(Spoiler Alert: Mine is rubbish.)
(Spoiler Alert 2: So is yours.)
My sheep are about to give birth.
That’s not a line I ever thought I would write at any stage in my life, but there you have it. I was never planning to have sheep. I’m a city girl, born and raised. I don’t really do country unless it’s absolutely necessary, and until this point in my life I couldn’t understand why that would ever be necessary. Don’t get me wrong — I’ve got nothing against country. I’m from Texas. I know from country. I’ve got cowboy boots and I can down an ice cold Bud with a Jack back with the best of them. But I’m not country. Can’t even pretend.
Which is why it’s interesting that I have a farm. A real live farm with real live farmhands, real live farm vegetables and real live farm animals, four of whom are about to do something of which I am apparently incapable: give birth.
I always thought I would have at least one child, or the requisite 2.5; maybe even 3, which would make my mama proud. It had always been in “THE PLAN”: get a college degree, get married, get pregnant, have appropriate number of kids, avoid divorce, get a divorce if necessary, raise kids, don’t speak ill of their father whom I’ve divorced, put kids through college, marry them off, badger them to have kids, be a cool grandmother. I got through part of the plan (even repeated some parts), but somehow that birth thing...
You’re supposed to have kids when you’re in your twenties. At least that’s what people tell you and that’s what you put in your plan. That’s when you’re young and you have energy and the trials of pregnancy won’t take such a toll on your body. So my plan had been to have kids with husband no. 1 sometime after we both finished university. But by the time I finished grad school, we were separated, my world had been decimated by the loss of my father, and as a result I’d become an adult without even realizing it. And that level of realization (and let me say now that there were several higher levels to come) showed me that neither of us was ready for the commitment of marriage, let alone the reality of children. He wanted us to get back together and create a new life in the midwest. I wanted to move east and be a writer. I moved and wrote; he stayed and created a life that didn’t include me. End of that chapter.
Husband no. 2 was a mistake of epic proportions. I pretty much knew that before I married him, but I convinced myself that it would probably work for a few years (say 5 or 10), and if nothing else I would get a kid out of it. I was at that age when you’re about to reach that age when people start saying you don’t want to wait too long, and your ob/gyn starts making comments about your eggs and their fertilization viability and other medical jargon which you kinda zone out on. So to the tune of the proverbial clock ticking in the background, I walked down the aisle. Six months in I realized I had grossly underestimated the potential epic-ness of my mistake. I knew I could never have a child with him because that would tie me to him for the rest of my life (let alone my grossly overestimated 5 to 10 years), and that would mean a lifetime of never speaking ill of him to the kid, which would be virtually impossible. Six months after that I came home to find him gone. I breathed a sigh of epic relief, drank a couple of glasses of a lovely cabernet (ok, probably more like a couple of bottles), and went to sleep. Peacefully. End of that chapter.
Ok so by now I know that I’m slightly off the plan and should probably do something about it, but I’m not sure what. Clearly the marriage thing is at best problematic for me. And if I’m really honest, I’m not sure the kid thing is a priority for me, or for that matter, something I’m actually interested in. But this is not the kind of thing you’re supposed to tell people or even say out loud. At that time I think it was sacrilegious to say such things, or somehow against the code of womanhood, or quite possibly against the law. So I didn’t say this to anyone because I didn’t want to be excommunicated from womanhood, or banned from using the capital F for Female, or whatever.
And then there it was — that new decade age fast approaching. Miracle baby, high-risk pregnancy territory. Age where thoughts of IVF, fertility clinics and sperm banks are no longer summarily dismissed, but given serious consideration. Like can I borrow that pamphlet consideration. Like how bad are the shots and would you recommend your doctor consideration. Like should I seriously think about having a baby with my gay best friend consideration. He is after all very cute and would make a great father. And he really wants a kid. Actually, he really wants a kid with me because he thinks I’d be a cool mother and he thinks we’d make a really cute kid. And these are apparently his only prerequisites when considering a potential mother for his child. Perhaps they should be my only prerequisites. Except I’m not sure what my mother, an old school gun-packing chick from the deep south, would think of my kid’s gay father…who’s a different race…and is named after a mythical god from another planet… I see potential problems. Might need to take some time to consider.
And while I was considering, the Towers came down. And the whole world stopped. And thoughts of the state of my eggs seemed rather trivial when countless lives had suddenly ended because someone thought it was a good idea to fly planes into a building. It takes time to wrap your head around that kind of insanity, that kind of reality. It took me about two years.
The proverbial clock was still ticking, significantly louder than it had been in the past, and I was supposed to be doing something about it. Except I wasn’t. And to be honest, because I really am trying to be honest here, I wasn’t really thinking of actually doing anything about it. I was busy climbing the corporate ladder while running my own small business and planning my lifelong dream vacation of an African safari. And that’s exactly what I did — went on safari. Which is precisely why I have this farm now, in Kenya, with heavily pregnant sheep.
