I’m going to let you in on a secret. I am one of the only people I know who doesn’t have a baby. It wasn’t always this way. A year ago, I was one of the only people I knew who wasn’t pregnant. A year before that, I was happily complacent in a circle of babyless friends. We could all go out whenever and wherever we wanted. We could stay out past 8:30 and we could eat and drink whatever we wanted because we didn’t have to worry about it affecting our fetus or our breast milk. We could talk on the phone more and we hung out more and we still had everything in common. But then, the dam broke and the first one got pregnant. I found out at a softball game, and I was fine with it — happy for them even. The next time I heard the news, I was lying on my purple couch watching TV and my best friend called me. She told me that I needed to start planning her baby shower. She was pregnant, too. And though I was happy as heck for her, I knew that things were going to change. Last year, I found out that 13 people I knew, mostly friends, some co-workers, were pregnant. I was usually one of the last to hear the news. And, as each of my friend’s wombs began to sustain life, I started to question my own existence. Was I supposed to have a baby now? Was I supposed to have a baby ever? How was I going to interact with my friends once they all had babies in common and I was still childless and very much under 25?
After I turned 25, my first friend had her baby. In March, I became a surrogate aunt to my best friend’s baby. I was there for her birth. Well, I got kicked out right before the pushing began, but I was there for the rest of it and even though I knew that as soon as her child entered the world, our relationship would change, things would shift and the focus would be off of me for awhile, I felt so blessed and special to be there for that day, for that life-changing event. Each month seemed to bring another new life. And now, as I sit here staring my 26th birthday in the face, I am the only one without a smiling, giggly, wide-eyed baby. And honestly, I’m not sure how I feel about it. Perhaps I’m having a quarter-life crisis, which is apparently the latest coined term for wondering what in the heck you’re supposed to do with your life about five years after college when you realize you diploma cost more than it was worth and that there isn’t always enough money for bills and that when there is, it still doesn’t seem like enough. It’s what you go through when you wonder if you should do what you love to do and get paid pennies or do what you have to do so you can do what you love to do on the side. It’s when life finally smacks you in the forehead and you start to think a little more like an adult. I assume at this point, one starts to contemplate having a baby, becoming a parent, footing the bill for cute outfits and hair bows and bibs and baby food and extra medical insurance.
Ironically, or not-so-much, since God does know what he’s doing, I got some new friends during this whole pregnancy thing. Single friends. Newly married friends. Friends that weren’t pregnant. Friends that don’t all go to the same mother’s group at church where they bond and share stories and pray together and probably think “Poor Jessi, still working in her cube when she could be experiencing all of this joy with us.” Or worse, they may not even think of me at all. My new friends have helped me balance the obsession of wondering if I should get pregnant with every-day normalcy. They have jobs, they work full time and they can stay out past 8:30.
But my friends with babies have changed my life, too. I get to watch them become better parents. I get to hold their babies when they’re happy and then graciously hand them off when they are screaming. I get to buy their babies cute outfits and when we hang out, there is another two-teethed reason to smile. And no matter how jealous I get or how misplaced I feel without a baby in my arms, there is nothing quite like the feeling of holding a good friend’s baby knowing exactly what features look like mom and which look like dad and knowing, mostly, that I will see this child grow into a woman or a man because that’s the kind of friendship we have. Nothing, not even a bakers dozen of babies, could take that away. Do I still feel misplaced and strange at times? Yes. But, does the joy I see in my friends' eyes outweigh this baby weight I'm feeling? It sure does.
"The Road goes ever on and on, down from the door where it began. Now far ahead the road has gone, and I must follow, if I can, pursuing it with eager feet, until it joins some larger way where many paths and errands meet and whither then? I cannot say."--- J. R. R. Tolkien