Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Perpetual Waiting, Man vs. Baby

I've been taking DHEA now for almost two months. Everything I've read suggests that its effects don't peak until four months. Those effects, which I'm hoping will miraculously turn back the clock on my ovaries, are not only supposed to increase my follicle count, but also improve the quality of the resulting eggs. That means, fewer chances of genetic defects and other egg deficiencies that would lower my chances of a successful pregnancy.

So I'm waiting. Again. As always. Waiting for something to “get better.” It's apparently the story of my life when it comes to babies. And I can't help but wonder, does it mean something? Should I take these next two months to brutally self-reflect and consider that all my waiting for things to “get better” was because I don't really want a child? Were my repeated decisions to “wait a little longer” not just a timing thing, but rather a life choice? After so many years of deciding against a baby, does that by definition mean I chose a childfree life?

This is the philosophy of the taxi driver Wizard, played by Peter Boyle, in one of my favorite films, Taxi Driver. In the scene when Wizard tries to give De Niro's character some life advice, he says, “You do a thing and that's what you are. Like I've been a cabbie for thirteen years. Ten years at night. I still don't own my own cab. You know why? Because I don't want to. That must be what I want. To be on the night shift drivin' somebody else's cab.”

Like De Niro's character, I always look screwed-eyed at that reasoning and think it's “about the dumbest thing I ever heard,” but my boyfriend thinks it holds some truth about how we live our lives. Or at least how our lives turn out because of the way we live them. We make little choices all along the way and over time they add up to become the contours of our life – it becomes who we are.

So yes, I've chosen other things over children my whole adult life and I am now a woman without children. For most of my life, I've been happy with those choices and my life. But looking back now, I can recall a few forks in the road that didn't feel right. At those moments in time, I went against my gut and reluctantly took a path that meant delaying my route to children. Now I know the choices I made at these forks in the road deeply altered the course of my life and led me to where I am now.

Conducting an intensive “what if's and coulda shoulda's” on a life is fraught with pitfalls – faulty memories, revisionist intentions, 20/20 vision earned from subsequent events, etc. The road not taken is always a beckoning fantasy, but in truth, it is a dark mystery that holds no promise of anything. For all I know, going a different way could have lead to my tragic death in a buffalo trampling accident. But in this time of brutal self-reflection, I want to consider my motivations for walking further away from children instead of aiming directly at them. Maybe there's a lesson in it for all of us.

The first major fork in the road came when my ex-husband and I were dating and discussing marriage. I had just turned 30 and wanted to start a family soon. He was four year younger, and said he wanted to wait several years before having kids. This upset me. It would throw my life planning off track. But I loved him so intensely, I decided to let go of my “planning” and trust the love I felt for him. I believed in following my heart, and I thought that was a life with him. I calmed my inner worry about delaying children with the mantra that I had some spare years to wait. I didn't realize then that those spare years would turn into eight years of instability and a disastrous divorce.

My other reluctant step away from a life with children was again at the early stages of my relationship with D. He told me he wasn't sure about having more children. I knew then if I wanted to have kids I needed to find someone soon, but here was this man who was so much of what I wanted in a partner that I couldn't bring myself to simply walk away from him just because he wasn't sure about having more kids just yet. Besides, I told myself, I wasn't ready to have a child right away anyway. I had just moved across the country to embark on a new career. I needed all of my time and energy for that. I needed to get settled in my new life before bringing a child into my world. At the time, I was even on the fence then about whether I wanted a child or not. Now, three years later, I'm anchored into the relationship and he's no closer, and perhaps further away, from wanting to have more children.

Looking back now at these two choices, I wonder how my life would be different now if I had taken the other roads. What if I had walked away from the men I loved early on? I know there must be women who do this. They know they want children in a few short years. They realize the men they are with are not ready, and they high tail it outta there to find men who are.

I applaud these women. That decision takes courage. It's a difficult, painful step away from the love they have for their man. But ultimately, a woman who takes this step is planning for her life big picture. She chooses her own needs and desire to start a family over waiting for a man who is not ready, and might never be. Her choice is about her taking care of her life, taking charge of it, pursuing her goals for a family, not waiting for someone who is standing in the way of it.

I realize it might sound cold, turning away from love and a good relationship because we want a baby, but if women want to protect their ability to create a family, it's a choice we should feel empowered to make. We should not feel guilty or calculating. And men should recognize and respect our need to make this choice. Women have a limited time for fertility, men do not. They can afford to wait longer than we can. Women must feel justified and applauded when choosing to be proactive about planning for children – even if that means dumping a great guy in the process. And guys should not lead their women on if they know in their hearts they do not want children.

Of course, the other option some women chose is an “accidental” pregnancy. That's not my style, nor do I even have the ability anymore, but lots of women do it to solve their dilemma. I think it's a violation of trust that can cause deep and poisoning resentment in the family unit. But sometimes it works out great and dad is pleasantly thrilled with the child he didn't realize he wanted. It makes me wonder. And it reminds me, that so much of life, especially who we end up with and when we have children, is accidental anyway. 

I suppose that means that my plans, as vague as they were, to have a family "later," met with their own accidental circumstances that perpetually kept me from pulling the trigger on doing it. I can blame my choices for some of it, but I know in my heart that it was never my intended choice to be childless.


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