knocked down.  It can be triggered by a double-whammy of news about people’s pregnancies, a thoughtless remark, the season changing, or the new light bulb in the bathroom showcasing your smile lines… and being single, you have no one to turn to but yourself for a pick-me-up.

 

  • You are not any less a woman because you’ve never been pregnant.
  • Being a mother does not define who you are. You are still special. You are contributing to the world.
  • Motherhood is not all that it’s cracked up to be.
  • Trust yourself. Don’t second-guess your decisions.
  • There are plenty of women before you who did not have children and they led fulfilling lives.

 

Too bad these words didn’t come to me at 3 AM this morning when I was wide awake, freaking the F out.

The sweetest thing I’ll never know

They were playing Lauryn Hill’s “The Sweetest Thing” at brunch today.

The sweetest thing I’ve ever known

Was like the kiss on the collar bone

As I recall, the song was inspired by her newborn son. He nuzzled his face as she held him–and it was a love song.

 

I was flipping through an old childhood album. Apparently, when I was five, I invited my mother to come to my house (in the future when I myself was a mother) to enjoy a meal instead of slaving away in the kitchen. For most of my life I assumed I’d be a mother. My friends and I would guess what our bodies would look like when we’d get pregnant–“You’d totally blow up,” “Emma’s gonna be those annoying cute compact preggo women”–I envisioned wearing a maxi dress while pregnant, feeling feminine and powerful (and I would magically have the compact pea pod belly, despite DNA). As for delivery, water birth was the only way to go. My parenting style would be firm but loving, and my children kind, creative, confident and grounded. And yes, my mother would visit often, and we would have a large sit-down meal once a week.

It’s not that I’m strongly attached to these thoughts. It’s more about the length of these assumptions. For 99% of my life, I thought I’d be a mother.

And here we are…let’s just say I confound expectations.