Sitting at the table making small talk with the manicurist as she meticulously paints my nails a soft, slightly iridescent shade of pink I am caught off guard by The Question: “So, how many children do you have?” asks the forty year-old mother of three and grandmother of two. “None,” I reply as I watch her apply the three strokes to my nail: first down the center, and then one stroke of polish on each side. She stops and looks up at me.” It’s not something I wanted to do by myself,” I stammer. “When the husband didn’t come, I decided against it and now I’m too old,” is how I justify not being One of Them.
“It’s not too late,” she says pausing the brush in the air before going on to tell me about her clients who have opted to have babies alone. One woman had a baby through invitro, and her mother helps her care for the baby. “My mother is eighty-one,” I say. Still convinced that I need to have a baby, she shares the story of the “worthless” husband she left behind and still raised three children alone. I listen and nod at the appropriate times because I’ve learned that opposition to these you-need-to-have-a-baby conversations are futile.
“You seem like a good person, and you can do it,” she says trying to make her wad of words stick to my psyche. Even though I’ve been here before, I’m still amazed at how intrusive people can be in a matter that as personal and private as pregnancy. I recall a conversation that I’d had with this guy I barely knew who asked me if I had any children, and when I said no, he said, “I bet I can get you pregnant.” I didn’t take him up on his offer.
As an able bodied woman with the right credentials (degreed professional with middle class values and no history of mental illness), I should have children. Because of my medical history I don’t even know if I can have children. Battling fibroids since I was 28, I have had two major surgeries and one procedure to shrink them. But I still thought I might have children. I’ve been around kids all my life as an aunt, great aunt, “play” aunt, godmother and educator. As a child I loved dolls, and thought that I’d grow up and replace them with real babies of my own, but something happened—or didn’t-- along the way. And I don’t know if it was of my own doing or God’s design because I have never been pregnant nor have I ever tried.
Some of my friends are parents, others are grandparents, and I don’t envy them because I don’t have the patience that I used to have. I have been an auntie since I was two years old, and from as long as I can remember I have dragged my nieces and nephews and other folks kids from place to place. I now have two great nephews and twin goddaughters and I love and enjoy the four of them, but I also like returning them to their parents. I’ve accepted that I’m not going to have the starring role of Mama in this movie called Life, but I’m a pretty good supporting actress.