Sometimes I hear the whistles a-blowin'. The motherhood-train whistles. It sounds like velcro diaper strips being pulled apart and the clicking of a wind-up toy that plays tinny music and the pat of chubby baby hands crawling across a tiled floor.
And I smell it before I can see it. It smells like Desitin ointment and baby powder and no-tear shampoo. It smells like spoiled milk and spit up and pungent poo.
Then I see it. The first car is full of young women. Twenty-somethings. A few in their early thirties, but not much older. New mothers-to-be. First marriages and "We weren't even trying yet! We thought it would take longer!" Some still hold onto their positive pregnancy test in joyous disbelief.
The next car has women who are visibly pregnant. Swollen bellies are being cradled by expectant hands. Sometimes I can feel his little elbow. Wait. Here. Feel that? Oh! He just moved. This little girl is doing flips in there. What does your nursery look like? Wait- do you have to go to the bathroom, like, every five minutes? Me, too! Cameron. That's a great name. We're naming ours Grace. After my grandmother.
I recognize women in the next car. This is the car they don't tell you about when you're 12 and picturing your future-self married with children. In this car are the women who have only recently become pregnant after years and years of trying. Miscarriages. Failed IUIs. Failed IVFs. Hope followed by devastation followed by hope followed by devastation- month after month. Now they are pregnant. No one wants to celebrate too soon.
I know some women in the next car, too. A mom who desperately wanted to become pregnant but was told she'd never be able to due to a medical condition. A teacher mom who decided to adopt one of her students when that student was a struggling teenager. A mom who experienced the death of a baby and had a chance of giving birth to a baby with the same life-threatening condition. A mom who, despite years of fertility treatments, was unable to become pregnant. A single mom who, at 40, decided not to wait for a partner to seek out motherhood. The women in this car are moms, thanks to adoption.
On and on the train cars pass with a rhythmic thump-thump, thump-thump. It's moving slowly enough for me to continue to see in.
Births. Smiling husbands. Teary new grandparents. Wrinkly toes. Baggy onesies. Blue bubbly snot-suckers. Goopy eyes. Newborns.
Breastfeeding. Rocking. Newborn head-sniffing. Bottle-feeding. Shots. Sleepless nights. Diaper changes. Tiny baths. Tiny scoots. Tiny steps. Tiny words. First birthday parties. Kindergarten. School photos. Cuts and scrapes. Christmas mornings. First Periods. Teen poutiness. Fights. Crushes. Broken hearts. You can't make me episodes. Pull away. Move out. Come back. Remember early years. Grow up. Get married. Have kids.
38. I'm 38. I'm not 28. I'll not be dating for a year (or more). Let's do the math. Okay: 39. Fine. Not too old, you say. Right. If I were to include "trying to have a baby" on the list of first-date options, which I'm not. (Sorry, fellas.) So- let's add some get-to-know-you time. A year or two. And that's with the assumption the first person I'll meet will be someone I'll want to have kids with. So, let's throw in some "What the hell was I thinking?" time for disaster dates. 41? 42? 43?
I'm not an idiot. Perhaps it's in the cards for me to get pregnant and become a mom, but it's not likely. I don't want to raise a child by myself. And I'm not sure I can imagine getting married again. Maybe. We'll see. But really, when I think of all of that ridiculous "alone time" I need and my desire to travel and- well- my inherently self-centered nature (i.e. "Mommy's too tired to fix dinner. Dig around in the cabinet and see what you can find"), perhaps it's better this way.
Perhaps I'm meant to parent in the 8:30-3:12 time slot, as a teacher. Perhaps I'm meant to be an aunt. A godmother. "That wacky lady that we see on Wednesdays."
And part of me is okay with that. Really. As it sits in, I think I can do this "Holy shit- life is not at all like I thought it was going to be- let's see where it takes me" thing.
But, hot damn, if there isn't a women's club out there that no matter how much I'd like to belong to it, I just don't. It's like the ultimate "cool table" in the lunch room. And yes, you can invite me to sit with you for awhile, but I won't get any of your inside jokes. And I will smile when you announce your pregnancy. Your second. Your third. Your fourth, even. And I may go to your baby shower. And I'll let your baby's little outfits and toys and blankies pass through my hands, even the one I bought for you, and I'll talk about how adorable they are. And I'll visit you in the hospital. And I'll take pictures. And part of me will be legitimately happy for you. And part of me will feel like I just swallowed a golf ball. And I'll swallow that part down. And if I'm lucky, I won't tear up and make an ass of myself. (This is your day, after all.)
And I'll hear the train steadily going down the tracks. The one I'm not on.