September 5, 2012

On timing

at Chris's brother's graduation (week 22)

One of the questions asked by closer friends (who are still deciding whether kids will be in the scope of their lives) has been with regard to "timing." Above everything else, the question of timing plagued us most in the process of our own family planning. Chris and I agreed a long time ago that we'd like to have children "someday." Barring the potential for fertility challenges, that agreement made our discussion as a couple less about "if" and more about "when." While the changes resultant from this decision remained firmly in the realm of the abstract, it was easy to speak of the future with confidence. "When we have a family... When you're a mom/dad... etc. etc."

This hypothetical notion of "when" orbited our lives over the last few years without any definitive reason to set deadlines or rush. "When" continued to feel slightly out of immediate reach and therefore, still a hypothetical idea rather than a reality. Hypotheticals brim with possibility and idealized future projections. They are wonderful in that regard. Realities can bring with them fears over uncontrollables and unknowns. Now, rather than speaking of "when" I become a mother with no sense of self-consciousness, I feel pangs of performance anxiety over "how" to be a mother.

As I enter my third trimester of a very wanted pregnancy, I am still not certain that the timing question was answered "correctly." I don't know that there are perfect answers to that question, particularly once a pregnancy (that has been determined to be wanted) progresses. Hypotheticals morph into imminents that are accepted with fewer theories and philosophies. Change becomes your new normal, out of necessity. But this type of acceptance isn't without its own transition pains.

Not so long ago, I was on the other end of this conversation. I asked an experienced and wise friend about the question of timing. She assured me as she snuggled her own little one that although there is never a "perfect" time, it always becomes the "right" time to have your baby. I have held onto that notion since it was articulated to me. And to this day it brings me great comfort. A wanted, healthy pregnancy and a wanted child are life circumstances around which variables seem to adapt and make room with little fanfare.

As I mentioned above, when it comes to my pregnancy I am not certain of the "perfection" of my own life's timing. I don't feel regret about the shape of things to come and I don't doubt the capacity for the love that already fills our household to grow exponentially upon the arrival of our little one. I just also happen to believe that we could have had incredibly happy, fulfilled lives as a duo. Our lives were and are very full. And on some level, the biggest barrier to our "when" was in risking the significant disruption of circumstances that have been so good for so long. But this is a decision we made, on which we were lucky enough to be able to follow through. I imagine once the dust from these major transitions settles I will think back to the anxiety I felt over both "when" and "how" with some sense of rear view amusement.

Logistically, there were a few puzzle pieces we wanted to have in place, in advance of our "when." 

We weighed our personal financial circumstances, our ages, our time together thus far, our access to health care coverage, my options for maternity leave, child care arrangements, the proximity of our families right now, our housing situation, our vehicle situation, our job situations, our life insurance policies, our desires/hopes/fears,... I could go on.

Even with all of our forethought, who can say whether the timing is perfect to go from 2 to 3? I don't know that being "perfect" matters to us as much as it used to. And something about that makes it feel really right.


  1. As a 43 your old mother of three (and Academic), I remember the timing question like it was yesterday. After a few years of dating and a year of marriage 13 years ago I thought: I will get bored quickly with just "us". And I also thought that I could no longer just move on if I lost my spouse. I actually wanted "baggage" or, on a more positive note, I wanted something of him forever: a child. And now we are still crazy in love with three awesome kids. And we are never bored.

    1. Thank you for sharing this! You give me hope and make me even more excited for my future family. The idea of wanting something so incredible and tangible and permanent and transformative that is shared with the person you love really resonates with me and makes me teary (oh the hormones!!) cause... I just feel a lot of love for my partner right now so the idea just makes a lot of sense.


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