Auntie Bellum, we’re on our third date. We’ve told each other some cute and funny stories. We’ve cautiously dropped the F-bomb to test the waters. We’ve been charming. So now we’re at the “share something that scares you” date. Now read this sweet, y’all, because my husband is nervous about sharing this with the world, and about how our lives come together in some really grown-up ways. Welcome to my messy life.
I wasn’t one of those little girls who played mommy all the time or dreamed of having the white-picket-fence-life. Years ago, though, a (male) friend said “you’re just the girl who’s gonna have babies,” and I was like “yeah, I am.”
Fast forward to 33 years old. When I met the love of my life. And he had a 15-year-old. And he was 40. And we fell in love hard and fast, and we were as deep as two people can get. Within a month we had the “do you want to have (more) kids” conversation. And he said “I’d have another baby, if it was with the right person” and like a bad romance novel, I knew he was talking about me being the right person.
Fast forward again. We got married eight days shy of our two-year anniversary, during peak leaf season and surrounded by so much love I can’t believe we didn’t shift the axis of the earth. I was off the pill, however, we were working in jobs that kept us away from each other during stretches of time – like ovulation stretches of time – and I wasn’t pregnant, which wasn’t a hardship because I wanted to drink beer and wine and enjoy our New York City honeymoon.
Fast forward to June of the next year, when we had just bought a house. And my husband sat me down. He said “I don’t think I want to have more kids. And if you need to break up with me, I understand. But I’m too old, and I just want to live our lives together.” And I had a fit. A literal fit. I cried, I keened. And my heart broke into pieces. And my stupid pragmatic brain started doing math. “I’m 36, it would take me AT LEAST another year to fall in love, and months to get pregnant, and FUCK I’M PROBABLY TOO OLD TO BE IN THIS SITUATION.” And all through this I knew this man was who I wanted to be with. I didn’t marry him because we were going to have a kid. I married him because he was interesting and smart. He helped me keep my work shit in balance. Our best dates were at the gym. He loved live music.
No fast-forwarding. Days and weeks went by. And I was still heartbroken, but my heart and head were starting to smoosh and stretch. And I kept telling myself “my life will not rise or fall on one piece or part” and then I had to get really real with myself. I was 36 and he was 42. If we had a kid TOMORROW, he would be trying to retire when we were trying to help our pumpkin go to college or start a grown-up life. If we had a kid TOMORROW, it would be likely that he or I would experience some weird but typical middle-age health problem at the same time we had a tween. And seriously, we have a climate change problem that we want to ignore more than about anything. Did I want to bring a baby into that mess? We had only been together, like, 29 months, and I wasn’t done falling in love with him.
I love my niece and nephew more than I can put into words. And my godson is a person I would give my last drink of water. I don’t want to come across as one of those people who’s like “having kids is killing our earth” or “I’m too selfish to have kids” because neither of those things is true. But for me, and for him, and for the relationship we have chosen – walked deliberately into – having babies isn’t a thing we’re going to do. And this weekend a sweet, dear, amazing friend told me she is pregnant. I am so happy for her. And it made me realize that while I’ve been happy for my friends who have had babies in the last two years, that happiness has been chased down by my own sadness. So, friends. I’m sorry. I love your babies, and I hate that I wasn’t able to be as blissfully overjoyed as I would have been otherwise.
As it stands, my husband and I get this amazing chance to fall in love forever. We can wrap ourselves around our lives in a crazy, tangly way. I get to have a risk-taking career in which I never have to worry about keeping an employer happy so I keep the bills paid. We get to be these rebellious, screaming advocates for a better world. But we can’t have it all. It’s not possible for me and for my husband to do all things at equal intensity; to be one hundred and ten percent in all parts of our lives. And I still get sad and sappy. On my birthday last year I had (way) too much prosecco and cried my eyes out in a hammock with the love of my life because we weren’t sharing our love with another tiny human. And I’ll do it again, I’m sure. But there is not infinite time to live infinite choices. So oceans of happiness co-exist with the crushing truth that Brother Keith Richards and Brother Mick Jagger share with us: “you can’t always get what you want, but if you try sometimes, you might find you get what you need.”
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