A few weeks ago, I attended a two year old's birthday party. In Marietta.
Said party was for my best friend's son, and even though M is now a mom living in the 'burbs, our relationship feels exactly the same. Except that now we meet at 11 a.m. for kid-friendly pizza or quesadilla lunches with a side of toddler babble instead of late night champagne and grown-up gossip. And after all she went through to have him--including two heartbreaking miscarriages--I wouldn't have it any other way.
Also in attendance? My sister and my sweet niece, an eighteen month old spitfire of a redhead like her mom and namesake grandmother, a kid whose bright blue eyes, maniacal laugh and penchant for tumbling make her just as much mine as theirs.
Shortly after that party, I visited another good friend at home with her newborn. Yet another baby very much wanted and worked for, and another mother for whom I was a hand-holder, a tear drier, a cheerleader, and champion through the ups and downs of fertility.
In the past, these scenarios--kids' birthday parties where I'm the only non-parent, holding a newborn while knowing I might never hold my own--would send me into an emotional tailspin, especially on the cusp of Mother's Day.
Even in the hospital in Boston, the first thing the nurse asked when examining me was "is there a chance you are pregnant?" Followed by the nurse practitioner later waving away tests other than the CT scan, as they would be "too risky for a fertile woman like you."
And rather than cry, I laughed.
As young and as healthy of a 40 year old as I am, "fertile" is definitely NOT one of my attributes.
My husband and I are in a super awkward place of being ambiguous about children. We're neither the "kids are great for other people, but not us" people nor the "we must do everything we can because our lives are not complete without children" people.
We both always wanted them. I always assumed I would have them. He did, too, until he and his ex went through the heartache of miscarriage and failed IVF treatment. That was more than ten years before he and I got together.
When we married, I was 32 and he was 44. We both assumed the intensity of our connection would somehow miraculously extend to our fertility. It didn't.
I never gave up the desire to have kids, but as the years passed, it became more and more likely, especially as I went off the pill and learned my body's natural cycles, that it just wasn't going to happen without intervention.
At first, intervention was beyond our financial means. And then it became a matter of emotional capacity. Could I--with my history of depression and anxiety--handle the hormones? The disappointment? The parting with thousands of dollars with perhaps nothing in exchange other than more exhaustion, depression, and heartbreak?
Do I sometimes wish things were different?
Does it hurt when people ask when or if we will have kids or a stranger assumes I'm a parent?
Does it sting when people assume I'm so career-minded and successful I never wanted kids?
Does it wound every time a friend I thought would be forever in the childless camp with me announces a pregnancy? Or another years rolls by and more and more of my friends become part of a club I can never join?
But I don't let it fester any more. I don't begrudge others their happiness and their paths.
And I'm content. My heart and my life are full.