If you had asked me 20-something years ago about how my life was going to turn out, I could have never guessed nor predicted I would have the life that I have. It’s not a reflection on it being better or being worse. I actually have a pretty damn good life.
But I remember predicting that I would get married at age 23 and have children at age 25. I even said that I would have 2 children. I don’t remember predicting how I would find the man of my dreams or what quality of life I would have. I just knew that that’s how things happened. You get married. You have kids. The end.
Now I don’t come from an entirely conventional family. So I didn’t always have entirely conventional ideas about my future family. I also knew I wanted to leave the small rural town in Maryland in which I grew up. I wanted to move to the big city. I wanted to go to college and have a wildly successful career. I wanted to travel the world. I just never really planned how all of this was going to happen. I still did pretty good anyway.
I went to college in Cleveland, Ohio (once known unaffectionately as the “mistake on the lake”). It’s not a glamorous city but compared to the boondocks, it was pretty exciting for me. I picked a major and a minor but I never did figure out what I wanted that wildly successful career to be. So I began a progression of career paths – most of them shaped in some way by my desire to travel. And travel, I did.
For a small town girl who had never been on an airplane until age 17, I amassed a lot of passport stamps pretty quickly. Along the way, I did meet the man of my dreams (not until age 29) and we married and continued our travel escapades together. We talked about having kids, in general. We both loved kids. We would spend Christmas in the Northeast playing our hearts out with our extended family. Our niece and nephews all saw us as the “cool” aunt and uncle.
But as soon as we got in the car to head back to my mother-in-law’s house for the night, we would long for a glass of wine and a quiet household. I loved kids but just didn’t want any. I loved my life. I didn’t hear my clock ticking. Was it broken?
I remember a colleague telling me years ago that his wife was pregnant. I was taken aback because I never thought he seemed like the fatherly type (nor his wife the motherly type). Turns out her biological clock wasn’t just ticking. It was a screaming alarm that kept sounding off. Where was my alarm?
My husband felt the same as me. We loved kids but did we really need kids of our own? How nice would it be to take exotic vacations every year and have the latest electronic gadgets and coolest cars? It is nice. But is it fulfilling? It came to blows in my mind in August 2005.
We got a call from my mother-in-law on July 4th telling us that her dog, Madison (who was like one of our own) had been diagnosed with melanoma. I went into my normal state of “whatever it is, I can figure out what to do about it on the internet.” I read and researched. I joined pet cancer support forums. We flew up to New York to see what we could do. We visited with Madison. We helped get him a second opinion. But on August 16th, he passed away quietly at home.
I had lost pets plenty of times in my life – each time just as heartbreaking. But this time was different. I don’t know if it was how quickly it happened or just the maturity level I was at. And I soon had the realization, the kind you get in your gut, that we are all going to go. That someday our parents would be gone. And my brothers and sister. And then what was left? Who would come home to see us at Christmas? Would we be one of those couples that people shook their heads about saying “it’s such a shame they never had children”?
By January, I had adopted a laissez-faire attitude. We threw caution to the wind and decided that whatever happens, happens. And happen it did. By April, I was pregnant and in January 2007, I gave birth to a happy, healthy boy. My son. He really is my pride and joy. Could I imagine life without him? Yes, I could. It would be easier. But it wouldn’t be as meaningful or fulfilling. And if one child is good, wouldn’t two be better?
Good question. Glad you asked. My biological clock never went off the first time. Is it on permanent snooze or is the alarm about the finally go off? Stay tuned. I have lots to say on this one.