Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Once Again, Babies... Or, Daytripper

Last September, I was traveling to Lake Tahoe for work.  At the airport, I sat listening to music and reading my book, which is my typical regime when I fly anywhere - I always have a book in hand and I pass the time by getting lost in the words.  Sometimes I have a drink at the bar, or I check email or work on some writing.  When it's time to board, I pack up my headphones and book and I wait in line with my boarding pass.

While this all seems very mundane (and it is), my trip to Lake Tahoe got me thinking about how much of a luxury it is to only have to think of myself when I travel - or do anything, really.  I noticed a couple at the boarding gate with a baby.  She was adorable - she must have been about nine months old and she was all smiles and had big, bright eyes.  Her parents, on the other hand, looked absolutely exhausted.  Her father held her, a blanket, a teddy bear and a bottle.  Her mom held the diaper bag, carry on bag, and a few other items.  They did not have bright eyes and they looked, well, like crap.  When I settled in on the plane, put my music back on and read my book, I couldn't help but look up and stare at that precious baby (the parents happened to sit in front of me on the flight).  I heard a mysterious ticking sound and realized that my biological clock was going off, and although I kept hitting the snooze button, it kept ticking.  Loudly.

Baby Andrea, long before her commitment issues 

I have struggled with the idea of having a baby for years.  As a Catholic Chicana who is also the youngest of a huge family, I always assumed I would have kids - culturally, there isn't a lot of talk about "choosing" to become a mom.  I was raised with the belief that someday, I would get married and have a baby.  It wasn't until my early 30's that I began questioning whether or not motherhood was for me.  I wrote a blog about it back in 2011 and while I'm not as afraid of motherhood as I once was, I'm still not 100% sure that I'm ready.

Cue the chuckles from all the knowing parents... "You're never 100% ready" is the most common piece of advice I've ever been given.

I love my life.  I love going out to hear live music on a Tuesday night.  I love traveling to the Bay Area and I love performing poetry.  I love lazy mornings and naps on Saturday afternoons.  I love that I can get up and take a day trip with nothing more than a tank full of gas - or even something as simple as running to the drugstore for shampoo.  I love that I can spend a whole morning working on a blog and when I have to work late, I don't have to answer to anyone or negotiate time or a sitter.

The thing is, I don't go out and hear music on weeknights like I used to.  I don't get to travel as often as I'd like and while I would love to nap more often, I rarely get to steal 30 minutes to do so.  I like taking day trips but I don't do it nearly as often as I could.  I plan trips to Target and buy everything I need all at once - I rarely buy shampoo at the drugstore.  I may not be doing all the things I listed but I can if I want to.  If I become a mom, then the choice feels like it's taken from me.  As a mom, my priority is this tiny human who needs me for everything and while the thought of motherhood isn't as terrifying as it used to be, there is a part of me doesn't want to be tied down to someone who needs me for everything.

One would think that the answer would be simple - don't have a baby.  While that is the answer for some people, it isn't the answer for me.  Admittedly, there is a part of me that doesn't want to give up the life I live, but there is another part of me - a big part- that aches for motherhood.  When I found out I was pregnant last year, I didn't worry about giving up live music or happy hour with friends.  All I could think of was the baby I was carrying.  No matter that two minutes later the doctor informed me that I was having a miscarriage; for those moments that I was pregnant, I was the happiest, most protective mother in the history of the world.

I have given myself until my 36th birthday (in September) to really examine what motherhood means to me.  While I won't have to make a final decision by that day, I am purposely sitting down and having serious conversations about motherhood with people I trust.  Every person I've asked has been brutally honest and I appreciate that.  My friends C. and G. laughed when I told them I'm considering motherhood (their precious son is just over a year old).  They were coming off a night of zero sleep and looked at me like I was crazy.  My niece, who is four years younger than me, has a six year old.  She gave me a list of all the things that hard about motherhood (including practicing patience with a very slow moving child when all she needs to do is run into the store).  Another friend was honest in that she misses going out and having fun - sometimes, she just wants to stop and have a beer after work.  Yet another colleague talked about how hard it is to do the type of work we do (community organizing) and be away from her kids for long stretches throughout the day.

While all those stories (and so many more) sound like enough to scare me off from becoming a mom, each person I've spoken to has come to the same conclusion: as hard as it is, it's worth it.  Motherhood may not be rewarding every second of everyday, but "you have this really cool kid that you love with all your heart, and that is what makes everything else worth it."

I am careful to avoid having any romantic ideas of motherhood.  I try not to fantasize that my baby and I will spend blissful days picking daisies and then I'll read a story and the kid will sleep through the night.  I remind myself that I won't be able to just take a nap whenever I wish.  I'll have to remember that even if I have front row tickets to a concert, my kid could get sick and I have to miss out.  I try to be realistic in that motherhood will change my life forever.  I try not to fantasize that life will be perfect, because up to this point, it hasn't been.

The one fantasy I allow myself to have is based on a poet I saw in New Orleans years ago.  Sunni Patterson, who writes some of the most amazing poetry I've heard in my entire life, performed her words with her baby tucked into a sling that was tied to her chest.  Never mind that my baby might not want to be strapped to me while I read poetry; I allow myself to indulge in the delicious vision of having a baby tucked in close to me while I share my words.  The thought always makes me smile.

I don't know if I'll become a mom - hell, I don't even know if I can get pregnant again.  What I am sure of is that while there is no way I'll know what it feels like until I become one, I am surrounded by amazing moms (and dads) who will be there to guide and support me - and maybe watch the tiny human while I run to the drugstore to buy shampoo.

Next time: A History Written In Black Liquid Eyeliner 

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