Warning -- prochoice post
Before the Matron fully bloomed and she was Youngish Miss, she had her first child--Stryker. Here is how long Youngish Miss and her husband discussed becoming parents:
Youngish Miss: "Should we skip the diaphragm and see what happens? Just once. If I get pregnant, we'll know we're supposed to have children. If I don't, we're not."
John: "WHATEVER! Come here."
When the Youngish Miss found out that she was pregnant, she suffered some serious regret (not pretty but true). She wasn't sure motherhood was actually up her cigarette-smoking, alcohol-adoring, intellectually edgy, creatively potent, privacy-loving alley.
That baby? Was going to cramp her style. Plus, consider the weight gain! Stretch marks.
The unfinished dissertation.
Sigh. . . .
The Buddhist view on abortion sort of varies by continent. But the very Pro-Choice Youngish Miss dismissed that option at the get-go. Religious and moral reasons aside, she had political concerns. Because being married, well-educated and deciding NOT to use birth control and then having an abortion due to Unpleasant Emotion, would make her sort of the Poster Child for Bad Reasons to Have an Abortion and therefore, she herself personally would be playing right into those Pro-Life hands.
So political strategizing kept her pregnant.
At four months in and past the puking, she had settled into Acceptance, if not excitement. Then a very bad thing occurred.
Youngish Miss spent an afternoon with an infant.
Her sister-in-law (John's twin, we'll call her Jan) brought over her 4-month old son, Sam. Youngish Miss, Jan and the Proud Grandmother had tea and talked about that baby. And looked at that baby. Held the baby. Talked more about the baby. Took pictures of the baby.
Ever have one of those moments when the Red Sea parts or God otherwise sends you Vital Communique? The Matron vividly remembers this next moment, in brain-shattering Technicolor.
Youngish Miss was in her bedroom with Jan and Proud Grandmother and all three women were looking down at the baby while Jan moved his chunky little meat legs up and down and tugged at his arms and Proud Grandmother made apt observation about Sam's adorability, in all ways.
The light illuminated the bedroom, just so, and in that second, Youngish Miss understood that this afternoon was THE most boring time she had ever spent in her entire, entertaining lifetime and that this very moment might be the most BORING moment she experienced during that BORING afternoon.
She was not interested in that baby.
Throughout the next few months, she quietly took note of what happened to her when she was around babies:
- She wanted to read a book
- She needed a snack
- Oh? Is it time to go already?
- She yawned
- She wasn't in the mood to touch, thank you
- Where is that thing's mother?
The first problem was that once you have a baby, YOU ARE THE MOTHER. Unless somebody else happens to be around, you are required to take care of a baby 24 hours a day (literally), seven days a week. Or else you might get arrested.
This is grueling.
And for the Young Miss, largely, unpleasant. Turns out that her instincts and concerns were right -- Young Miss was not much of a baby person. She found her first two, well, tedious. Work. Struggle. Yawn. She never got enthusiastic about the baby fist grip or the first tummy flip. She had a hard time adjusting to the inability to get up, hop in the car and go to a grocery store or library whenever she felt the need.
Stryker was born without the sleep gene, so there was that, too. All in all, Young Miss so stumbled through and grumbled during Stryker and Scarlett's first year that when she got pregant a THIRD time, people who knew her well hugged her and said, "Haven't you been through enough?"
But a couple of things happened throughout that journey. First, babies grow into toddlers, then preschoolers and then (Hallelujah!) 4-year olds! There is nothing more magical than the self-sufficient, curious and beautiful 4-year old. Finally, four years into motherhood, Young Miss experienced the deal-maker.
More significantly, when she got pregnant for the last time at 39, Youngish Miss wasn't so young. Her laissez-faire attitude had suffered a few knuckle punches over the years. She lost her father. Jobs and houses and health had some major unexpected hiccups. Not-So-Youngish-Miss finally understood that bad things happen because many had recently happened to her.
So the third time, she appreciated success! She appreciated lightening speed conception at a ripe old age. She appreciated the miracle of a third perfect child. She appreciated that first month birthday, the baby's ability to eat with a spoon, the gift of big brothers and sisters.
Lest you think that Matronly edge softened entirely, not to worry -- appreciating isn't the same as being intellectually engaged. Still, lots of tedium and drill. Just that the third time around she was wise enough to be grateful (even as she still felt the need to read a book).
These days, the Matron enjoys holding a baby, now and again. The pleasure isn't in every detail but the bigger picture -- that astounding gift of new life, coming at her again. Babies remind her of her own place in history: tiny teeny. Miraculous and humbling, those bobbing reminders of mortality and life's cycle.
Oh, and those cigarettes? How did she solve that problem?
Took three years ON the gum. Not that she's addictive. (But if you're smoking an expensive French cigarette blow some smoke her way. . . . )