This Is My Everest
Successful women in the traditional business world are expected to be immune to the maternal urge. I never, ever had a serious discussion about my career plans without answering at least a firm but gentle inquiry about my intentions. I damn well understood the gravity of giving the correct answer, and I always did.
Socially, admitting a willingness to forgo a hard-charging career in favor of staying at home provoked mixed reactions. The admission that motherhood has always been my greatest aspiration has often been met with awe and subtle disappointment.
If I thought baby lust was a political minefield when I was married, my divorce revealed that place as a mere playground compared to my new societal restrictions. Having a baby requires taking a husband or renouncing the importance of fatherhood (for us straight girls, anyway), unless some turn of fate recuses one from an intentional decision, and I was quietly advised to that end by more than a few single mothers. Who can casually dismiss fatherhood?
The very last thing a single woman is allowed to openly pine for is a family. Prospective husbands much prefer to think that marriage and family are icing on the cake of their love and fidelity, served in their favorite flavor in their own time, with sprinkles if you’re good.
I’ve always sucked at playing hard to get.
It is said that a man is lucky to be the first love of a woman, and I can say with certainty that the wasbund received a level of devotion and admiration I’m probably incapable of providing anymore. Still, I know that my maternal aspirations haunted him- they dug into his doubts that perhaps I loved him more for what he could give me than for him as a person. He may have had some justification.
I fell in love with a man who has considerable ambivalence about marriage and family, and my inability to feign disinterest in icing was partially responsible for our undoing. When I realized that I could marry a great man, have children, and still wonder what this man was doing in my pre-dawn hours, I scoured the depths of my soul. Could I have a fulfilled life without motherhood? For him, I thought I could.
That wasn’t what was in store for me, obviously.
Now that I’m pregnant, I feel like I’ve finally left base camp. Who knows if I’ll find a partner to share my life with; I will admit that I care entirely less about that than I ever have before, and that realization is not guilt-free. I’m not sure exactly how badly I should feel, simply because of my transparency, but there you have it. They are two different mountains now, with a distinct gap in my personal topography.
People ask if I’m nervous about becoming a mother, or if I feel trapped. I’m not, and I don’t. I’ve wanted this since I was five years old, and it looks nothing like what I thought it would, a lesson learned well by now. I will change, my life will change, and I welcome that process without fear or apprehension. My perspective is colored by my own upbringing, though, because my parents took me everywhere.
Some of the best experiences I’ve had came before my awareness: swimming with dolphins in my mother’s arms at nine months old, running through the Nevada desert with newly found steps, and expressing a deep appreciation for the bluegrass music and high ridges of Pennsylvania, to name a few. My parents were not prone to sitting at home, and the richness of experience I gained has served me very well.
My life will change, but it won’t stop. There are other mountains to climb- this was never my only aspiration by far- though it often seemed the most elusive. You can tell people you want to start a company. You can tell them you want to publish a book, and finish your college degree. You can tell them, even, that you want to pet a tiger. These are incredible goals, worthy goals, smart-girl goals.
To admit that your greatest aching desire is waking up at 3am with a screaming newborn, or breastfeeding for at least six months, or wiping ass and lugging forty pounds of baby accessories everywhere you go is a dangerous thing. Even now, when I complain about the lack of mental clarity, the unending fatigue, the heat intolerance, I am scolded by more experienced mothers who happily inform me that pregnancy is the easy part.
Not for this girl. Pregnancy is just the line I have to stand in to get out of base camp and back on the trail. Motherhood is my Mount Everest.