When I was about 10 or 11, I decided that I wanted a cat. I have no memory of what possessed me, but chances are it was that I decided this was just what I thought I needed. Up until then, we’d had no pets since my parents both worked and I was at school most the day. My father couldn’t bear having a dog knowing that it would be alone all day and he was not partial to cats (oh, how times have changed on that one! He now has this t-shirt. Seriously).
I needled, wheedled, begged, whined, pleaded – everything to get a cat. When they finally gave in, I said no thanks. Why? Well, in addition to being a Grade A manipulator, I realized, even then, that what I really wanted was to know that I could do it. I could get them to agree. Once I realized that that was the goal, I had won. It wasn’t about the cat at all – it might as well have been a bike. Needless to say, I didn’t have a cat (or any pet) until I was married. That time, I truly wanted a cat.
I have to wonder, though, if my sometimes physically painful desire to have a child is just a more grown up manifestation of the same thing. Do I want it this badly because so far I haven’t been able to do it? Has the whole process become another challenge to overcome with the final victory not having a child to parent for the rest of my years, but just producing a living baby? Is this my Petulant Inner Five-Year-Old (who is kissing cousins with My Inner Drama Queen) throwing a hissy fit because I was told “no?
I will be the first to admit that I have gotten most everything that I wanted and those times that I didn’t usually were directly related to something I did or didn’t do. In other words, not since I was a kid have I been denied something I wanted without my usually having something to do with that denial. (Perfect example: I *would* have graduated from grad school cum laude if I had paid more attention in one stupid class that I took my very last semester and gotten a better grade.)
Yet, I also can’t remember feeling this much physical gut-punching pain as I do when I hear that someone I know is pregnant or has a baby. It is literally like a punch in the stomach. And, surprisingly, what is so painful to me is not the idea of having this child, it is the loss of the more pedestrian things that go along with being pregnant – getting to wear maternity clothes, picking out cribs, painting nurseries, picking names. And most of all, it’s having Pregnancy Innocence. I lost that one the first round out of the gate, never to be seen again.
After the initial gut reaction, my inner 5-year-old immediately stamps her little foot, crosses her little arms, and through a pouty little mouth yells, “That’s not fair! That’s what I want! I want to count the little toes! I want to look at cribs! I want to pick out nursery colors! I want, want, want!” I want everything that goes with being pregnant, including having the healthy child at the end. Most of all, I want to feel as if I have a legitimate chance to make it to the finish line.
Although, again, is this just my desire to complete that which I have not been able to? The best way to get me motivated is to tell me I can’t do something. Works like a charm every time. But, what was accomplished? This is not the same as getting into a better class at school. This is a child, more of a lifetime commitment than anything I have undertaken. Am I seriously treating it as a challenge like a marathon or a goal to accomplish in and of itself? I have this terrible fear that we are successful and that baby is placed in my arms and all I can say is, “What now?”
I suspect, as with all things, that the truth lies somewhere in the middle. I had similar concerns when we got Fluffy and the Bad One five years ago. I was very honest with Sweetie that I was afraid that I would lose interest once they were no longer kittens. After all, they were adorable kittens doing what kittens do so how could I possibly find them interesting when they were older, more sedate kitties? What I didn’t count on was that they would wrap me around their little paws just as easily as if they were swatting a string. I, of course, have loved them from the day we brought them home and in fact, love them more now that they have gotten their “kitten years” behind them. Just goes to show what I know.
Maybe it is best to have compartmental goals – 1) get pregnant, 2) stay pregnant 3) worry about actually raising child when we get there. Small bites, small steps, small goals, all lead to a big mountain. For this process is in part a marathon, with each phase being another leg of the journey.
I will leave you with a quote from Lance Armstrong in that epic story of success in the face of absolute failure, Dodgeball:
“Quit? You know, once I was thinking of quitting when I was diagnosed with brain, lung and testicular cancer all at the same time. But with the love and support of my friends and family, I got back on the bike and won the Tour de France five times in a row. But I’m sure you have a good reason to quit. So what are you dying of that’s keeping you from the finals?”
Truer words have never been spoken.