It was dark. The digital clock on my dashboard read 5:05. The time was 5:07. That clock always loses two minutes for some reason. Dave Mattingly’s deep, velvety voice permeated the darkness. He was reporting on NPR about the alleged Chelsea bomber. I was cruising north on I-83 and my mind was wandering.
Tuesday when I went to the Post Office, I crossed paths with six toddlers and their babysitter walking to a playground. Following behind them, I shortened my stride. It was hard not to smile at their slightly pigeon-toed steps. The one little girl, holding a baby doll in her left arm and the hand of a little boy in her right hand, noticed my presence. She looked over her shoulder and in the friendly, pitchy way only children can produce, she exclaimed, “Hi!” As if she was a drum major, the troop of toddlers, one by one, proceeded to turn around, look me in the eyes, and replicate her greeting. My heart melted a little. I chuckled to myself at the irony of the little boy and little girl holding hands. In a few years, they’ll both have cooties and want nothing to do with each other.
During lunch yesterday, I read an article about the health benefits of 60 seconds of daily laughter. The veracity and scientific research of the article, I won’t question. But I thought a little laughter couldn’t hurt. Reflecting on what, as of late has made me laugh the most, my mind circled around two things: videos of cute puppies and videos of babies laughing. The cute puppy videos are a little more hit or miss, but babies laughing? That is gold. The happy noises that babies make are hilarious! Sometimes shrill shrieks, but sometimes much deeper guttural sounds unexpected from such a little being. I have to wonder if some of their laughter isn’t perpetuated from their own realization of the noises they are producing.
Back to sitting in my car, 26-years old, driving to a job that I have not yet made a career, and I had the tiniest fleeting thought: A baby could be fun.
All pre-conceived notions I had, momentarily came crashing down. You see, since I can remember, I have never wanted to be a mom. Writing that makes me cringe. I might as well brand my forehead with bold letters reading, “BAD PERSON.” Even with childhood friends who dreamed of days when they could name their children and be PTA President, I have never had that innate urge. I have always wanted to be an engineer and I have always wanted to be a wife. But motherhood has never had an appeal. I respect the work of mothers, but I have never seen myself cut-out for such an undertaking.
When I was a teenager and the subject came up (it’s bizarre to think that the conversation of being a mom comes up that early in a woman’s life), I remember being assured that my feelings would change someday. I haven’t been waiting for the switch to flip per se, but I have spent more than a decade thinking, some morning, I am going to wake up and realize someday is today. Some morning, I’m going to be driving to work and I’m going to think, “A baby would be nice.” Some morning, I’m going to call my significant other and say, “Honey, I want a baby.”
My thoughts scattered to pregnancy, maternity leave, car seats, and rec league soccer games. A headache settled in between my eyebrows. I thought about the love that surely grows in a woman’s heart while a child grows in her uterus. I thought about the happiness that a baby could bring into my life and the joy that a grandchild would bring to my parents. I imagined transparent blonde curls, ten perfect toes, and ten perfect fingers. I could hear the infectious laughter and the blissful giggles.
My thoughts quickly turned to heartache, post-partum depression, and worry. I thought about the stress of being a parent. I thought about the burden of being responsible for another human’s life. I imagined watching those blonde curls, tousled endeavoring to endure life. I felt the thunder of those perfect toes running on dirt to find peace. I saw those perfect fingers straining to put words to the unwritten sentiments of the heart.
Yeah, a laughing baby would be fun. Yeah, an exuberant toddler with curious eyes would be an adventure. But, sitting in my car, driving to work, I thought of all of the justifications I have for not wanting a baby- defenses I have conceived for the inevitable times when I have to explain my choice to not be a mom. As quickly as the thought of having a baby came, it retreated. There’s a dull nagging in my heart.