I’m exhausted. It’s been a busy week full of meetings, rehearsals, performances, planning, writing, rewriting, contracts, phone calls, cleaning and meeting deadlines. In fact, yesterday was going to be my “light” day, and I filled it with research and a marathon cleaning session, as the state of my house was so out of control that tiny cats were threatening to sprout from the piles of wandering furballs that would roll through the house like tumbleweeds.
And last night as I scarfed down dinner minutes before I had to head out the door for a friend’s screening, I got the phone call we’d been waiting on for a while: two of my best friends in the world are finally having a baby. They’d been trying forever, it seems, and they’re very happy to be one month along. They keep repeating that they know they aren’t “out of the woods,” which only strengthens that myth of storks leaving babies in gardens and cabbage patches way out in the middle of nowhere (or “the nowhere”, as my newly-pregnant friend was mocked for saying). I always imagined mothers crawling through thorny vines and poison ivy, shielding their tiny infants in their hands, both faces streaked in mud until they both found a warm home. So really, finding out when I was six that I instead came from a belly was a relief.
And two more of my closest friends are due to have their baby girl in just over a month now. “Forever!” I said to him the other night. “You’re having her forever. It’s not just some kind of summer thing or like, a five-day rental. Forever.”
He nodded with that look that says, “I love it. But hey, run while you’ve still got the chance.”
Why don’t I have the baby itch? Particularly with the way everyone on television wants to remind me lately that my insides are ticking away like the stopwatch on 60 Minutes and how I’ve only got so many years left before it’s too late!!!!!. Even scare tactics aren’t working on me. Sure, I get all cutsey when I see an adorable baby do something so adorably babyish, like chew on a fist or point at me when I cross my eyes and wiggle my nose at him/her. But there’s no ache inside, no pull with a whisper, “Baaaaaay-beeeeeee.”
Nothing. In fact, that tiny voice inside me often says, “Oh, thank God. No baby. Whew. Can you imagine?”
I’m exhausted from a day that involves directing a comedy show, thinking about writing an entry, taking a meeting concerning my last screenplay and driving to Melrose for a rehearsal. I was exhausted after trying to take a cell phone call inside of a building with shitty reception because the call was to cancel a meeting and I couldn’t quite make out what was being said. That was exhausting to me. Rehearsing the scene about the new mother learning how to nurse a baby was just as taxing to me as if I nursed a baby myself today. Clearly I’m not ready for any kind of responsibility involving another person’s upbringing for the rest of my life. The rest of my life. I get irritated when the cats step on me in the middle of the night, pushing their butts in my face before they settle on a warm patch for their next nineteen-minute nap. I do not have the patience motherhood requires.
Sometimes it makes me feel like a bad person, though. I feel like I’m not being a good enough woman, that I’m not trying to hurry up, get married, buy a house, “settle down” and start a family. “Settle down.” That’s what my mom would always say to my sister and me when we were jumping on our mattress or running through the house playing Tag.
It meant, “Quit acting like a freaking idiot and shut up!” Now it means, “Quit pretending you don’t want what we all have. It’s why you’re on this earth. You’re supposed to sit still and be quiet and let someone else be loud and obnoxious for a change. You’re done. Be done. Just sit still for once.”
Settle down. Buy a house. Stop renting. Stop chasing. Start planning for a future. Get a savings account. Invest. Get a CD that doesn’t have Eminem on the cover, the kind I can’t touch until I’m in my fifties.
I can’t imagine stopping my life and changing every aspect to raise a child. I cannot imagine how I would do that. And the fact that I’m not even slightly upset at the thought of not doing that someday makes me feel a little guilty. Then I feel guilty about feeling guilty. I want to rock all girl power and say that I don’t need a family/child to validate my womanhood. I don’t need a family/child to prove that I’m Good Enough, that I’ve been Chosen by a male to breed with. I don’t need the world to carry on my seed… or egg… or whatever it is that we say when…
I’m just not done yet. I don’t want to raise someone when I’m not even sure how to take care of myself. I don’t think it’s responsible to bring another human into this world when I have no idea when exactly I’ll get my next paycheck. How do people do it? How does everyone do it? And why am I not even slightly pulled in that direction?
I know it’s okay to feel this way, but I’m surprised that it even bothers me sometimes. I surprise myself when I fantasize about weddings and houses and sweet couple moments that come from years of life together, memories together and that look you give each other when you remember that you were there for that first wrinkle next to his eye and you’ve been there as the rest of them arrived. I know it’s hokey that I think about cakes and music and large gatherings of people celebrating love and birth and the joy of life. I want it in bits and moments. I don’t know if I want it every single day.
