When my friends first said they were pregnant my first thought was, On purpose? because I am still eighteen, I think, before I remember I’m more like thirty. They are my friends, so I decide I’ll try to bond with this baby, to start off on the right foot. I knit her a Thing but she doesn’t know what Things are yet so it’s hard to tell if I’ve made a positive impact.
When I see them – babies – all over Facebook, I often wish they were cats. This is when I think I might be broken, when I don’t want to hold them or create one of my own. There’s not the longing or the pull in my chest I get when I look at a St. Bernard puppy or double bacon cheeseburger. Instead there’s a dull acknowledgment, Yes there is a baby. I robotically click Like in case someone notices I never clicked Like and look at me with accusing eyes, You are broken, Why don’t you Like my baby? They probably won’t notice yet though. Not for a few years. Not until ten years when they see my Facebook and the pictures of cats and wonder if I was unable to have children or, worse, I did not want them.
Perhaps I only think people wonder these things because of the two times I’ve heard people wonder them. Once, after a woman told us she did not have babies and would never want them, the two girls I was with said it was the saddest thing they’d ever heard. Another time, a different person was aghast when I said I didn’t think I wanted a child. Aghast, hand on chest in shock, mouth in an aghast O. They said, But if you don’t have a child there will be something missing from your life. I’d feel sorry for you, they said.
Don’t feel sorry for me, I thought, because I hate getting up early in the morning and children always do things like that. I like to have naps and go to the cinema on a whim. Children are difficult to talk to and when they are around you have to talk to them, you have to say, You okay there? and smile and nod because they stare at you and you can’t tell what they are thinking. Two times, children have remarked on my big nose. Rather than find this charming I only think it is exceptionally rude and want to say, Well what about your weird shaped head? Or something. It is tiring. Talking to them is hard and explaining things is boring. They haven’t seen Breaking Bad and I am only vaguely familiar with Peppa Pig. It is restricting.
Children are difficult, babies are troubling. They are so delicate and tiny but when someone makes you hold one they are squirming oblongs of muscle. What if it wriggles from my grasp. What if I don’t hold it properly and the head falls back and it’s like The Elephant Man. Then there is the noise. They are like little trumpets made of meat. It hurts my ears and in cafes I fight the urge to cover my ears with my hands and scream back because it hurts. They can’t help this and I don’t hold it against them. I understand how it is, but my hearing is sensitive and to be fair that is not something I can help either.
I’m not broken. I can see they are cute, with very tiny fingers and way too big eyes. It is funny when they fart. But I don’t have the pull in my chest like I do when I see pictures of Disney World or a good corner sofa.
I wish I did feel the pull. Perhaps it will happen one day like it does on the TV. Where you, the broken woman, encounter a person in labour somewhere inappropriate, like a bus station. And at first you think, Blimey I wish I wasn’t here. The birth is difficult and when the baby comes out it’s silent and there’s an awful few seconds but then the Meat Trumpet sounds and you’re so relieved. You look down at the baby in your arms and smile and nod. You don’t need to say anything because the other person knows that your tough exterior has been penetrated by this miracle of life. The sirens are audible now – bloody hell ambulance, good timing! – and this means you don’t need a proper dialogue with the woman, you just hand her the baby and wipe your hands on your jeans because they’re probably a little gross.
I hope this happens to me. Everyone looks so happy. I hope that if this doesn’t happen to me that I will find the other thing that makes me happy and when people see my photographs they won’t think, I feel sorry for her because she has no baby. I hope they just feel happy I am happy, while I feel happy they are happy, and click Like.