Thursday, September 4, 2014
Staring Down The Barrel At Year 35
In less than a month I’ll be 35 years old (it’s Sept 23rd, if you’d like to write it down, text me, send me a gift, serenade me). Thirty five is a really tough birthday for me, and I don’t say that about a lot of birthdays. I’ve always felt like an old soul, so the fact that I annually move closer to the age that I actually feel doesn’t tend to affect me too badly. But thirty five is rough. To explain, I have to dig down deep and talk about a subject that, for purposes of my blog, I’ve put a complete taboo on up until this point - my former marriage.
I always said that if I had a family, I’d be done by 35. When I got married over ten years ago, this seemed like a very reasonable and feasible goal. We had a five-year plan. As in, we’d start trying to have a family in five years, figured two kids not super far apart, and within seven to eight years - putting me at 31 or 32 - we’d be a happy family of four. Well, six if you counted the furballs. But things changed.
First of all, marriage was both everything and nothing like I expected. I suspect a lot of people feel that way. I tried to be pragmatic, forcing myself to believe that long term relationships must be more slow, steady, and consistent than fiery and emotional and passionate, the latter being my natural tendency toward just about every aspect of life. I tried and I tried to adjust, but deep down inside I couldn’t reconcile that way of thinking with what actually made me happy. It was one hundred percent my fault. Nobody who ever met my ex-husband would say that he was ever a super fiery, emotional person, and in fact, his stability and grounded ways are what drew me to him in the first place. But thinking you know what’s best for you, and living with that day in and day out for the rest of your life, are two completely different things.
As our marriage passed the one year mark, my then-husband decided he wanted children sooner than four years from then. He broached the subject increasingly. Meanwhile, I was twenty five, unhappy, blaming myself for it, and petrified of bringing another life into the world, particularly in the current situation. The more he suggested starting a family sooner, the more I freaked out. There’s no other word for it. I completely freaked out. And eventually, I ran. I ran from him, and I ran from my marriage. The thought of us starting a family opened the virtual floodgates, and I finally couldn’t hold back my emotions. Everything that had been making me miserable came to the forefront. While our divorce was mutual, and as friendly as a divorce can be, I knew it was more or less one-sided. Don’t get me wrong, he wasn’t perfect, and there was plenty wrong between us without the family issue, but he would have stayed in the marriage out of love for me and desire to have the settled life he'd always wanted. I couldn’t. My ex-husband is a good person, and I have always felt guilt about the entire marriage. I believe he’s remarried now, and I truly wish him happiness. I hope he ends up with the family that he so wanted.
After my marriage, the idea of children continued to freak me out. I liked my “single” life - not always single, but not tied down to a house and children. I was traveling a lot, and enjoying the freedom that I’d never found in my twenties, having been settled down by the ripe old age of 23. As the years went on and I got engaged again, I reconsidered perhaps having a family once married. I was 30, and getting past what had happened in my marriage. For reasons that don’t need to be blogged about here, my engagement didn’t last. Time ticked away.
About a year ago, I started to realize that I’d been wrong. All those years ago, I’d given up potentially being a parent. I’d allowed that mindset to sink in, and it became part of my identity. Everyone knew I liked kids if I could hand them back to their rightful parents. Everyone knew I was the free-spirited one who wouldn't be tied down to family. It had practically become a joke amongst those who knew me well. But suddenly, it wasn’t me anymore. I desperately wanted children. I knew what a wonderful parent I’d be. Except that now I have discovered that I have this genetic condition that would most likely be passed on to my children. Now, I’m on medication that I’d have to stop if I were pregnant, and that, combined with pregnancy hormones, could be disastrous. Now, I’m going to be 35, and my womb feels like a ticking time bomb. Now, I cry about this on a weekly basis. I know I should get over it. I can’t. It feels like the worse form of karma.
Technically, I could adopt. Except that a non-married woman who barely makes ends meet and has a mental health disorder isn’t exactly the prime candidate for adoption. I could foster, but there are the same issues, and besides, fostering isn’t actually my child. I want my child. I realize it's selfish, but it's true. I want to be a permanent mom, not a temporary one. I do have a lot of other people's children in my life, and I feel incredibly fortunate for them. I know it could be worse. I know people who cannot physically have children and have tried for years. I know people have lost babies in miscarriage, or possibly even worse, lost them once they were born. I cannot imagine going through that. My childlessness was, and to some extent still is, my choice, even though at times it doesn’t feel like it. At times, it feels like a big old “F.U., you made your bed, now lie in it” from whatever powers that may be.
One of my favorite pieces of inspiration, the anonymous poem “Don’t Quit” says: “life is queer with its twists and turns, as every one of us sometimes learns.” You never know what to expect, and which direction your decisions will take you. I fully understand that it’s my choices that have brought me to where I am, and I don’t regret the decisions I’ve made, as much as they’ve caused me pain. At the times, they were the right ones to make, given my situation, and I have to imagine I’d make the same ones again, knowing what I know now. Perhaps thirty five will surprise me. Perhaps as my birthday passes, as that self-imposed deadline comes and goes, I’ll be able to make peace with it. It will be behind me, instead of looming down on me. In the mean time, I’ll enjoy those that I am lucky enough to have in my life, and be thankful that I have been gifted with them.