by Dawn Allcot
My niece was the first baby I remember holding. I was 16. My mother instructed me, “Support her neck,” as she handed me the tiny bundle.
I gazed, transfixed, at the angel clad in pink. Possessed by her pink rosebud lips, captivated by those pudgy red cheeks, amazed by the way her little hand clutched my finger, I stared into soulful blue eyes that seemed to hold all the secrets of the universe.
I must have looked uncomfortable—like a pauper holding a piece of fine crystal, afraid of squeezing too hard because it may break. But I remember cuddling her, relishing that “baby smell” of powder and goodness, and knowing I would never let anything happen to her.
Jennifer was a good baby, hardly ever cried. She grew into a precocious toddler with wild curls. We grew closer as she learned to talk, to sing. I babysat; we played; I spoiled her with toys and attention.
But she wasn’t mine. I had none of the expense, responsibility or mess. At 16, holding that baby, the thought of ever wanting children seemed far away and foreign.
Even as I got older, I never pictured myself with children of my own. In the first years of our marriage, my husband and I discussed it. I flip-flopped from “maybe someday” to “never!” Seeing a child throw a tantrum in the checkout aisle of the grocery store—red face, shrill screams, haggard mother pleading him to stop crying—would tilt my decision toward no. Then I’d see a cute baby, sleeping peacefully, and think, “Maybe, but not now.”
One Saturday afternoon, after spending 40 minutes on a ferry with a screaming infant (whose mother decided to change the child’s diaper at a table in the boat’s bar) my husband became convinced I was done. We were never having kids.
Then I spent the day with a friend’s toddler. Parker has a winning smile, large blonde curls, and learned to say my name a few minutes after we met. I wouldn’t mind a kid like that…
My husband took my indecision in stride, figuring it would work itself out. I can’t tell you exactly when the shift occurred.
Maybe it happened when I noticed the first streaks of gray in my hair, a few faint creases around my eyes. Time passes quickly. Couples we know have already had their first child. The last of our single friends are getting married and talking about having kids.
Those who are closer to 40 worry it may not happen. “I feel like I’ve spent my whole life working so hard to avoid pregnancy, that when I want to conceive, I won’t be able to,” one friend, newly engaged, revealed during girls’ night out. The irony of the universe.
For me, it’s time. I don’t know how or why, but I know.
My niece is 17 now, and driving. She drove home from my house the other night, and, after she left, I heard about accident delays on the road between my house and hers. My heart caught in my throat.
I dialed her cell. “How ya doing?” I asked, casually. I’m the cool aunt—not the one who checks up on her when she leaves my house. “Did you hit traffic coming home?”
“Not much,” she said.
“Oh, good. I heard there was an accident on the highway and I wanted to make sure you didn’t get caught behind it.” My voice did not betray the ten seconds of paralyzing terror coursing through my body before she answered the phone.
This recent, brief glimpse into what motherhood must be like did not dissuade me. My mother used to say, “Having children is like walking around with your heart outside your body all the time.” I want that feeling.
These thoughts, snapshots of the past 17 years, occupy my mind now, as I stand in my bathroom staring at the little white stick. I hold my breath, waiting. I’m not sure what my reaction will be when the results to the home pregnancy test emerge. I’m only a day late. It’s probably silly to be taking it at all.
Moments later, I stare at the single blue line. Negative. That’s all there is. Disappointment creeps over me. I fight back tears, a sharp contrast to the wave of relief I’ve felt the other times I’ve taken one of these tests. Why not? How many more months? I wonder. I’ve made the decision--shouldn’t that be enough?