Feed on

The thing about being a blabbermouth, is that when you broadcast your every thought, your words have an unfortunate tendency to come back to haunt you. Not quite 11 years ago, at Matt’s and my rehearsal dinner, my sister-in-law Stacy gave a toast in which she recalled with cheek-reddening accuracy a monologue I had given a few years before. The essence of which was that the entire wedding industrial complex is a blight on smart people and that I would never don a white poufy dress with a veil to exchange vows. As it happens, I wore an ivory poufy dress with a veil to exchange vows with Matt, so I suppose I get off on a technicality.

Last month, two other friends in California recalled with similar cheek-reddening accuracy my declaration that I’d probably never have kids and that, if I ever did, they would almost certainly be adopted. I couldn’t see myself wanting kids, and I really couldn’t imagine choosing to get pregnant or give birth in the unlikely event of changing my mind.

My imagination has never been my métier.

The first time these anti-baby thoughts had a chance to haunt me was when Simon was about three weeks old and an old friend from graduate school called to check in on us. He and his wife were considering having a baby themselves, and so he asked me, “Now that you have Simon, can you imagine your life without him?”

At the time my friend asked, Simon was a colicky infant and I was terribly sleep deprived. Could I imagine my life without him? You bet! I wouldn’t have minded a brief dip into the pre-baby waters at all. I earnestly reassured him that while I was loving being a mom, I was sure my life would be equally fulfilling had a chosen a different path. At the moment I spoke, I have to say, I’m not sure that either half of that statement was true.

When Kelley and Christine reminded me of my earlier anti-baby stance, it was as though they were describing a different person. I could imagine someone who looks a lot like me saying or thinking what I said and thought, but I couldn’t effectively empathize with her. Then, oddly, I got choked up-partly from the sense that I need to protect Simon’s feelings from thoughts that predate him, but mostly because at that moment I realized how close I came to blowing a major life decision.

Because truly, it’s not just that I can’t quite imagine my life without Simon, it’s that I don’t even want to try. I’m not deluded about the daily grind of motherhood. Lately Simon has been fighting diaper changes and getting more stubborn and emotional in general, and at times during his whining or thrashing about I’d love to put him in a straight jacket and/or toss him out a window.

But those are small moments and small truths. The larger picture is that-yes, yes, cliché, I know, a horrible, leaden cliché-Simon fulfills me in a way that prior attempts at self-fulfillment have not. He’s made me appreciate daily life. He’s freed me to play again. And the way he loves me is astonishing. Everyone tells you that you’ll love your kid more than you can imagine. What they don’t tell you is how much your baby will love you. That, I think, is the greater revelation.

When I consider how close I came to missing this, I get a shiver down my spine. Truth be told, my primary motivation for having Simon was that I was bored and unfulfilled, and it seemed like a good way to shake things up. I had also considered divesting of my worldly possessions and working a sheep ranch in Scotland or joining the Peace Corps and running off to a developing nation, but we had just bought the house, I know nothing of sheep other than their wool, I have no skills the Peace Corps need, and I’m kind of attached to my stuff. Ergo: baby.

One person alone knew how wrong I was: my mother*. She told me I’d feel this way if I ever got around to having a baby, and I spent the better part of a decade demurring. Now I have to admit that she was right and that I can’t remotely imagine my life without Simon. So happy Mother’s Day, Mom. You were absolutely right, and on this score at least knew my own heart better than I did.

* OK, so two people knew: my mother and my friend Beth. But Beth said less, and hey, it’s Mother’s Day after all…

One Response to “A Failure of Imagination: Mother’s Day”

  1. bethnbobinnc says:

    I don’t want to say, “I told you so”…. but, Jessica, no one can tell you something that is so beyond description. I’m glad you’re enjoying it as much as I knew you would. Happy Mother’s Day!

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