She told me, shyly, haltingly, that she wants kids, but she doesn't want kids. I think that kind of ambivalence is perfectly natural. But I didn't really know how to respond. Maybe she wanted some assurances; some cheery little platitudes or rosy hued rhetoric about what "blessings" they are.
But I couldn't give her that. The falsehoods simply refused to roll off my tongue.
Instead I told her the most honest thing I could think of.
"Having children is the most terrible thing and the most wonderful thing that has ever happened to me."
She looked at me with something like horror.
But then she smiled.
"I should have known you'd give it to me straight."
I don't have to tell all of you with kids what I mean. You know why it's terrible. You know why it's wonderful.
You know how the fear and insecurity and confusion and self-doubt. The weight of responsibility. The regret. The second guessing. And the tired. Oh man -- the exhuastion of body and soul. The ceaselessness of being someobody's whole world.
And you know the pride, the love, the pure unadulterated joy. You know the elation of watching your child fly on wings that you have helped them spread. You know the heart clenching love of such bigness it can scarcely be contained within your own body. And indeed it is not. It walks outside you, on legs steadied by your own hand.
But how to tell someone who doesn't know? How to explain that some days you look at your child and are filled with peace. I did this. I did a good job. I'm a good mother, you think to yourself.
Those days are satisfying in a way that defies description. But then there are the days when you doubt everything. The peace and the satisfaction evaporate and the only voice you hear is your own shrewish conscience carping at you about how badly you are screwing this up.
And those days are bad in a way that defies description.
Soul darkening, those days can be; thinking that the biggest most important thing you have ever done, you have done dismally bad.
Sometimes it seems those days are the majority. But when the good days come...or even just the good moments...those tiny little slices of absolute clarity and perfection amidst the grinding uncertainty....it's somehow enough. Enough to keep us all going and trying and doing our best to muddle through.
So knowing all that...how do you tell someone?
You don't, I think. You can't, I believe.
They have to take a leap of faith like the rest of us.
Sometimes that leaping is a thrilling, weightless, soul soaring freedom. Sometimes it is a terrifying, sinking feeling as we hurtle towards disaster.
But either way, it teaches us something about the people we are. We are either people who find a way to stay afloat, or people who accept the inevitable and give in to gravity.
Honestly? I don't know which is true of me yet. Twelve years of experience have not left me any more certain than I was the very first day.
But I'm still flying, which, I figure, has got to mean something.
Even if it is by the seat of my pants.