I’m a lousy babysitter. I’m not good with children. I whine right along with them, wishing even more than they do that Mom or Dad would come home soon. I’ll want to eat ice cream for dinner and let them convince me that it’s a good idea. We’d watch scary movies and stay up too late and fall asleep on the couch in our clothes with our shoes on the good pillows and the dog on the nice sofa.
The thought of having a child sick and needing a doctor scares the crap out of me. Holding a crying child, knowing that there’s an infection and the kid doesn’t understand pills or medicine and all it knows is pain, pain, pain and it’s my job to make the kid feel better but secretly I’m just worried I’m going to catch it too?
Never. Not once. I’ve never wished I had a baby. I’ve never envied someone else’s child. I’ve never been curious what my child would look like. The only time I’ve even thought about what I’d name a kid was back in high school and some of the names I came up with were so lousy that I’ll never tell anyone what they were. I don’t look at baby clothes and coo. I don’t inhale deeply when I pass a Baby Gap. I don’t rub the bellies of pregnant women when I see them in public. Or in private, for that matter. I still get a little uncomfortable at the sight of a woman breastfeeding a baby. I get a little uncomfortable at the thought of someone else going through labor. The thought of me going through labor makes me sweat with fear. I’m not even curious. I’m not even slightly interested.
When I moved into the house I bought some furniture and started trying out new dishes, making cookies and cooking things I’ve always wanted to try. Someone tilted her head to the side and said, “Oh, you’re nesting. So cute.”
No, I needed bookshelves for my books and I’ve never had a big kitchen before. I’d have cooked if I didn’t always have the counter space of a dorm room. It’s not nesting. One month later it wasn’t even safe for the cats to nap on the floor. I’m not a very clean person. I used to think I wasn’t that bad, but now I know I used to live with messier people, or clean people that picked up my stuff too. I’ve never seen before just how much of a slob I can be. Nesting always reminds me of the end of Sesame Street when Big Bird would tuck his beak into his armpit and start snoring. What I do is more like Bird’s neighbor Oscar, noisy basement and all.
So, I don’t want a baby. That doesn’t make me a bad person. That doesn’t mean I’m less of a woman. Get off my case. Maybe I’m just being the responsible one. I’m leaving more space for your baby. Now my baby won’t steal your baby’s spot in college. My baby won’t make your baby feel insecure, or break your baby’s heart someday at a dance. My baby won’t be at a stoplight when your baby hits my baby’s car because your baby was jamming out to a CD while talking on a cell phone, and now your baby’s insurance premiums won’t go up. I’m just making your world for your baby a better place without my baby around to make your baby feel secondary. You’re welcome, by the way.
So I guess this means I’m a pretty great woman. A selfless woman. A woman who won’t bore you with baby stories and pester you to babysit. A woman who’s always available for a night out or a quick cup of mid-day coffee. I’m the woman you can call in the middle of the night or the middle of the morning and I won’t scold you for waking anybody. When you come to my house there will be an 89% less chance that you will be puked or peed on. I can loan you a book that doesn’t have any page torn out, scribbled on, or chewed off. I will not serve you a Cosmo in a sippy cup. You will never have to watch me clean my son’s tiny penis with a wet nap and then sing a song about my son’s tiny penis to his tiny penis while you search the room for something to stare at instead. I won’t ask you what I should do about my sore nipples. I’m not going to be the woman who only half listens to you because I’m listening to the baby monitor near your head. Most importantly, I won’t be the woman who tells you that you aren’t really a woman until you have kids. I’m not going to be that lady that gives you that pity look and says, “Oh, they just make it all make sense, you know? They give your life meaning. Direction. A purpose.”
I believe you are important even if you don’t have a baby. I promise to never make you think otherwise. I do believe in you, just as hard as I believe in me. Together, we don’t have to have babies to be somebodies. We’re just as valid in this world, even if we don’t need a booster seat at a restaurant. We’re worth staring at in the street, even if we’re not pushing a tiny version of ourselves in a stroller. We are strong, independent women who are beautiful, talented, marvelous creatures. And when we read Charlotte’s Web at night we don’t read it out loud, but to ourselves. It’s still good.
And I promise not to judge you with babies if you promise to not judge those of us without. I won’t ask you what it’s like to lose what I can only imagine is your personal identity if you promise not to comment on how empty and lonely my life must be.
Just in case I someday change my mind, however, Cal and Olive are keeping me in prime condition. Every single night, right in the dead middle of the night, they find a way to wake me up. I haven’t slept through a full evening in over two years. I do believe after these cats, babies are going to be a breeze.