I met my husband in Kenya. My real husband. Not the imitations I’d married before. The one who actually understood me and what it meant to be married to me, and who actually wanted to be married to me in spite of that knowledge. Like forever and ever and always. Only one little catch: he had three small kids hovering at and under the age of 10, and wherever he went, they went. They were a package. All inclusive. Buy one, get three free. No exceptions. Because this was a guy who actually understood what it meant to be a father and who actually wanted to be a father to his kids in spite of that knowledge. Like forever and ever and always.
So, like any well-educated, home-owning, sports car-driving, high income-earning woman would do, I took the package deal. Sold the house and the car, jumped off the corporate ladder, closed the small business, and moved to the other side of the planet. Because if nothing else, I figured I’d get a kid out of it. After all, he could clearly produce children. All I had to do was conceive.
Except I didn’t.
I thought I’d gotten close once, but that was pure speculation and conjecture on my part as a result of a month with majorly bad cramps followed by a ridiculously heavy flow. I later found out that the only thing I’d managed to conceive was a fibroid tumor, and the resultant cramps and flow were the symptoms of said tumor. The good doctor assured me there was nothing to worry about. Many women develop fibroids she said. Of course, many women develop pregnancies too, I thought, as she continued with her comforting words. I didn’t really need to be comforted, but I didn’t want to seem ungrateful for her kindness, so I allowed her to finish while I considered whether a good strong cabernet or a hearty old vine zin would be on that night’s menu.
So no conception. But what I Oprah-know for sure is that what I did get — three little kids who could sometimes be absolute angels, and sometimes be absolute knuckleheads, but were all the time just happy to have me around — was more than I could have possibly conceived. And I wouldn’t trade them for the world. Ok, there were times during the glorious teenage years when I might have seriously considered trading away one or two of them and quite possibly their father, but I’m pretty sure that at the last minute I would have backed out of the deal.
For the longest time the husband kept saying we should try to have a child. Actually there were a lot of people saying that well past the point of any kind of logical consideration. If I would have listened to them, it would have meant that when I’m in my sixties, I’d have to revisit the joy of the puberty/teenage years and that’s just ridiculous. I’m not doing that. Nobody should be doing that. And if they’re considering it, they’ve clearly never enjoyed the bliss of an island paradise where people bring you fruity umbrella drinks all day long as you lounge on the beach in a lovely sarong reading your Oprah magazine. Which is exactly what I intend to be doing when I’m sixty-something because by then all of my kids will have college degrees and I will be badgering them to get married, and have kids, and avoid divorce, and file for divorce if they have to, and don’t speak ill of their kid’s other parent.
Despite my plan, the truth is that conception time is over for me. Ok technically I could still conceive, and quite frankly it would be just like my one last egg to decide that now is a good time to get itself fertilized. It is my sincere hope that such a thing does not happen. And if I’m really honest, which is what I’m trying to be here, I suspect this has been my real hope for most of my life. And I don’t really care if that statement gets me banished from…whatever.
So here’s the moral of this little story, the thing to keep in mind and hold on to: Screw the plan. The plan is useless. The plan is rubbish and should be willfully and deliberately thrown out with the trash.
If the thing you most want to do is have a kid, then have a kid. There are all sorts of ways to do that and you don’t need anyone’s approval or permission to do what you think is best for you. Because if the thing you most want is a kid, that kid will be the most wanted kid on the planet, which is pretty much what a kid ought to be.
If the thing you most want to do is not have a kid, don’t have one. And don’t give a rat’s butt what anyone has to say about your decision. There’s no point in having a kid you don’t want. No kid should have that kind of parent.
If you haven’t quite figured out what you want, stop trying to figure it out. Just live your life now. If you’re supposed to have a kid, at some point that kid will show up, preferably when you’re prepared for it (but be prepared for it to show up when you least expect it because that’s just how kids are). If you’re not supposed to have a kid, you won’t have one because that’s just the way the universe works. And when I say universe, I mean God/your higher power/your whatever you call the deity that controls all the stuff you can’t. Because God/the universe/(fill in the blank with whatever makes you comfortable) is the one who actually has the viable plan. No, seriously — it’s true. It may not be a plan you particularly agree with or one that any logical person would consider feasible, but the plan is already in place. We just have to decide whether or not to accept it.
And I have.
According to the good doctor, there’s nothing physically wrong with me. Despite the fibroid, I have always had the ability to conceive — and that was my plan. But the larger inconceivable plan was for me to be right where I am now, on this side of the planet, teaching my youngest kid about the miracle of birth…via a sheep.
And that’s one more line I never thought I’d ever write.