Pregnancy announcements are dropping from the sky like locusts, and I’ve had plenty of opportunities to polish up the perfect response: a little combo of squealing, hand-grabbing, OMG’s, and detailed questions about morning sickness. In fact, I’m starting to sound downright genuine in my congratulations. But let’s be honest: I had nowhere to go but up after my atrocious behavior at the first announcement of a baby in our friend group.
Life Before Babies
There’s a beautiful hotel on the beach in Santa Monica called Shutters, where we were all summoned a few years ago for a birthday breakfast for our friend Emily. I should have known something was up right then and there, since most of our birthday celebrations took place in bars where you have difficulty peeling your flip-flops from the sludge on the floor. But I didn’t. I threw on a beachy dress and we sat at a long table in a sunny room and almost felt like grown-ups.
Maybe it was the entire pitcher of mimosas I’d consumed, but by the end of our meal, I was feeling particularly sappy about how lucky I was to have this group of friends. I’d moved to California a few years earlier not knowing a soul, and after a false start in Orange County, I met Drew (now MISTER Maybe), settled in Santa Monica, and joined a kickball team that gave me the most enthusiastic and active group of friends I’d ever had. We barcycled with themed outfits. We rented a huge cabin and skied in Big Bear every year. We karaoke’d with abandon, devised elaborate scavenger hunts across Venice, agreed to drive to Vegas if someone drew the Ace of Spades from a deck of cards. ‘Twas a decadent time in our lives.
Just as I was draining another mimosa and wishing things could stay like this forever, Emily’s husband Nick cleared his throat, and with all the forewarning of an atom bomb, announced he was going to be a father.
Much like the moments after a car accident, I’m not sure what happened next. I may have laughed, thinking it was a joke. I may have said Oh my God (or more likely, WTF?!). I may have pulled myself and my manners together enough to say Congratulations, but I doubt it. If it had been a movie, I would have dropped my champagne flute and shattered it into a million little pieces. Babies?! It didn’t even make sense – we were babies ourselves.
Ah, but we weren’t. We were climbing further towards our late twenties and most of the people I’d graduated high school with had already popped out one or two kids. But we were untouchable out here! That’s why we all moved away (no one’s actually from California), to escape that engaged-by-22, married-by-23, kids-by-25 thing. But we weren’t 25 anymore – we were old enough, even by California standards, to start having babies.
Life After the First Group Baby
We disbanded shortly thereafter and I walked out of Shutters feeling lightheaded (ever the dramatist). I sat in the car and passed through a few of the Kübler-Ross stages of grief on the way home – starting with mumbling I just can’t believe it so many times that Drew had to tell me to pull myself together. I couldn’t. I was overcome with the realization that people were moving on, that this idyllic life I thought would last forever was merely a stopping point for most people. A brief – though cherished – period in their lives before they moved on to the real stuff.
I had the apocalyptic sense that this was just the beginning. Friends would start dropping like flies. Conversations – if we still had them – would revolve around defecation schedules, distastes for various strained vegetables. Weekends would consist of a rotation of excuses not to join us in whatever we were doing – flaky babysitters, kids with the croup, mother-in-laws perpetually in town.
Nothing would ever be the same again.
And you know what? It wasn’t. I look back on the photo below, taken outside Shutters when we went back again the next year for Emily’s birthday (baby Liam in tow), and think of how those friendships have changed. Nick and Emily moved back to Texas to be close to the kids’ grandparents and buy a house with a yard that couldn’t be confused with one hole of a putt-putt course. Though no one else in the photo has a kid yet, we’ve completely drifted apart for other reasons.
So are Drew and I sitting home knitting on the weekends nowadays?
Nope. The group has shifted and evolved and new people are being added all the time – and while our barcycle stamina may not be what it was, we’re still out there trying. Our friendship with Nick and Emily has changed too, but for the better. They can’t just pop over on a Friday night for cards anymore, but that makes the rare weekends where we drop $400 on a plane ticket to see each other that much more special. They go out of their way to talk about normal, non-baby stuff when we’re together and it makes me realize how much they value our friendship and how important it is that we keep it intact as we’re potentially going to wind up going down very different roads in our lives.
