I’d be strolling along in the park, enjoying a mint chocolate chip ice cream cone perhaps, and then bam! One would appear without any type of alarm to warn me, not even a gentle chime. A chubby, marble-skinned baby, reaching out its little sausage arms and smiling – all gums, just perfect pink gums – smiling at nothing in particular or maybe at the world at large.
It’d get me every time. In my early 20s I’d think or say out loud to the bleary-eyed parents, “What an adorable little angel!” But by my mid 20s, the innocuous compliment morphed into a relentless urge, an insistent two-headed monster that had set up camp in my lady parts and had no intentions of going home anytime soon.
I wanted a baby. Need, actually, is more accurate. Want indicates desire, and the desire to carry, birth, and then raise a baby while I had a growing office to lead and travels to take did not exist in any mental or logical jurisdiction. But there it was: the need, the confusing emotional pull, to be a mother. I imagined it to be a magical land of sorts, filled with wonder at the rapid growth of a tiny angel that looked like me, where every day the skies were filled with rainbows of unconditional love.
Then, in my late 20s, I became an aunt. And then again. And then again. And I would babysit, being the loving, nurturing, maternal figure I was. One afternoon, a scheduling mistake left me in my sister’s living room, newborn in my arms, baby crawling at my feet, toddler asking me how to spell “Aunt Susie” so he could print out a label and stick it on my forehead. I was alone. And outnumbered.
Two hours passed before I had to call my sister in a moment of desperation. “When will you be back?” I asked, trying to hide the panic. Sarah on her own could have been lovely, a dumpling steaming in my arms. Christy by herself could have been a kick, an intrepid explorer navigating the world of the living room on her hands and knees and occasionally by mouth. Alex alone could have been a blast, penning edgy songs about poop and asking insightful, highly confusing questions. But the three of them together was unintentional mutiny. When Christy got too close to a sharp edge and I’d need to pick her up, flailing limbs and all to redirect her path to softer excavations, Alex would start hopping up and down trying to stop me and saying that I was placing Christy in the stream of lava that had apparently just appeared around the coffee table. I would first try to reason with him, saying the lava had already dried out, then would up his imagination by making Christy immune to lava heat, and finally resort to ignoring him as I’d have to turn my attention back to Sarah to make sure she wasn’t rolling too close to the edge of the couch. In this chaos it became clear that motherhood is no magic land, unless watching the moves of miniature people every single second and trying to soothe screams and answer endless “why?”s in between nursery rhymes and ill-timed diaper changes can be considered magic. Being a parent is hard fucking work, and I’m not sure I’m up for it.
I don’t babysit the three of them together anymore, and my two-headed friend hasn’t visited me since.