23 and 31: A Comparison, of Sorts
I just reread the blog I wrote about a month ago (titled “I’m Whining and Ranting, But I’m Seven Months Pregnant So PLEASE SHUT UP (or, HUGS NOT WORDS),” if that gives you an idea of my state of mind at the time) and am pleased to realize that at eight months pregnant, I seem to be feeling generally much better about life. Part of this, I’m sure, is that my elderly cat’s abscess wound has healed, even though he’s still being annoying as all hell and still not always using the litter pans—but at least we’re no longer having to cram pills down his throat or clean the wound in the bathtub with the detachable showerhead, which is nice.
But part of it is probably also that I’m that much closer, that the point at which I’m no longer pregnant but am holding my baby actually is starting to feel like something that is going to truly happen. Yes, I’m terrified. All of the details of caring for a newborn, now that the time is almost here, are starting to feel a little overwhelming—but, like I keep telling myself, people do this all the time. And people who are not as smart, as sane, as mentally/emotionally/physically healthy, as naturally maternal, as I am. I’m not saying that I’m necessarily the epitome of any of these things, but, well, I could be doing much worse. That’s all.
Sometimes I do think I would be better off with less information, the way my mom describes herself as being during her pregnancies, probably especially her first one, with me: “I was so DUH.” She didn’t have the Internet, not even many close friends with kids. She had her mother, my Grandma Peggy, and of course the family doctor who delivered both of my sisters and me, Dr. Miles. But in a lot of ways, I think, this made it less stressful for her. Ignorance is bliss and all that. Me, I work in front of a computer, with almost constant access to the Internet, and it’s all well and good to say you’re not going to read a bunch of random stuff on the Internet, or to know that you really shouldn’t, but, well…I’m sure most of you know how that goes. I did draw the line yesterday when I saw a link that said something like “Baby accidentally flushed down toilet after birth.” Because, seriously? Not that that couldn’t maybe somehow happen, but why would I want to read about it? When I’m going to be giving birth in probably less than two months?
Also, my mom was younger when she had her babies; she had all three of her kids in her twenties, as did my grandmother before her. And here I am at thirty-one just now having my first, but that’s often how it is these days. There’s maybe a small part of me that wishes I had started younger—but most me knows that it’s good, and is glad, that I didn’t. Still, though, some of that twenty-something nonchalance, unawareness, would be nice sometimes. I guess you’re free to be more guided by your instincts, that way. I think of myself at twenty-three, the age at which both my mom and her mom had their first children. Jake and were together then, but we hadn’t been for long…we met a couple of weeks after my twenty-third birthday. We weren’t living together and we definitely weren’t married. I think one of the things that worked well between us, in the beginning, was that neither one of us was in a big hurry. His two most recent girlfriends before me had been significantly older than him, and at least the one right before me, I gathered, had pressured him for more commitment. I wasn’t anywhere near there yet. I think I had some vague aspirations toward eventual marriage to someone, and kids were something I thought I might want, but WAY in the future. My first job, in high school, had been at a daycare—my mom always said this was the best form of birth control she could have given me, and she wasn’t wrong. I also did a ton of baby-sitting from junior high through college and was a nanny for a semester of college, so I was well aware, at twenty-three, that children of my own were a responsibility I did not yet want…heck, even a dog seemed like way too much responsibility. I had two cats and then acquired a third halfway through twenty-three, a street kitten I’d picked up from the middle of the road at two a.m. giving my friend Joe a ride home from work; that was plenty.
At twenty-three, I was terrified of getting pregnant, a feeling I remember though can’t recreate, because by the time I did get pregnant, last December right around my thirty-first birthday, I had long since passed from extreme relief to increasingly pronounced disappointment when I got my period each month. I did tell Jake from the beginning, though, way back then at twenty-three, that I wouldn’t have an abortion; maybe that’s why it was so terrifying to me then, because I knew I would always go through with it—that’s just how I am. So I was simply very careful, those first several years, to make sure pregnancy was prevented. If it had happened, we would have figured it out, and I’m sure somehow it would have been okay. But at the time, that first half of twenty-three anyway, I was a fulltime waitress with no health insurance, even though I did have a college degree. I wasn’t rebelling, exactly, but I was enjoying a freedom I’d never had before, being totally on my own for the first time, not being in school, not having to live up to so many expectations, just having fun. I lived in an old eight-plex apartment building from the 1920s, rumored to have once been a brothel, about two blocks from Dallas’s bar strip, Lower Greenville. I was rewriting the “novel” I’d written in high school. I switched from Camels to Parliaments and fell in love with goat cheese pizza. I drank a lot, but it was never out of control, and I never drank alone, mostly with the friends I’d made waiting tables. As I hung out with Jake more and my friends from work less, I became calmer, less inclined to get drunk for the sake of it, more devoted to quiet nights of writing or reading while he drew, curled up on what we dubbed “the famous blue futon” after the Leonard Cohen song “Famous Blue Raincoat” while he worked at his drawing table, listening to music or the late-night radio show Coast to Coast, sipping red wine.
I could go on, reminiscing about my twenties and those early years with Jake. It’s funny because people ask how long we’ve been married, and when I say a year I always have to qualify, because we were together for seven and a half years and had lived together for five before that. I don’t consider any of that time wasted; I think we were both figuring out what we wanted out of life, both together and individually. Those years helped shape us into the people we are now, people who I truly believe—no matter how freaked out I might get at three a.m. when I wake up needing to pee and then can’t fall back asleep once I do—will be good parents to our daughter and to the other children we will hopefully have. I loved my twenties; I cherish the memories and the adventures, but I don’t want to relive them. I am entirely happy to be where I am now—uninspiring job and all—married to Jake and starting a family together, living in an awesome house that I still can’t quite believe is ours.
At twenty-three, I didn’t have the Internet at my apartment, because that would have required a landline, which would have required money I didn’t feel like spending. I checked my email—infrequently at best—at Jake’s apartment, with his slow-as-molasses dial-up on his pieced-together old computer; frequently the color would go out on the monitor and you’d have to whack it a few times on the side. It took me nearly a whole gallon of sweet tea to set up an account on Monster one night, through which I got my first “real” job, as a proofreader, which happened about midway through twenty-three not long after acquiring that third cat. Online social networking and blogging were words I’d maybe heard but didn’t know much about. So it’s possible that at twenty-three I could have been just as “DUH” as my mom claims she was about being pregnant. But I still think it’s a good thing that I, that we, waited. I don’t really think I’m more anxious now, with more access to information, than I would have been eight years ago—because I’m a less anxious person in general. That’s not to say I’m not still a worrier—just that I’m much healthier (physically, spiritually, emotionally), much more grounded, much more filled with peace and calm even in my worst moments. Even a month ago, when I was clearly feeling a little stressed, I wasn’t losing my head, just venting a little. So…all in all, the time is right, I think.
…I mean, it better be, right? ;)