In the Company of Friends.

Have you ever heard that people who love you turn up when you need them? I have and that happened this week. My friends Yolanda and Owen and their four kids visited unexpectedly from Mississippi. I got to spend one evening in my home enjoying the company of my dear old friends and their amazingly polite, funny and sweet children. We shared a meal and caught up on years — far too many years — that had passed since we last sat face-to-face and talked. I loved every moment of it. I loved that the friendship felt familiar. I loved that we spoke openly as old friends, concerned only about catching up and not at all about impressing one another. And I most especially loved the voices, laughter and understanding that filled my home for those hours. Thank you, dear friends, for calling and showing up and listening and loving. I’m crazy about you and your clan. Yolandaandowen

Non-Mother’s Day.

I don’t love Mother’s Day or Father’s Day. I acknowledge them because I have parents who love me more than life, but for the past decade, I have felt a little bitterness towards these days largely for the same reason I hate Valentine’s Day. They are reminders of where I’ve failed.

I am not and, given my age, likely never will be a mother. I don’t need a day that goes out of its way to remind me of that disappointment each and every year.

Recently, I read an article by Anne Lamott that appeared in Salon that articulates much of what I feel. She writes:

I hate the way the holiday makes all non-mothers, and the daughters of dead mothers, and the mothers of dead or severely damaged children, feel the deepest kind of grief and failure. 

I appreciate that she includes “non-mothers” in the discussion. We are an often overlooked bunch. Sometimes, I hear about Mother’s Day being tough for those who have lost children, either before or after they were born.  Recently, a friend posted something on Facebook about being sensitive to the pain of people struggling with infertility, miscarriage and infant loss. I would include in that discussion the pain of those who have never given birth or had a child, not due to infertility or miscarriage, but because they don’t have a spouse or committed partner.

As my single friends approach their late thirties and forties, a number of them are visiting fertility specialists and making decisions to freeze eggs or have kids through donor sperm. I wholly support those efforts for others, but they aren’t for me. I have no interest in taking extraordinary measures to have a kid, not while I’m alone. That feels like forcing the issue. I don’t want to force a kid into my life. I think this is an area of my life where I have to trust the universe.

What if the universe knows that motherhood would not turn out well for me? What if my self-induced child has issues? What if I’m too selfish to be a mom? Maybe I’m not a mom because the universe knows who I am and what I need better than I do.

Do I want to be a mom? Yes, more than I care to admit. But I’ve wanted other things that proved wrong for me at the end of the day. I’ve wanted people who left me. I’ve wanted jobs that turned out to be incredibly poor choices for me. I’ve wanted experiences that ended up offering little more than hurt or expense. In every instance, I can look back and see all the ways the universe tried to warn me against pursuing what I wanted. Knowing that, how can I throw energy, money, time and heart into having a kid that I have to bring about on my own? I can’t. I don’t want to.

A lifelong commitment to another human being is not something I want to demand or create on my own in a lab. I trust the universe. I trust it to bring me a spouse or life partner if it identifies a good person who will love me and never leave me. I trust it to bring me a kid, my own or someone else’s, if I need to be a mom. And if those things don’t happen, I choose to keep trusting it.

I did spend a big part of my day with my family. I got fun time alone with Dad to start the afternoon and Mom to end the afternoon. But before I entered the Mother’s Day venture, I had a nice Non-Mother’s Day morning. I slept in. I flirted with Bread and Butter. I did a track workout of 800 repeats, the fastest of which I did at 4:14, which is big improvement from the 4:22 I did on the April 14 and the 4:35 I did on March 10. With only six weeks left to Ironman Coeur d’Alene, I’m excited about that. And tonight, I’m working on an essay for my writing class. For now, my training and writing are what I chose to put my energy, money, time and heart into.

Thank you, universe, for my pretty awesome Non-Mother’s Day and for the few hours in it that I still have left. After a hard race last week, I appreciate today’s little boost on the track very much.

Happy Mother’s and Non-Mother’s Day to you all.

The Children Thing.

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.