In my 43rd year, I spend a fair amount of time thinking about motherhood. 43 pushes the outside edge of both the pregnancy and the adoption envelopes. Whether via natural conception, surrogacy or adoption, babies are not TOTALLY out of the question for a 43 year old. And yet entertaining the notion of a child means looking forward to sitting at the high school graduation of aforementioned theoretical child at the minimum age of 60, it means worrying for the next 22 years about paying for nannies and private schools and broken bones and therapy. Yuck.
And yet I am compelled to explore the inevitability (or prevent it should the idea prove unbearable) of a life without my own children. To be very clear, I consider myself a person with children. The "my own" part is where it gets a bit tricky. I have children in my life -- two amazing, gorgeous, talented, brilliant and funny humans who share none of my DNA but every now and then some of my mannerisms. I did not conceive them, gestate them or birth them, but they are mine. I didn't diaper them or breastfeed them, never saw them take first steps or say first words. They will never look at me and say "Mama". And yet one of them looks a little like me. I cannot say what they would be like were I not in their lives. Nor can I say what I would be like were they not in mine. We are in each others' lives. And we are woven together, with perhaps more warp and weft than most in the form of too many parents - too many voices chiming in on every decision and too many hands clapping for every achievement and wringing themselves together over ever fretful moment. Or is it too many? Is it ok to have three people love you as their own? Three people who see you in different light, three people who believe, even as divergent as their perceptions, that you are brilliant and amazing in your own right?
What is most shocking is that inevitably, no matter how old we are when we marry, society is compelled to ask about children. I assumed that getting married at 42 meant fewer questions. Fewer people asking things like "where are you registered" or "where are you honeymooning" and certainly fewer people (or really no people) asking "when are you getting pregnant?". And in fairness, no one asked when. But many asked IF. Are you going to have children together? And of course I would bite my tongue and try to find a polite to say, "don't we already have children together?"
But it is a natural question. And children are, at the end of the day, one way in which we define ourselves as having made a mark on the world - one way in which we determine our worth. So at 43, the other thing I spend most of my free time thinking about is my significance (or lack thereof). When I say "free time" what I mean is time not obsessing about work or the obligations of my family. Thankfully, this leaves very little time free for thinking. Which is a good thing. Because at 43 the last thing I want to spend time thinking about is my significance (or lack thereof). What haven’t I accomplished by now? Where have I not traveled? What have I not read? How could I not have written? And of course, if I've done none of those things, shouldn't I at least have bred?