At thirty-eight, childless and unmarried, time with babies is both precious and painful.
Today, I got to meet my friends’ baby boy. Charlie is just over a month old and everything you would hope for in a new baby. He is big, healthy, strong and beautiful. His little hands are perfect. His ears look like tiny little pieces of art. His body is warm, and his cry both sweet and commanding. I loved every minute of getting to hold this little guy. Even when he cried, I loved trying to comfort and soothe him. He is perfect. And he is not mine.
I’m no longer at the age where friends are having their first babies. I’m past that age. Charlie is a second child. I have one friend who recently had her first, but most are having their second, third or fourth by now. And I have none.
Odds are good that I won’t know the experience of learning of a pregnancy and sharing the news with a happy partner. I will not carry and birth a child. I won’t have those happy hospital photos where I am holding my newborn and hoping I am covered and look halfway decent given the presence of a camera. I won’t have the coming home photos where I’m slightly overweight but doing the best I can to have my hair done and at least be a little made up. And I certainly won’t have that lifetime of watching a child grow, constantly remembering the moments, hours, days and months when he or she and I were one.
I remember being in college and sitting with some girlfriends talking about future dreams. One of us asked the question, “If you could have anything named after you, what would it be?” One of us answered, “A building on campus.” Another said, “A scholarship.” I answered, “A granddaughter.”
In my mid-thirties, after the fourth time that someone I could see myself loving chose someone else, I started preparing myself emotionally to be single and childless. I don’t know how other people do that, but I started telling myself that children change things in a way that I don’t want. After thirty-something years of living on my own schedule, how could I possibly cater to someone else? After years of training and traveling freely, how could I give that up? Right now, I choose what I want based on my own timing and schedule. Whether it’s about work or travel or exercise or my interest in movies or concerts, I don’t answer to a family; I do what I want. I don’t have to put my own needs and desires after that of a child. My time and money are mine. I have lived my entire life with the freedom to be selfish. A child would end that. I would have to become selfless, and that would be bad for me, maybe even impossible after all these years.
And I believe me most of the time. Most days, I think and believe that I am over the desire to have a child of my own. But when I hold a newborn and watch a family work together to take kids to the park and get them fed and keep them happy – when I see a little girl share in her mother’s beautiful red hair or I see a little boy named after his dad – I know I am watching my dream pass before my eyes.
Freedom is good. Being able to take off for a last minute weekend away is a wonderful thing. Having the time to train and commit to something like Ironman is fantastic. But having a child? Starting and raising a family? That is real and precious life.
It’s just not mine.