The question of “Where will I find other Childfree friends?” is one that comes up pretty often in the Childfree community. It terrifies us to think about our social life five years from now if we’re the only ones not to have kids. But then I look back at old pictures and remember how I thought two things that time in my life:
- I’ll be friends with these people for the rest of my life.
- It’s impossible for me to be any happier than I am right now.
But I am. Just when I think it’s as good as it’s going to get, each year somehow keeps getting better. People I thought would be in my life forever have vanished, but others that I never could have imagined meeting keep wandering into our lives. And if we decide not to have kids – well, I’m just going to have to believe that some Childfree wanderers will come our way as well.
If not? We’ll just have to find those people who had babies as teenagers. They’ll be out of the house soon, and I bet those parents will be ready to reclaim their youth.
P.S. – Emily, sorry this is four years late…CONGRATULATIONS!
Freud once said there are no accidents. And in addition to sporting some truly impressive whiskers, Freud was also a pretty smart dude. But if he’s right, why is it that nearly everyone I know is announcing their pregnancy as an accident? Proudly and loudly at that! In fact, the enthusiasm with which they’re telling people that little tidbit seems downright suspicious. Perhaps a little “the lady doth protest too much”?
So what IS an accidental pregnancy?
A lot of people say that the first baby and the last baby (cripes, how many babies are these people having?) are always accidents. That’s an awful lot of accidents. I’m proposing that we cut that number down! Here are the people who get to classify their pregnancy as an accident:
- Someone who takes their birth control religiously, at the same time every day, and one still manages to get past the goalie
- Someone whose condom breaks and on their way to get the morning-after pill, they’re kidnapped and held for ransom until it’s too late
- Someone whose antibiotics counteracted their birth control without their knowledge
- Someone whose Ortho Evra patch slid off at the gym and they didn’t notice because they were too miserable being on a treadmill
- Someone whose diabolical/infertile twin replaced their birth control pills with placebos in the hopes of stealing their baby nine months from now and passing it off as their own [I watch a lot of soap operas]
These are accidents. These are not:
- Any explanation that involves the words “we weren’t even trying” after being inconsistent with birth control: But also not trying not to? This is a little like saying I wasn’t trying to crack my skull open, after riding a motorcycle without a helmet. What exactly did you think was going to happen here? I mean, we all went through this class in sixth grade, right?
- Any method with the word “rhythm” in it: Nice try, Catholics. No dice.
- Assuming you’re infertile because you’re in your forties and just lettin’ it ride: Unless your husband has had a vasectomy, you have had your tubes tied or have gone through menopause, or a doctor has told you that it is a medical impossibility for you to get pregnant, there is always a chance you might still become so.
So why do people in the second category still try and play the accident card? Could be any number of reasons:
- Your husband isn’t ready: But you are! Oh, and he’ll come around. Just wait till he sees that adorable little face!
- Your husband isn’t actually your husband…but you’d sure like him to be: This one’s self-explanatory, and if it’s not, see Exhibit A (The Young & The Restless) or Exhibit B (The Bold & The Beautiful).
- You think it sounds cute: Oh, fate intervened! And well, with our rowdy sex life, I suppose this was bound to happen! Sound familiar?
- You don’t want to admit that you want a baby: Maybe your parents, friends, spouse – whoever – thinks you’re too young, broke, irresponsible, unmarried, etc. to have a baby. Maybe you’re someone who has openly complained about children for years and are afraid of looking like you’re full of crap. Maybe you thought you hadn’t finalized the whole baby decision, and this is your way of coming to terms with how it happened. Maybe you said you were going to climb Machu Picchu, write the great American novel, finish Season 2 of Downton Abbey, finally get rid of that Jennifer Aniston circa 1997 haircut before you had a baby, and you’ve accomplished none of these feats.
