Do I really want a “small, rude, incontinent person” following me around for the rest of my life?

I live on a densely populated street and can often hear my neighbors doing mundane tasks like washing the dishes, making dinner, and disciplining the dog. Today I’m working to the sounds of a garage sale two doors down. The neighbor’s kids are all outside playing screaming. I think they have migrated to my driveway to serenade me with their piercing howls. This cacophony reminds me of a conversation I had with another woman who is TTC and recently lost a pregnancy. She is about my age, and like me, prone to wondering whether life with baby will really be all we hope for. We both have happy marriages, and occasionally wonder if it’s really wise to go mucking them up by throwing kids in the mix. She posted a comment about this on a TTC forum, and I was relieved to see I’m not alone with my doubts.

Her post reminded me of an essay I read a couple of years ago. The writer, Tim Kreider, is a single man in his early forties, and his essay is about a phenomenon he dubs The Referendum. Basically, The Referendum refers to the propensity to judge our friends’ choices that increases commensurate with the amount of constriction that comes from our own decisions. For me the take home lesson of Kreider’s essay was akin to “the grass is always greener on the other side.” However, his snarky defense of the bachelor life did give me pause:

Most of my married friends now have children, the rewards of which appear to be exclusively intangible and, like the mysteries of some gnostic sect, incommunicable to outsiders. In fact it seems from the outside as if these people have joined a dubious cult: they claim to be much happier and more fulfilled than ever before, even though they live in conditions of appalling filth and degradation, deprived of the most basic freedoms and dignity, and owe unquestioning obedience to a capricious and demented master.

I have never even idly thought for a single passing second that it might make my life nicer to have a small, rude, incontinent person follow me around screaming and making me buy them stuff for the rest of my life.E

Each time we fail to achieve a pregnancy, it’s tempting to think it wasn’t meant to be. But I do not believe in predestination, and so falling back on this old adage is not an option.  Therefore, I’m forced into a sort of monthly balancing of the books, during which I try reconcile my ambivalence toward parenthood and the ticking of my biological clock. The process isn’t pretty, folks. I think I’m fairly realistic in my expectations of motherhood. I know it demands patience, restricts freedom, tests marital bonds, and steals sleep. I know that it lasts longer than 18 years. I know it is an expensive and grueling undertaking whose outcome is a total crap shoot. But I’m willing to play the game most of the time.

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