Today my son asked, as I showed him the folding tray I had just fished out of a box in the garage, the tray upon which we used to carry breakfast upstairs to our mother on her special day (I am subtle with my hints): "Mom, when is Kids' Day?"
Ha-ha, my son. Every day is kids' day!
He was buying none of it.
I seem to never know what I know. As my happy-go-lucky clock was ticking onward a decade ago, I would go to group therapy and say: I just don't know about this baby thing. Every other woman seems desperate to have a baby; it's this natural, unsubdued urge. You see this look in their eyes. The look of Please, Dear Lord. And I have no idea what that would feel like. I just feel this blank . . . not-knowing feeling.
The members of my group--who knew what was deep inside of me better than any other humans, poor souls--looked back at me. We know, Melissa.
What do you know?
We know you want a baby.
I do? You know??
The one thing that clinched it, strange to say, was a simple picture that swam up in my brain one day. My husband and me, sitting gray-haired at the Thanksgiving table. By ourselves.
Well, you know how history has changed that particular image. It could never, ever become real now. In several and unexpected, contradictory ways. Because fate doesn't like it when you decide you know what's in store for you. You do not.
And boy, did I not. All along the way, I did not know anything I thought I knew. I was going to do this the non-invasive way. I was going to listen to African finger-harp music and lull away the time before arrival in a birthing-center whirlpool, a beatific look of knowingness on my face.
Not exactly sure where the morphine drip fit into this, or the hollering--twice--for the anesthesiologist. I thank modern medicine. In fact, I genuflect before the epidural.
I wonder if motherhood has made me better. It has certainly made me more conscious, most of the time, and at moments almost bloodily, painfully conscious of my failings. They are legion. I never knew this so fully, before.
They were right, my friends in the therapist's office. Now I know what I did not know then. You can't always get what you want. But in a birthing-center room ten years ago (assisted by a male nurse and my little sister, who thought this baby was never going to come and so went out for a drink, coming back only about five minutes in advance of the big push), I did get what I want. And what I need.
Art by My Needlepoint Habit