So what exactly am I proposing here? It’s quite simple:
If deep down, on any level, you can admit that you may have wanted a baby, or even just didn’t NOT want one enough to be properly protected, please don’t play the accident card. Or at the very least, don’t overplay it, going out of your way to convince people what a complete accident this was. All it really does is make you look somewhat careless and irresponsible.
Think about the other people involved
If you’re running around town telling everyone who’ll listen that your baby is an accident, some day, someone’s going to tell your kid that story. Do you really want them thinking of themselves that way? And if you’re one of these people who got pregnant to hang on to a man, or got pregnant on purpose despite your husband’s express desire to not have a baby yet – he’s probably already not too thrilled with you at the moment. Calling more attention to the situation (particularly if he suspects how this really went down) isn’t your best move. There’s probably a special place in you-know-where for you ladies. Or a starring role in a soap opera – who knows!
Maybe it’s me
All that being said, everyone who knows me, knows that it doesn’t exactly thrill me to be around kids. So they may just be AFRAID to admit to me that they wanted a baby. This would explain a lot, so if that’s the case…1,000 apologies for this post. I’m a jerk.
But IS that the case? Or is this happening to everyone else too?
Photo credit: Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy
Last weekend, I did something shocking. Well, there were a few shocking moments:
- I had dinner with a baby (amongst others).
- Said dinner with baby took place at a somewhat fancy steakhouse. I believe the hostesses were rather shocked as well when we rolled that Fisher-Price monstrosity of plastic into their mahogany and linen world.
- Dinner took place at the ungodly early hour of 6:30, so said baby could get home to sleep.
And finally, most surprising of all…
- After martini #2, I broke my “No Holding Babies While Drinking” rule.
It’s not usually one I need to enforce. I never really have the urge, or I’ve already registered on the parents’ drunk-dar and am kept at bay. But as I get deeper into this Maybe Baby, Maybe Not experiment, I’m realizing that my mind isn’t going to make itself up. The issue must be forced. So I made a grab for that baby – just to see how it felt – and her mom, Elizabeth snapped a photo of us.
Our friend Karen responded with Motherhood suits you, Maybe Lady;)
Yeah? I also look pretty svelt in a magician’s cape. Doesn’t mean I’m going to go flouncing around town in one. (Or does it?!) I look pretty regal on a horse as well, but owning one seems like a cost-prohibitive sort of venture. What I’m trying to say is – we can’t just go round snapping up all the things that suit us or make us look good.
Yes, I know how to hold an infant without its head lolling all over the place. I know how to waggle a rattle in their face to shut them up. I know that trick about soaking their teething rag in whiskey (wait, are people still doing that?). But most importantly, I know I can hand them back to Mom once my moment with Baby is over. If I didn’t, and was working on about 4 hours of sleep and my very last nerve, believe me, you’d be getting a less than polished performance from me on the pseudo mommy front.
Even so, I know these people are right – I probably would make a good mom. And I know for sure that Drew would make an awesome dad. But everyone’s forgetting that being competent at something – or even having an aptitude for it – isn’t the same thing as wanting to do it. I used to be pretty sharp little sketch artist as a kid, but the idea of sitting in front of a canvas by myself all day for a living sounded…well, almost as boring as watching hour upon hour of Baby Einstein – Neighborhood Animals (which, incidentally, HAD to have been developed by someone under the influence of a heavy, heavy narcotic).
It seems to enflame people when someone who would be a good parent chooses not to. I get it. They want us to rear some do-gooders to counteract the rash of bad parenting going on out there – otherwise, the world is going to be in a pretty crappy state of affairs soon. But that doesn’t always work (check out the NY Times article Columbine: Parents of a Killer). So maybe I’ll just focus on managing the chaos that I actually have some control over. For now.
Come to think of it, people are also fond of telling me that I’d make a great mother after seeing me with my cats. Does that make them the creep, or me?
I was on the phone with a somewhat distant co-worker who was asking how my weekend was. (Before you ask, being coerced into mundane how-was-your-weekend chit chat was not the truly awful thing that happened to me, though it does make me want to fling myself from the corporate tower every Monday.) Then she says in this coy little voice, “You know, I noticed something very interesting about you on Friday.”
