thoughts on having babies and what signifies in being a woman, not necessarily related topics

occasionally I’ll have a terrible, terrible dream in which I kill a baby– someone will hand a newborn or 1-yr-old to me, and while I struggle to hold it most responsibly and carefully, some combination of factors (the baby arching backward, someone else pushing by me, my own clumsiness or incompetence) will conspire to result in a dead baby in my arms. I woke this morning with a dead arm from sleeping on it and in a panic from just such a dream: tiny dead newborn in my hands.

I know these babies are not representative of babies alone– they stand in for many things, projects, hopes, other people’s hearts, a multitude of delicate, mortal worries– but they are also babies. I have for many years now lived with a good deal of ambivalence regarding the choice to parent– with concerns running the gamut from my own competence, selfish hoarding of my personal space and sleep and general autonomy, financing and clothing, feeding, housing such an important venture, the basic terrible vulnerability of loving and being responsible for something so vulnerable in a busy and difficult and dangerous world. in the midst of my not altogether chosen childlessness, I wrestle with these myriad pieces both in my waking hours and inside my dreams.

recently chris and I have been discussing our future together– all the various steps and pragmatic considerations that weigh against one another– we’ve gently, and so sweetly, begun weaving our visions together, laying timelines, projecting into the months and years ahead the important pieces of a life together. children are part of this for us– an undertaking that we both approach with humor and gravity and much hope– we would like, I’m sure it’s no surprise, to do it as right as we can– which involves, for us, arranging pieces, paving the way in this way and that.

so the other day I had a dr appointment to discuss new birth control options in the interim, finally having conceded to the fact of my lackadaisical pill-taking. in the course of this appointment I told my doctor that we wanted something relatively short term and reversible, as we would be wanting to begin trying to get pregnant at some visible point down the road– and she sat down and fixed me with a serious look, recited to me my age and statistics regarding ageing eggs and genetic disorders and a host of other complications, told me that she was going to proceed with the prescription for the birth control but that she hoped we’d choose never to use it– in short, not to wait.

well. I suppose sometimes we need to hear serious advice from our doctors. so chris and I are now sitting with this perspective. which is to say, nothing has changed substantively– only that this is the landscape, the various large bodies moving on the horizon– this is the frame of mind in which I dream of killing babies.

and in which I receive this video of writer kelly corrigan reading a piece she’s written on women and life to a collected audience of women– intended surely in the most loving way by my sister in law, who likes to forward on such pieces of inspiration to the women in her life. yesterday my computer was acting up, so this morning was when I managed to get it to play and watched it, fresh from this dream of the dead baby, in the midst of a more general frame of mind of missing friends and trying to find some inroads toward building my community here in chicago, fed up with my isolation two years in– and I watched this video and listened to the words from within my own position and perspective– and hated it with all my heart. I hated the constructed map of significance for women’s lives which is so inconsonant with my own experience, all the chanted coordinates of commonality that spell out my own dissonance with this picture of being a woman, being meaningful, having relevance and connection.

I could, perhaps, write this all off to the populist, best-seller perspective which fails to take into account all the different permutations of difference in women’s lives– but this isn’t enough for me right now where I am. I’m angry. on a lot of counts. among the many things I’m angry about is the tyranny of ideas around what constitutes a valid, valuable life in this world. I’ve struggled with my own prejudices and expectations for many years, trying to experience directly and honestly, trying to silence and set aside a host of conditions and judgements. and so when I’m confronted by texts in the world that are so rife with these thinking frames, which presume to speak in the voice of some universal “we” that purports to include me yet fails to reflect me in ways that feel salient, I take offense at the presumption and self-congratulation. I understand that each person can only write from our own experience and that we do our best to offer what we can to the world– but, by golly, this piece of … inspirational writing resulted in my feeling more pronouncedly outside whatever definitive fold of women it is addressing than embraced and included in it. bah and humbug.

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