A friend without children recently rubbed in the old cliché “I love being able to borrow them and give them back after a couple of hours.” Truth be told, that used to be me.
I loved my freedom and independence and knew enough about parenting to know those two words would never hold the same meaning once I joined the “other side”. So for the longest time I basked in the glory of being the cool aunt who took her nieces and nephews to the movies, the book store or Chuck E. Cheese and bought overpriced toys from educational stores.
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Until one day I woke up with so many personal questions weighing on my mind, in a job I no longer loved, and a condo I could no longer afford.
So I did what only a single gal could do. I quit my job, sold my condo and spent eight months as far away from home as possible. I studied salsa in Havana, went on a road trip from Napa down to San Diego, meditated in the northeastern mountains of Thailand and studied Spanish in Madrid. And for the first time in at least a decade I asked myself some tough questions, instead of posing them to others (I’m a journalist by profession). Among those questions, do I want to have a family of my own one day?
The answer came to me like a lightening bolt on my 35th birthday. I was in Calistoga, enjoying a dinner for one while waiting for a mud bath and I started reading a book I picked up at a local store. Written by a mother, for her two young daughters, the book Lift is a collection of short stories written about the author’s daughters’ early years; special life moments they’ll likely not remember when they’re older. I had a window seat at the restaurant and I enjoyed the narrative so much that I held the book in front of my face, only putting it down for a moment every so often to grab a sip of tea. During one of those key moments, I put down the book and there, in front of me, just on the other side of the glass window stood a little girl, no older than six. Our eyes locked for what felt like an eternity, but was likely about seven seconds. It was as though this little girl, who could’ve passed for my own, was delivering a message: “You’re ready, and you’re missing out!”
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From that moment on, every time I’d watch a sappy commercial about family life, or walk past a playground and spot a mother and child passing the afternoon, I’d feel a little pinch in my heart, and a whole lot of envy. And that’s how I knew.
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It’s been three years since that fateful dinner in Calistoga but occasionally people will ask, “Do you regret waiting till 37 to get pregnant?” The truth is I don’t. My child didn’t come to me because it was the next logical thing to do. He didn’t arrive because I felt the pressure of my years caving in. He also didn’t make his appearance when I was at my best, physically, to handle it, somewhere in my twenties, nor at a time in my life when everyone else would’ve expected it. Tyler arrived when we were both good and ready and, for that reason I say, age is just a number.