Sunday, June 01, 2008

Stork talk

A colleague tells me she is expecting twins. She has the sort of figure I have always yearned for, tall, willowy, strong. Even though she sits two desks away, I have obviously not looked below her neck for the last couple of months, as she's suddenly a completely different shape.

I'm delighted for her. And she will be a brilliant mother, she is one of the most clear-headed and right-minded people I have ever met, but something registers deeper inside me. She was one of the ones I was watching, to see if she would. Most women do, and many that don't, would if they could, if their bodies worked better, or their lives had gone differently. I keep an eye out for the ones who choose not to. They are the ones I want to find, to talk to. There are hardly any of us... sometimes I think I've found one but it turns out there's a story of loss, of pain, of regret. You can't tell by looking.

I'm pretty confident I've made the right choice, but you never know. It's a big choice, so it's good to have it challenged, especially as the door is closing. I wouldn't want to get to the other side of it and realise I'd spent the last 30 years in denial of my maternal instinct. That would be dumb. But I get plenty of challenges. Every bump, every birth, every raise of the eyebrows and 'so have you and M ever thought about...'

Yes of course we fucking have. *He's* already done it... there are three full-size people wandering around as a result. So it wouldn't be for him. And me... no, I just don't want to. Never have. Not *enough*. There are many reasons, some healthier than others, and maybe one day I will write them all down. But the main one is simple: I like my space. *That's* the conversation I want to have, about the guilty pleasure of empty Sundays, hours of mental and physical wandering through books and music and streets and gardens. I have time to hang out the washing. Learn to use power tools. Make things instead of buying them. Think a lot. Sleep a lot. Care about the detail. If I want to. Engage with the big picture. If I want to. Answer to nobody, pretty much.

That's a lot to give up. If I'd had pregnancy thrust upon me, so to speak, I'm sure I'd have got on with it and never looked back. But no, I had a choice, and I've taken it. I used to think everyone was like me, and hugely surprised to find out they weren't. The surprise has got milder over the years, but it's still there.




Anonymous M said...

I thought guilty pleasures were ones where you know the source is deeply naff but that doesn't stop you enjoying it. My liking Bruce Forsyth, for example.

An empty Sunday afternoon is a source of guilt only to those with a hyperactive work ethic. That doesn't sound like Joella to me.

3:42 pm  
Blogger tomato said...

I like this. A lot.

The last time someone asked me if I was hoping to have kids, then said 'aww but you'd be a good mum', was about 16 hours ago. Some days I don't even have the energy to go into it, and then other days I do and wish I hadn't.

10:55 am  
Anonymous Kate said...

I always look at you as living the life I would have liked to have lived if I hadn't had children. Obviously not exactly but I can completely understand the wanting your own space thing. I didn't grow up thinking I would always have children - it was none or 4 with me!! D on the other hand has never not considered having children. I love my 2 but there is definitely a second person in my skin who would love to see what it would have been like without. I have always liked the concept of the film Sliding Doors. Keep enjoying those lazy Sundays I say!

11:21 am  
Blogger Jo said...

M: guilty in the old-fashioned Catholic 'I am the most selfish person who ever walked the earth' sense, rather than the 'I hope no one comes home till the end of Bat Out Of Hell' sense.

T: Increasingly (thanks to my advanced age!) when I meet new people, particularly women, they say 'so do you have children?'. I guess they are expecting the answer 'yes', and I guess that would then make for easy small talk. But then I say 'no', which makes for incredibly awkward small talk!

K: The other conversations I like are with parents like you! I met a mother of 6 on a train in India once. She was utterly alarmed at my lack of children initially, but I explained that it was (kind of) socially acceptable in the UK, and that it meant I could hang round on trains in India. She thought for a while and then grabbed my arm and said "Stay as you are!" I think of her on lazy Sundays sometimes...

3:04 pm  

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