Once while reading a story about a local high school graduation, I read a quote by casino mogul (and keynote speaker of the event) Steve Wynn: The world is full of boxes. Nobody cares.
What the fuck does that mean? I have no idea what Wynn meant but my interpretation is that everyone comes to things with baggage. Everyone has a box or two they are carrying around. And your box informs who you are, how you handle things and maybe what freaks you out. But what I think Wynn was saying is at the end of the day, fuck the boxes. There’s work to do. I don’t care about your boxes or what you have to do with them, just get it done.
As harsh as that is, I think for a long time I lived my life like that. The world is full of boxes. Nobody cares. And I got a lot done. I was one of the first people in my family to get a college degree, the first of my immediate family. I married my high school sweetheart. I had a successful, award-winning career as a reporter. I was a home-owner by the age of 27. I just kept shuffling my baggage boxes — get out of the way, I have work to do.
But that all changed when I finally took the time to open the boxes and really put the old pain to bed. I was liberated! Now what?
Baby. Baby. Baby…
By then, a lot of time had gone by since I quit my day job in June 2007 and set about to fix myself (see Part 1). It was October 2008 and the economy had just had a stroke. I was laid off a month before from a short-lived job at a non-profit. In the world outside everything was collapsing. People were running scared. My husband and I had barely survived the long, nine-month storm of pancreatic cancer (10 for me, with my cousin’s sudden death of a rare cancer in July 2008). With me out of work for the better part of 16 months and counting (I had only worked 16 weeks at the non-profit), it felt like we had been stretched thin on every front — emotionally, financially, etc.
But sometimes spring begins to blossom from deep within long before the calendar or moon cycles decree. We had to get through the first Christmas without my father-in-law and my cousin. I felt split in two because both my in-law family and my biological family had been torn asunder by cancer. And it was one of the saddest Christmases of my life in many ways. (Up there with the Christmas my best friend died in a car accident.) But it also had joyful moments. And it was in the spaces where I and my family could let joy shine through that I knew something had woken up in me. And that something was baby fever.
But it took longer than you might expect for me to convince my husband that I did indeed want a baby.
I had spent a long, long time living in the no-baby camp. It was an almost unbelievable defection. I had written articles on the merits of child-free families! For one Valentine’s Day my husband gave me the book Families of Two by Laura Carroll — and I had been thrilled! (It is still a book I highly recommend.) It is not that I did not like babies. I have four brothers, all younger by almost a generation (they’re from different marriages). So, I spent a lot of time with babies as an older kid and teen. I worked as a maid and nanny to put myself through college and when I got out of school I worked as an assistant preschool teacher. By the time I was married, I had clocked a lot of hours taking care of and nurturing kids! In many ways, I felt like I had already had kids. Since we were young (20 and 23) and still in college when we got married, my husband and I had never been in a big hurry to have kids in the beginning. And when my husband’s baby clock started to tick, we had a lot of discussions over a long time. I just didn’t hear the ticking. I just didn’t feel that feeling that so many other people seem to get. And considering that I had been raised by a woman who regretted ever having children and never let me forget it, well, I thought that the whole To Baby or Not Baby was a big decision. By the time my husband and I celebrated our 10th wedding anniversary, we were pretty solidly in the Not Baby camp.
So, when I told him that I had this powerful feeling inside me that I wanted to be a mother, you could maybe understand why he just looked at me quizzically and changed the subject. And I let it drop for some time so he could digest and we could come back at it later. And my husband was definitely surprised when it did keep coming up, a little while at a time. Finally, he looked at me and said, “I can’t believe it! You really do want a baby!” But once he believed me, it only took him about a heart beat to be excited to finally get a chance to be a dad.
But for me the funny thing about getting baby fever was that it did come with some boxes of its own. Can I get pregnant? Will my health issues make pregnancy harder, or impossible? Will the baby be healthy? And… Will I lose my identity? Can I be a feminist mom? Am I still a feminist mom if I don’t work (remember, I was unemployed)? Oh my God, am I willingly becoming a stay-at-home mom?