I’ve wanted to have a baby for at least six years. When I was about 25, the urge to have a baby was so strong I thought I would spontaneously become pregnant. Every time I got my period, I was disappointed, even though I knew there was actually no chance of me becoming pregnant short of immaculate conception. A few years later, when I moved in with my now-wife and her three kids, the baby urge sort of went away. It at least faded into the background, replaced with an ambivalence that scared me.
Here I was, 27 years old with no children, and I was suddenly living in a house where at any moment, a four year old boy might wander into the bathroom in the middle of me taking a shower, and ask questions about my body. Or I might be late for work, and discover that my car keys are missing, because a seven year old has put them in her backpack. Apparently they would rather I stay home, with them, so they decided the best way to accomplish this was to physically prevent me from driving in to work. There was toy flotsom everywhere (you know what toy flotsom is — those valueless small objects, like bouncy balls and foam magnets shaped like the number 2, that litter the floor and countertops and table when you have young children, that no one gives two figs about until you try to throw them away). When I arrived home from work, rather than a yoga class, a glass of wine and a good book, it was a flurry of cooking and clearing up and dishes and homework and teeth brushing and finding missing stuffed dogs and tucking in. It was a very different life, and the change was very abrupt. It didn’t matter that we shared custody with the kids’ father and that every now and then there was a kid-free night. Those nights, I was usually so exhausted from the other nights that I collapsed into bed.
In short, I was thrust into parenting three young children. I think there is a reason that we humans are pregnant for 9 or 10 months (depending on how you count) before we have a child, and it’s not just biological. Having kids takes some getting used to, and I think we need time to get our heads around it. We think it’s going to be all snuggles and mommy I love yous and really cute tiny shoes. And there is that, but there is also a lack of privacy and boundaries, toy flotsom and clearing up, caregiving when you’re desperately in need of some care yourself. Perhaps its the carrying of your baby for 9+ months that eases you into the idea that you don’t really have boundaries anymore, at least not in the same way, and that you’re responsible for someone else’s health and wellbeing, often at the expense of your own.
To be fair, my wife tried to ease the transition as much as possible. After all, she had had these small beings in her life for eight years already, and was well-adjusted to life as a parent by this point. But as I said, the shock to the system scared me. What if I wasn’t ready to be a parent, or was not good at it? Was it because I was a step-parent and not a “real” parent that I minded so much that my lotion had walked off or that my favorite mug had been broken? Did I NOT LIKE CHILDREN?
The answer, of course, is “sort of.” I still mind when my lotion walks off and my favorite mug is broken. But not in the same way. Suddenly, somewhere during the year leading up to our wedding, which was last summer, I found my feet with the kids. The middle one calls me her “mom” behind my back, and the littlest one calls me “Mommy” to my face. They have learned that I like coffee in the morning before I am ready for talking or singing. I have learned to ask them if I can’t find my car keys or hat. We have learned how to be a family. It was not an easy adjustment, but it was a wholly worthwhile one. Being a parent is hard, you realize that right away. But it is also amazing. Most people realize that right away, I think, but when you step into a ready-made family and have to find your place in it, it takes some getting used to. Honestly, it took longer than I thought it would. Then, one day, to my surprise, I realized it had happened. Now, I can’t imagine my life without these three awesome, exhausting, silly, intelligent kids.
And this is why, I think, a few weeks after our wedding, the baby fever hit again, in full force, even stronger than when I was 25. The ambivalence was completely gone. Funny that it has taken me six years to come back to the place I was in before, wanting a baby so badly. But I have, and I think the strength of the desire is partly due to the fact that there are fewer unknowns. I already know I have it in me be a parent. Now, I’d like to try being the parent to a baby.