First, a note: Thanks to everyone who has read and commented so far. It has been encouraging and energizing to get so much positive feedback right off the bat. In spite of this community being one that none of us really wants to be a part of, y’all are pretty fantastic, positive and supportive people. Thanks for reading!
It’s weird how things will just up and blindside you. Last night, I was watching TV and happened to see an ad for this new movie Life as We Know It.
First off, it looks like an awful movie. I’m not anti-chick-flick by any means – heck, I was watching Gossip Girl when I saw the ad, so I’d say my willing-and-able-to-enjoy-female-oriented-pop-culture creds are safe – but this just looks like a collection of horrible clichés and stereotypes and Idiot Plotting and, gee, I wonder if Katherine Heigl and Josh Duhamel* will hate each other at the end of the second act and then get together at the end of the third? Do you suppose perhaps they’ll be brought together by the important lesson that only having children can possibly validate you as a person?
* Interesting star pairing here. She doesn’t have enough vowels in her name and he’s got too many.
I mean, all you really need is a look at the movie’s poster to learn all you really need to know:
Men are dumb and slobs and kind of like big kids, yanno? Which one’s the baby and which one’s the grown-up, amirite? Oh, it’s funny because it’s true. Or something.
Also, Josh Duhamel’s tighty-whities and black high tops combo there is kind of disturbing.
But none of that is really the point.
A medical diagnosis of infertility has had a curious effect. During the last few months of the trying-without-succeeding year, I said on a couple of occasions, “I don’t think my life will be incomplete if we don’t have a child.” I said that with the luxury of being able to still think, “We’ve just had bad luck, and things will work out eventually.” It was a statement without any real weight behind it.
Now I’m forced to ponder the reality of that. What happens if the Magic Beans don’t work?** What if we decide that we just can’t afford IVF, or if Ms. Swimmin just can’t/won’t put her body through that stress? What if we go for IVF and it still doesn’t work? What if, what if, what if…?
** Yes, I’ve started taking Magic Beans, operating on the “Well, it can’t hurt anything” theory, those being the verbatim words of both the Reproductive Endocrinologist and the Urologist.
So I remind myself of all the things about a child-free existence that are good. We can travel. When the right opportunity to go to Egypt or Norway or Japan or anywhere else that sounds intriguing comes along, we can just up and go without thinking about school schedules or whether we can leave the kids with Grandma for a week or anything else like that. We can have a little more fun with our money – buy a new TV instead of making sure there’s enough for the kids to play soccer or go to camp or things like that. We can go to the movies or a concert or out to dinner at a restaurant that doesn’t purchase crayons by the gross or serve chicken nuggets without ever thinking about getting a babysitter or feeling the need to call home to check in (because the cats sure as hell aren’t going to answer the phone). We can, in short, live our lives knowing that our only responsibility is to ourselves.
And, in spite of the message of every movie or TV show about having kids ever to come out of Hollywood – a cultural monolith that is, collectively, deeply conservative and traditional and terrified of offending Middle America down to its very bones in spite of the bleating of right-wing blowhards – I truly believe that having and caring for children is not the only meaningful way to validate yourself as a person. People are perfectly capable of living rich, interesting, meaningful and completely fulfilling lives without children. And if that turns out to be the case in our lives, I’m sure we will do just that.
Oh, there’s that great big but. There’s always a great big but.
But…I see this ad for this awful-looking movie, I see the moment when Josh Duhamel (clad, thankfully, in more than tighty-whities and black high-tops) accidentally gets the baby crying, and I can think only of one thing. I want that. Not the crying, necessarily, though obviously it’s kind of a package deal. But the idea that there’s this small person for whom the world is frightening, confusing and upsetting and that I, of all people in the world, might be the one person who makes things less frightening, happier, calmer…that’s an idea that pleases me immensely.
I want it in spite of the detriment to my own personal freedom. I think that, at first, back at the very beginning, well before the pulling of the goalie, I wanted kids mostly because Ms. Swimmin wanted kids, and I didn’t not want kids. In the beginning, that was enough for me. Now, things have changed. I still want kids in part because she does – I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: I think she’s going to be an absolutely fantastic mother. But beyond that, I want kids because I, myself, really and legitimately want them. I want them because I really do think I’d be a pretty good father. I may not succeed at any of the other things I do or want in life…but I really do believe I’d be a success at just that one thing.
And just how much I wanted this on a purely personal level, independent of Ms. Swimmin’s own wants, needs or desires, is something I had never really realized before. No matter what happens from here on out, I don’t think I’ll ever again be able to say honestly that I won’t feel like my life is incomplete without children. It was an astonishing revelation, equal parts incredibly exciting and terribly sad.
Hard to believe. All that from an ad for a bad-looking movie that aired during a trashy soap opera aimed at teenage girls. Life is full of these little surprises. That’s kinda what’s so great about it.