On babies

The average age of an American woman when she has her first child is 24.9. I am 24.

I am in the midst of many women--my age, younger, older, all of us in our twenties--who have had children already, or are having them soon, or are planning, or coping with issues, illnesses, miscarriages, fertility questions, and anywhere in between. But, babies. It is a hot topic, to say the least, and one I am a part of even though I fall into none of the above listed categories.

One of my grad school friends in due in September, and though she has only told family (and a former employer out of necessity), she told me about it very early on, and I have happily kept her secret and excitedly shared in her joy as she prepares. She and her husband have a very pragmatic perspective, and she is an amazingly honest and straightforward person. (Example: When she told be about her pregnancy, she opened with "I'm knocked up!")

"Well," she explained to me, "we want a kid but we're young and broke. But then we figured, we'll probably be broke again once we have the kid, so we might as well just have a baby and continue to be broke and happy." I am incredibly excited for her, and she is already so beautiful, she is going to be the most drop-dead stunning pregnant lady as she begins to show. I am almost done with my gift for her, a baby quilt whose pattern I made up, using some things that inspired me and working in improvisational piecing. My second effort in modern quilting. I have adored thinking about her and her husband and new baby while planning and stitching.

But I have none of those urges myself. Honestly, not one lick. The main reason I can come up with for having a child now is that I'm pretty sure my Dad is well-past-due to be a grandfather. He is at that old-man-at-the-table-over-who's-goo-gooing-to-your-baby phase, at age 61, and I know he would adore a grandchild. By the way, that's not a good enough reason. And my three brothers are probably closer to becoming gay and adopting a baby than they are to having one with a lady. (Sorry, Dad. You'll have to wait a bit longer.)

Actually, I feel no great sadness at the thought of never becoming pregnant or giving birth. This sounds extreme, and I know someone will read this and think, but Jessie, you just feel that way now, think what you'd be missing, you have no idea. I am fine with you thinking this, and even telling me. I can't say how I'll feel in five or ten years. I genuinely do want children, I know someday I will be ready to take on that responsibility, and raise some precious beings to grow into thoughtful, compassionate, intelligent, curious human adults. I love imagining them, and I often think about them. This is the silly, girly truth. But I also genuinely do not feel they need to come from my uterus. This is hard to explain, I feel like it needs more sentences than the one. But there are none. It just doesn't matter to me at all how they came into this earth, just that I am allowed to love him or her, and raise them.

I do think about it, often, surrounded by friends who consciously, purposely get pregnant (yes, we're at that age it seems), about whether or not I'd feel sad, like I'd missed something excellent. Surely, it is an experience I will have missed. But there are an infinite amount of experiences I will miss during my life as well, like being able to see all the places I desire to see, learn the languages, fluently, I wish I could speak. Write every single book I know I have in me. Help all the people I wish and long to help. Work for many of the organizations and places I love and admire so much. Motherhood is something I know I cannot miss, am called to experience. But I also feel, very strongly--almost to a foolish extent--that I really, really, must adopt my children. I feel it deeply, in my bones, and I think it shakes off any fear or concern I might have otherwise had over maybe missing pregnancy, or a biological child.

I've been engrossed, in these last few months, in the lives of families who've built themselves through adoption. Mothers who've battled infertility, been through endless IVF treatments, countless tears, serious conversations, and sad nights. Other mothers who've known from the start of their families that they wanted to adopt. Some with only one child, adopted; others with several adopted kids; and others with biological and adopted kids together. And what I've witnessed, truly seen in their lives and their stories, is that the love is the same. They are raising American kids in a complicated world, and that their daughters (and sons) are Chinese American is only benefitting--increasing the joy of--their experience as a family. Women have cried as they've explained the love they have for their adopted daughter or daughters. I want this. This is what I dream about when I daydream about my future kids.

The paper pregnancy, as it's called, is tiring, comprehensive, painful, scary, intimidating. It's all kinds of emotional things to the people who go through it. And it often takes longer than nine months. And the joyful day when they receive the photo of their child, and mull over their beauty as they head out for some wine and dinner to celebrate, has been recounted to me more than a dozen times already. They talk about how much work it all is, and how sure they have to be that they want to become parents before anyone signs off on their dossier. Oh, bring it on, I think. I know how much I want kids. This is honestly what is going through my head when I hear the tales of social workers and county clerks and government officials and notaries public. And those moments, in China, when they meet their children, are my favorite. How extraordinary that you walk into a room and suddenly, you are a parent. I know I want children, absolutely and unwaveringly, and I know I want to go through all this. It is exhilarating to think about beginning this whole process.

I know I want kids. I know the way I want to have them is not the "normal" way. I've also explored more about myself, through the work on my graduate capstone project, and how I feel about pregnancy, children, motherhood, infertility, childrearing practices and theories. We're each individuals on this planet, with our own approaches and theories on every thing we do. And for my kids, they will have lives beyond the years they spend with me, and lives before I will have known them, too. My children will not be mine to "have," but will be little bundles of potential--good and bad, yes--for me to explore the world with, once we meet.

I love imagining where and when we will meet one another. Who will those little people be? Not of my blood, but of my heart.