I just turned 34. (Pause for dramatic effect.) On the great Baby Question, I’m still standing on the strip of grass in the intersection, running back and forth like a freaked-out house cat. Honestly, I’m scared to death of the idea that nine months after one night of, ahem, frolic and gaiety under the influence of wine, a well-chosen cologne and the cut of a man’s suit, and regardless of my income, stability or maturity, someone might hand me a small person and walk away. A small person, I might add, who is unable to feed him or herself, control his or her own bowels or get the droll humor of NPR’s weekend programming. And I would be legally responsible for this person for the next 18 years of its existence and morally so for the remainder of mine. Well, when you put it that way … Sure! Sign me up!
No, no, I’m sorry, no. At least … not yet. (Sorry, those were my ovaries speaking. They do that from time to time, especially when I encounter Facebook photos of perfectly bundled newborns asleep at mama’s breast or in papa’s strong arms, and even when I see small dogs. It’s disturbing, really.) Regarding those adorable Facebook photos, in early April there came a sudden spate of them. It was odd. I posted a query: What holiday preceded this birth cluster by 40 weeks? Ah! Not New Year’s Eve, Valentine’s Day or even Easter—a holiday whose eggy pagan origins actually bid you to be fruitful and multiply. It was the Fourth of July.
Now, I don’t recall anything in the Declaration of Independence that urged the fledgling country’s citizens to copulate, but then there is that line about the pursuit of happiness … Independence Day, when there’s gunpowder and magic in the air … Or maybe it was all the red, white and blue popsicle-licking, the laying on your back in the grass intoning, “Oooooh!” and “Ahhhhh!” You saw fireworks, all right. And then you got preggers.
Or, on the other, slightly less jaded hand, maybe this was a planned miracle.
In winter I sometimes escape to the Mount Charleston Lodge, those cabins clinging to the slopes of Kyle Canyon, sometimes alone for peace and quiet—you’re lucky if your room even has a VHS player—and sometimes with someone special for a little, um, bonding. One stay I found a journal on a shelf. Tired of bonding, I read it. Page after handwritten page, its authors wrote of “baby-moons,” romantic vacations arranged for the sole purpose of getting pregnant. One successful father even returned to the scene of the crime to pen a poem about his prowess—something unrepeatable about his performance and a suggestion about the cabin’s bed that made sleeping there difficult.
It’s not that I don’t love children. I do! They fascinate me, in fact—tiny and clumsy but arriving pre-assembled and pre-programmed with everything they’ll need in life, like a vacuum with onboard attachments. I’m already years older than my parents were when I was conceived in Xania, Greece (yes, that’s how this all came about), but I feel utterly stunted. Something about this town—the ease with which we drink, the ubiquitous cigarette smoke, the state of the public school system. Even now, as I celebrate 11 years in a town where I swore I wouldn’t stay more than two, I actively dig my heels in deeper and, in the same breath, swear I will never have children here. But that’s my struggle. And one I’ll have to resolve before nature rescinds its bountiful offer.
If you’re in my shoes, standing at that scary crossroads, then I know you’re already being careful till something (or, hopefully, some lovely someone) sways you one way or the other. But the rest of you, especially those anticipating some “Oooooh!” and “Ahhhhh!” this Independence Week, I truly look forward to drooling over your blessed infant’s Facebook debut next April.