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? While completely neutral on her acting skills (honestly can’t tell if she has them or doesn’t,) I was turned off reading any interview with her 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 had 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 to say, “Oh you never know” when I’d say I don’t know if I want kids.
The air is thick and heavy with the unmentionable.
“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 in 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.
Yup, that time of the year to avoid social media, retail, and brunch hotspots. Sticking to my version of GTL–yoga, groceries and laundry.
Yoga was a room full of the usual suspects, single folks.
Supermarket was luxuriously empty. The cash registrar rang me up.
“Do you want the receipt?”
“Yes, in the bag, please.”
“Here you go. Happy Mother’s Day, to you and yours.”
I have little patience for those who preach that traveling helps discover who they are–those people just need to swap their airline ticket with a check for a shrink and figure out what they’re running away from. Travel is travel, exciting, challenging, eye opening, but not that profound.
Or so I thought. I was in East Asia. School was out and families were out in droves. Kids awkwardly pedaled their bikes ahead of their moms walking with a swaddled sibling. I was struck by how genuinely child-like the kids were, embodying curiosity and innocence. And the moms–they were relaxed and in tune with the children. They radiated kindness and warmth, and I had a thought–I could raise a child here.
It stirred. My long lost uterus, devoid of any pulse, let out a silent squeak, “I want a child.” I couldn’t believe it. Sentiments I thought I’d never have, making an appeal for the first time ever. Is this truly happening?! Inside my body?! MY uterus is stirring?!
It was faint, but it was a definite signal. Then it sank in. So all this time, all these years of struggling with why, the answer had been goddamn New York City– I had flashes of the expressions of the helicoptered kids, their expensive clothes and regimented schedules, the vapid eyes of the ones spilling out of their strollers with one hand in a ziploc bag full of goldfish. My body had taken all this in and shut down, deciding the rat race was no place for kids. The fucking Big Apple.
I was wide awake for the twelve hour flight home.
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 giving them an extra egg, 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.