baa baa black sheep



As I said last week, I didn't bring up this to talk about what makes a story a story (although it is, I think, because it is a complete narrative of an event) or whether or not I like the short-short format (like any other work of art, I like some and don't like others--that is just how it is when it comes to the arts). What happened was, a month ago (or not...I think there were acorns on the windowsill but we weren't wearing jackets yet) my husband handed me a packet of stories to read that he was using in his literature class. Sometimes he does this, and I like it. I was flipping through them, reading quickly, when that story stopped me dead in my tracks. That one careful sentence made me feel like I was being strangled. Or maybe more like I had been slowly suffocated for a long time, and suddenly got to take a huge scary breath of air. Yes, that is sort of how it was when I read it.

In once sentence, Lydia Davis had summed up something so succinctly that I have secretly agonized over at various points. She expressed my secret shameful fear boldly. It screamed out at me, simple and plain on an empty white sheet. And it made me feel better, and I sort of wanted to cry, but also I wanted to yell "I KNOW!" When a crux I have puzzled over is finally expressed clearly, I feel wild and excited.

I know I've talked about this before, but I wonder sometimes about my waxing and waning desire to have children. Currently, the desire has all but disappeared. A few months ago, I was baby craaaazy. I wanted a child, so much, and the craving consumed me. It did, it consumed me, it was almost all I thought about. I even read avidly about slings and cloth diapers, even though we had no plans of trying. But now the baby crazy is gone. I'm feeling very busy and fulfilled. I like painting on the weekend, I like thinking about selling art and going places. I love hanging out with my husband when we are not at work. I love how the pets make me happy and annoyed. I also enjoy going to work again--as much as I hate to admit it, I think I am a happier person when I have a job that keeps me just a little too busy. I don't know if it is just how I am, that I like having lots of things going on. (ADD? What?) And as much as I complain that I am stressed and tired, it's okay because I'm doing what is right for how I am. You know? I'm not sure if the disappearance of the baby want is because I am feeling less sad and lonely, if I wanted to fill all the gaping holes created by depression/moving with a child. Now the depression is lifting. I am building a niche. I feel like J and I have a lot going on, and we have plenty of time.

I also feel concerned because it is so opposite of how I felt just a few short months ago.

And maybe that is why this bothers me so much: "it is not so much that she wants to have a child as that she does not want not to have a child." (I had to read it out loud a few times to really grasp it.) I fear that is how I am, that it's not so much that I want a child as that I don't want to ever admit that I possibly would not want a child. I feel like there's such a shameful association with saying, "I don't want kids," that people think it is a selfish sentiment. Then, of course, sometimes the decision to have children seems selfish, because of all the want on this planet, and the way things are being destroyed. And then I think I maybe shouldn't use the word "selfish" at all, because it seems like a terrible way to describe things. It's just that the reasoning in the story is so real to me. And, to me, they sound like ridiculous reasons to bring more people into the world.

I'm pretty sure I'm not saying anything new about this, as my thoughts are just as foggy as ever and the words are coming out in stumbling bursts of cliche. I've already written about it before, and thought I was done, but this story gripped me and shook me around. Perhaps, even deeper than my worry that I fit the story description, is the worry that I change my mind so much about it. That I can go from "babybabybabybaby" to a shrugging "eh" very quickly. I worry that my ever-changing desires are huge red DANGER DANGER DANGER signs, and that I should proceed with caution. A ton of caution. I feel as if my fickleness is a clear indicator that I could possibly be a terrible, terrible parent.

I'm not announcing I don't want kids ever. Twice on Friday I was mistaken for a mother by a kid, and it was sort of bittersweet and reminded me briefly that I have a uterus. I know the craving will return, and I know one day we'll likely make that scary leap. And I'll probably be horribly embarrassed by what I've written in this blog about it because I was so! stupid!

But I can't help that today.

For now I'll keep on being busy and trying to learn things and make things, and I'll keep trying to do my best at work, and I'll keep on enjoying the life we are making together.

It's like I didn't say anything at all and I'm right back where I started, which is why Lydia Davis is so damned smart,
black sheeped


Blogger aurantifolia said...

When a crux I have puzzled over is finally expressed clearly, I feel wild and excited. Secretly? -- everybody does. But not everybody will admit it. It seems so much "hipper" to say, "Well, DUH." This is what postmodernism has done to this culture, made us all afraid of sincerity. But I digress. ;)

I feel like there's such a shameful association with saying, "I don't want kids"... No. No no no no no no no no NO. There's nothing wrong with not wanting them, just like there's nothing wrong with wanting them. The HELL with what other people think -- what you and J think about it is *all* that matters, ever.

Ahem. Excuse me while I step off my soapbox, before I fall off. :D

7:45 PM, November 11, 2007  
Blogger Black Sheeped said...

I should emphasize the "feel like," in that statement, aurantifolia. It's not what I believe, it's just the impression I get from others at times. I agree. :)

8:28 PM, November 11, 2007  
Blogger Melospiza said...

I remember sitting in the airport right after I (very happily) found out I was pregnant for the first time. I was trying to read a book while two under-threes raced around me shrieking merrily, and I was transfixed with horror at what I'd done: I hate kids, I realized. I was going to hate this kid, it would hate me, and we'd be miserable forever.

So far, though, we're doing okay...

I'm not sure how this has to do with your post or Lydia Davis's story, except to say that all big life decisions have been like that for me: I'm sorry and glad in equal parts. I'm glad that I had kids...except when I'm not.

11:20 AM, November 12, 2007  
Blogger Shelly Overlook said...

It's definitely okay to NOT want kids, but of course you'll get the "how could you??" look from some people if you say that. Conversely, you'll also get the look about diapering (cloth or disposable), feeding (breast or formula), circumcision, etc etc. It's never ending and people are always going to be judgmental assholes, so don't let that get in the way of whatever it is that makes you happy.

12:31 PM, November 12, 2007  
Blogger desperate housewife said...

I would like to say that I so agree with you- some people are selfish for HAVING kids. That's all I can say about that without ranting.
And also? You could NEVER be a terrible terrible parent.
And also? Sometimes everyone is a terrible parent, even when they're usually a great parent.

3:31 PM, November 12, 2007  
Blogger R.J. said...

Well, said, my friend. Very well said.

4:31 PM, November 12, 2007  
Blogger Penny said...

I think fickle is normal. No need to beat yourself up about it, even if you can't explain it. It's when the fickle stops being so fickle that you'll make your final decision, even if the reasons for or against aren't profound.

3:55 PM, November 16, 2007  
OpenID parkingathome said...

Would you judge me if I thought for a majority of these posts that you were not talking about the deep deep baby sentence long story thing, but I in fact thought it was the First Line and not In The First Paragraph.

And the first line is "SAMUEL JOHNSON

I was very confused as to how you could have been so deeply moved by this.

3:25 PM, April 01, 2008  

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