When I was growing up I had no desire whatsoever to have children.
I was one of those awkward people who didn’t even know how to smile appropriately at a baby.
I had big dreams of being a career-driven, serial monogamist in New York or Chicago.
I was oblivious to the existence of a biological clock until my Freshman year in college. What started it ticking? Those damn Baby Story shows on TLC. You could almost smell those sweet, powdery newborns.
Over the course of the next several years it was an upward trajectory toward parenthood.
You start picturing what your babies might look like.
Then you start picking names for your imaginary babies, usually horrible ones.
Then your friends actually start squeezing kids out and you suffer from baby envy.
TICKING LIKE TINNITUS.
You get married and then it becomes an obsession.
Every negative pregnancy test is a visual representation of your eggs shriveling up and turning black.
Every month that passes is a guarantee your child will have some horrible deformity or disability because you waited too long.
Your nightmares resemble the warning on the side of the Accutane box.
Then you get pregnant.
A whole different kind of clock starts ticking.
You spend the first three months anxiously awaiting the ‘safe time’ to break the news to your family, friends and work.
The next three months are waiting to find out the gender.
The next three are spent buying a billion things you will never actually end up using and clothes your child will stain and destroy upon the first wearing. They’re also spent being miserable and uncomfortable. You start to count every second.
I’m not gonna lie. I ADORED being pregnant. That changed when I realized my baby was pressing up on my hiatal hernia, causing me to have perpetual acid reflux and difficulty swallowing.
Then you count contractions.
Baby is born! Woohoo! Your 6-pound-whatever-ounce reason to live has arrived.
Then you begin marking off your baby’s developmental progress, another way of tracking time.
You worry about whether they’re at the appropriate age to eat rice cereal, whether they’re already teething or just sick, whether they’re behind when it comes to taking those first steps, those first words, those first anythings.
We happened to have two children in quick succession and then realized there was no way in hell we were ever going to have another. We hit the jackpot of crazy kids. Even my own mother recently confessed that both of my toddlers are “exceptionally difficult.” Not the kind of exceptional I was hoping for.
Then, something strange happens. There’s nothing to look forward to. There’s no tracking of time passing. There’s no marking anything off on a planner or calendar.
Now, you’re just supposed to live.
What? How do I do that?
The only internal clock I can find is the one that keeps telling me to bottle up whatever moments I have with my babies.
It’s counting down until they’re too big to sit on my lap, until they don’t call me “mommy” but “mom”, until they start dating and say they hate me.
Eventually, they will leave and I will be left where every parent ends up: crushed by the realization that my babies really aren’t babies anymore, but grownups about to embark on their own journey toward parenthood.
Now, my obsession with time is that I don’t have enough.
Every second slips away while I am stuck in traffic, folding laundry or working.
Don’t mean to talk badly of my profession, but there’s no denying that I would rather be exploring the great outdoors with my kids than writing about a guy accused of raping his pit bull.
Lately Alma has been trying to prove she’s “big enough” to do everything by herself. She’s big enough to get up to the potty by herself, wash her own hands and dress herself. If she tells me she doesn’t need me one more time, I’m going to burst into tears.
This is the beginning of the end.
My powdery fresh newborns are toddlers.
I will never cry tears of joy holding a tiny baby that is my own.
Shit, is this the sound of my real biological clock ticking?