“Oh did you?” I say, ready to be lavished with shoe compliments. “What’s that?”
“Well, I tend to tread very lightly in these waters,” she says with a little chuckle.
“Oh do you?” I chuckle back, conspiratorially. Are we still laughing about shoes?
“You’re pregnant,” she says. “Right?”
In her (my?) defense, I’d just returned from a mini-college reunion where I’d eaten my weight in hash browns and exceeded my daily caloric intake on Old Style alone (When in the Midwest!, as they say). Upon further reflection, I’d also been wearing a wildly unflattering outfit as a result of some laundry laziness earlier in the week.
But how do you respond to something like this in the moment?
Sometimes all you can do is laugh.
Or bludgeon your co-worker with a Swingline.
I chose none of the above, and instead found myself telling a woman I barely know that Drew and I weren’t planning to have kids. I’m not even sure yet if that’s true, but my brain went into some kind of automated survival mode, registering that I needed to say something – anything – to ensure she never ask that question again.
Is this what happens when you turn thirty? Is she just the first in a long string of people getting suspicious every time I order a club soda at the bar (as if that would ever happen!) or wear a loose, flowing top (which I guess I should stop doing once I lose that Old Style/holiday weight)? Lord, I hope not.
But if that’s the case, here’s my public service announcement (and please, pass it on): Unless someone has already told you they’re pregnant, or their water actually breaks in your presence, DO NOT ask them if they’re pregnant. If they are, there’s probably a reason they haven’t told you yet (especially at the office). If they’re not, you might as well be saying, “Get back on the elliptical, Lardass.” It’s lose-lose. So knock it off. Bite back that temptation and return to your weekend weather chit-chat till one of you actually does jump out the window.
Please tell me I’m not the only one this has happened to.
It’s happened to all of you at least a few times now. You pull up Facebook and there’s a status update from one of your exes, touting pounds and inches, trendy three-part names like Isadora Elaina or Hunter Montgomery. Maybe even a bleak hospital scene photo with the washed-out, epiduraled wife holding a wrinkly swaddled thing – and your ex, grinning like he’s just killed it in beer pong. Because that was the last time you saw him so idiotically thrilled.
Reactions to these posts can vary. You might be happy for their successful execution of the miracle of life. You might wonder how someone who used to drink a case of Shlitz on a casual Tuesday night can now be responsible for another human being. My usual reaction? A full body shudder and a thought that chills me to the bone: That could have been me.
I’m a fairly suggestible person. I majored in Advertising because someone said I’d be good at “slogans”. I switched careers at the suggestion of a random we met in our condo complex’s hot tub who thought I had the personality for Human Resources (insult or compliment?). I almost agreed to move to Seattle last year because Drew went through a phase where he was “into” rain.
And if I’d been able to stick it out with any one of these Facebook-friended exes, I can only assume I might’ve gotten roped into birthing a litter of children before my thirtieth birthday (please remember: I’m originally from Indiana). As in, those Facebook babies could’ve been mine! Literally, in the case of those exes with the crazily dominant genes – the ones who’ve produced mini-me’s that are, presumably, exactly what our child would have looked like. (Is this happening to anyone else?)
It probably won’t comfort you to know that this is just the beginning. You’ll be getting Twitter-esque updates of their whereabouts, their preferences, their astonishing ability to roll over or sit up.
Emma Taylor loves Coffee Bean! Emma Taylor loves taking naps!
You’ll have to wonder over and over again: Could that have been ME putting those status updates out there into the world?
Perhaps it’s best not to think about it. In the meantime, keep posting about REALLY important things. Like settling in for an uninterrupted eight-hour Wonder Years marathon, the joys of Fruity Pebbles sprinkled over your Yogurtland Guava Pineapple Tart, your ever-waning, paper-thin resistance to flipping over conference tables mid-meeting.
And when the day comes where they make their profile picture a sole pic of the baby (as if THEY have become the baby?!), well…that’s an entry for another day.
No, seriously – that’s an entry for another day. We’ll get to it, I promise.