Written by Bethany Clarke.
Art by Isi Parente.
I started questioning if I wanted to have a kid after all my friends started doing it. I turned 30 and four of them had babies that year. It didn’t help that all my newly minted parent friends were younger than me. Reality check: I was getting old, at least a little old to have a child. When I did some online research, I learned that by 35 I’d be considered a geriatric pregnancy and by 40, my chance of getting pregnant per monthly cycle was only 5%. However, I wasn’t sure if I really wanted a screaming-laughing-pooping tiny human or if I was just getting FOMO. At work, at home or somewhere in between, the question of whether or not to have a kid flickered through my mind. I knew time was ticking.
However, I wasn’t sure if I really wanted a screaming-laughing-pooping tiny human or if I was just getting FOMO.
I learned to be late from my mom, and I liked it at first. My mom would always bring us late to church on Sundays and we’d have to sneak in and find a pew at the back, once the service had already started. I thought this was normal until we went to church with our friends one Sunday and we got there before the prelude, when everyone was still milling about and finding their seats. It felt awkward to me, being there for the preamble, the buildup to the main event. To arrive late was to be unnoticed, to slip into the fray without any fanfare, if you could manage it right.
I’ve always been a late bloomer, but this type of lateness was something I learned to resent as I grew older. I was held back in preschool which later made me wonder if adults thought something was wrong with me. Then, I spent all of middle school waiting for my period. While my friends discussed pubic hair and bra sizes, my body remained stubborn and childlike until my freshman year of high school when I finally got the first brown stain in my underwear. By the time I had my first sip of Mike’s hard lemonade and hugged a boy I liked, what felt like everyone else had already had sex in the back bedroom at a rager. Lateness became something that made me different, a signal that I didn’t belong.
These days, I’m still late and I’m embarrassed about it. It annoys my partner who wants to be places when we say we’ll be there. I don’t like when I tell people a time to meet and then have to frantically text them that I’m going to be late. I rush places at the last minute, slipping in ten minutes after the start of something, finding the seat closest to the door.
When I talk with my partner about having kids, we say we want them, but that statement is followed by several introductions of doubt on my part. The ‘what ifs’ pile up and make it hard to see what I really want, which delays my decision. I have several friends who’ve declared they will never raise children and I admire their gumption. I can never reach such certainty. I have a friend (yes, with a baby) and they always say “if it’s not a hell yes, it’s a hell no,” but I think there’s something to be said for trying things, for living into questions of maybe, for waiting just a little longer.
I have several friends who’ve declared they will never raise children and I admire their gumption. I can never reach such certainty.
When I hold my friend’s newborn for the first time this December, I worry I’m bad at it. I obsess over holding up her head because the mechanical babies we had in eighth grade would scream when we let their heads back and we’d lose a whole letter grade on our assignment. I don’t know how to bounce her or make her smile or even whether I should hold her laying down or sit her up like an adult. So I just hold her halfway between those two positions and hope for the best. I try to think of questions to ask my friend about having a new baby but my mind is empty. The baby starts crying and my friend says she’ll take her back.
When I arrive home that day, I look through some old photos on my laptop. It’s what I do when I don’t know what to do with myself in winter when it’s dark at 4pm. I find photos of my ex and wonder why I broke up with him. He was such a nice guy. I save all the photos because I can’t bear to delete them. Later, on my walk, it’s still winter and still really dark and the sidewalks are patched with ice, lined with skeletal trees reaching into the blue sky. For the first block, I beat myself up for breaking up with the nice ex. For the next block, I remember a conversation I’d had with him early on in our relationship. He hadn’t wanted kids. I walk another block, under the gaze of some brown finches in the bushes. He hadn’t wanted kids. As I pass, the finches scatter into the air. Childless life hadn’t been a dealbreaker for me back when I was dating my ex, but I realized it was now.
I want to hold my own baby. I want my parents to meet their grandchildren. I want my sister to be a cool aunt. I want to know what my kids look like and find out what they become. Kids: my answer, falling out of the gray sky while my feet skirt around puddles and chunks of snow.
A little late was starting to feel like exactly the right time.
About the Author
Bethany Clarke is a special education teacher at a middle school in New Hampshire. You can find her other work in Business Insider and Stylist Magazine. When she’s not writing (which is a lot of the time), you can find her walking her cats, painting, knitting and watching reality T.V.
Follow on IG: @@bethanymclarke |