Eggs Over. Not Easy.
by Marianne Curan
"More" Magazine: A woman chronicles how her thoughts and feelings about having children has changed through the years.
I was never one of those women who turned 30 and became a heat-seeking missile of Motherhood. It wasn’t like I was hitting the snooze button on the oh-so-tired biological clock cliché. I wasn’t even sure I had one.
I was married a couple of years by 30 and wanted kids, but knew it was too soon — for me. I was still young and was having fun being a carefree grown up and enjoying my career. I was content I had plenty of time — until my marriage (or what I now call “The Episode”) went off the rails like an Amtrak on the way to Grandma’s. Now in my early 30s, I found myself sampling therapists, trying on new boyfriends, and waiting for life to bloom again, and it did.
By 36, I was in a great new relationship, had a great new job, and was ready to start a family. There was one glitch, however. My boyfriend had three grown children and wanted a baby as much as he wanted — well, a baby.
Yet, I still thought I had time — until I got a wake-up call from my gynecologist. “So, Doctor-So-Handsome-It’s-A-Shame-You’re-Married-and-We’re-Not,” how much time do the ‘ol eggs have before they’re fried?” I said with a wink, enjoying my third-grade play on words.
“I’d say five good years,” he answered matter-of-factly.
“Five?!” I squawked, clamping my knees shut. “And, just good ones? Not even great?”
I looked past him to photos of all the babies he’d delivered — taunting me with their drooling, toothless grins; their chubby, dimpled fists clutching stuffed Pooh Bears and Sponge Bobs; their “I’m a Turkey Baster Twin” bibs spattered with perfect pools of organic strained peas.
Instead of imagining myself blowing raspberries on their tiny baby bellies, I tried to distract myself with visions of these cherubs as seething, hormonal teenagers slamming their bedroom door in my face, hiding plates of congealed nachos under piles of their weeks old dirty underwear, rap music blaring from my car as it comes squealing up the driveway with an empty tank of gas and a fender dangling— three days shy of turning in the lease. I envisioned my image burned in effigy hanging from a basketball hoop — dangling like a Suburban Saddam Hussein. And then, let’s talk about the bills. Twenty-two years (if you get off that early) of watching your hard earned money sucked into the earth by someone you can’t guarantee will visit you in the home someday. Who needs that shit?
This negative imagery was working until I looked back up at Dr. Bad News Bearer and launched right back into my baby fantasy. He was going to have to leave his perfect wife and children immediately. I would leave my boyfriend immediately, and we’d run off to some deserted island and try to populate immediately. After all, he’s the one who told me I only had five good years.
“Marianne,” he said, snapping me back from our beachfront hideaway. “That doesn’t mean you only have five years. Women are having babies well into their forties.”
“Yeah, I know!” I desperately responded. “Jane Seymour had twins at like 50. And didn’t some woman in Norway have her first baby at 68 — or maybe it was 63. Okay, maybe I read that one while I was waiting in line at the grocery store.”
He gently guided me to sit up. “What I mean is, you have about five good years to get pregnant naturally, without fertility treatments or complications, and you’ll have much less chance of having a child with ‘issues,’” he said.
“Oh, issues!” I chuckled. “Like what? A cowlick? Peanut allergies? Stroller Envy? C’mon, Doc! Nothin’ a good Nanny can’t handle!”
“No, Marianne. I’m talking about serious health issues.”
“Ooohhhh. Wow. Gotcha, Doc.” It was awkward for a minute, not quite the romantic ending I had planned. I shook the sand out of my imaginary sandals and nodded. He handed me my birth-control prescription and said, “Take care.” After he left, I cried a little, blew my nose on my tissue gown and got dressed. Then I did what any woman would do in my situation. I got a puppy.
I was now on the brink of 40 and back in the dating game. My five good years were running out. Tick tock. Tick. Tock. Oh, how I hate that friggin’ clock.
Suddenly I’m obsessed with any human under three feet tall, especially ones wearing light-up sneakers, who are game for a round of peek-a-boo with a stranger (i.e. me ) in the frozen food aisle at Ralph’s and who can’t pronounce their “r’s” (like my niece who used to say her favorite color was “pupple.”)
I would find myself stalking toddlers at Target, tears streaming down my face as I’d wail, “Oh. My. God.Your baby is soooo cute!” Most mothers just put the stroller in fifth gear, whizzing past me to the safety of the checkout. But, occasionally one would scream for security as I ducked into a sale rack.
Even I found my behavior strange. Yes, I wanted kids. But I was never obsessed with them before. I always thought, “Sure, when they’re clean and in a good mood, they’re adorable. But when they smell like poop and their caterwauling can be heard above the din of The Cheesecake Factory then they’re a pain in the ass.” I had always cringed at the thought of going to “Mommy & Me Class.” I fully expected when I had a child it would be “The Nanny & You Class.”
I knew I could never choose the sperm bank route. Nor could I see myself whisking an orphan out of a dung hut in Africa. I wanted a kid with my DNA — and specifically the smart genes that gave my family all its doctors, lawyers and MBAs — and not the random gene I got called the “acting bug.” (There should be some vaccination for that.) I wanted a kid who looks like me, but wouldn’t need braces, a shrink and a nose job. Is that too much to ask?
And, I wanted it to happen the old fashioned way. Fall in love. Get married. Then, when we we’re both ready — have a baby.
Bob and I fell madly in love on our first date. But, (and you knew there was a “but” coming, didn’t you?) he had a child, and a son — The Holy Grail for a sports fanatic. He was done.
So, I stayed, for my last two “good” years, falling deeper in love yet deeper into frustration as each stroller passed me by. When I did leave, I knew I’d done the right thing for me.
God, it sucked.
Screw therapy. This time I went to a psychic. “I see a tall, dark, handsome man,” she said. Well, that was a no brainer — I’m five ten in heels — I don’t date short guys. I wasn’t impressed.
Then months later, just as she’d predicted, Bob came back into my life. He wanted to get married, but he still didn’t want more children. I called up Madame for a refund. “Sweetheart, I never promised you that. I did not see it in the cards.”
And to think I was going to invite her to my wedding.
Bob and I have been married for eight years and have an adorable baby boy, now 7, named Dunkleman — a 95-pound Labrador Retriever. Obviously dogs don’t completely replace having your own child but they do have their advantages. You can’t crate a toddler for a couple of hours while you shop a shoe sale at Bloomingdales.
I actually do have real kids — my stepson and nieces and nephews, whom I all adore. But, as often as they fulfill my maternal instincts, I still feel like I’ll never be chosen for the dodge ball game.
So, here I am at 50, contemplating getting another puppy and wondering if I’ll ever be more than an unfinished jigsaw puzzle.
But aren’t we all in some way unfinished? Are any of us ever really done? Perhaps one day, sooner than later, I’ll celebrate that what I have is enough and that having my own child won’t necessarily “complete me.” I want to feel that anything beyond enjoying my given life and nurturing other’s people’s lives, with or without children, is an unexpected treat.
In the meantime, I’m gonna get myself a pair of light-up sneakers, play peek-a-boo with my dogs and find something to color “pupple.”