The first time I killed was about six years ago.
Husband (my then-boyfriend) and I were moving to a new city so I could begin grad school. “Steve” was in the car with us. We had a horrendous moving experience (the ceiling of our new apartment was in pieces on the floor, among other things) and had to check into a hotel for several days while the apartment got fixed up.
We left Steve in the car. In the hot, hot, ridiculous summer heat.
And he died, Internet. I killed him.
It was terrible. And I cried and cried and cried.
Steve was my jade plant. I’d had him since I was a freshman at college. I’d loved him and “benignly neglected” him for four years at that point. Every summer when I headed home, I’d board him with one of the deans at my university. Every fall, I’d pick him up, remark on how full and fleshy his leaves were, and relocate him to my new dorm room.
I couldn’t believe I’d killed him. It was one of the worst feelings I’d ever felt – the life of a living, breathing being ended because of me.
But I picked myself up and tried again. Let’s call her Martha. Martha thrived while I was in grad school. We had a sun room and a lot of south-facing windows. We bought a hanging plant to keep Martha company and all was well with the world. No, I couldn’t grow herbs to save my life, but Martha and the hanging plant were fat and sassy.
Then we moved north for medical school. We took Martha and the hanging plant with us – and Internet, I was SO CAREFUL with those plants. I took them inside the hotel with us on the drive. I made them comfortable in the backseat of my car. And they survived the trip with flying colors.
We had a little deck outside where I hung the hanging plant. Martha sat inside the apartment on the window sill.
Our apartment windows boasted a lovely view of a little green space. But the windows all faced north, which means very weak sunlight.
The hanging plant died within weeks. Oh the guilt.
But Martha hung on.
For four years, she lived and grew. As happens to plants that don’t get enough sun, Martha got taller and skinnier, but didn’t grow many leaves. Lots of her leaves would get yellow, shrivel up, and eventually fall off. But I WOULD NOT LET HER DIE. I gave her water, and extra sandy-soil (made specifically for succulents), and turned her every day (okay, most days).
Martha survived another move. But I fear she will not survive the northern exposure we have, once again.
Her soil doesn’t hold water well. And dear lord, don’t tell me to transplant her – I have NOT HAD GOOD LUCK doing this (sorry dear little basil plant of ’07). She gets yellower and spindlier by the minute.
I love her. And I don’t want her to die. But… maybe it would be the humane thing to do.
Why the long pathetic story about all the houseplants I’ve murdered?
All this is just a preface to the fact that I don’t think I will ever be fit to be a mother.
Mothering *ahem* has never appealed to me. For one thing, I think I’m just plain too selfish to be a mom. Could I really give up sleeping in and alone time with my husband and all the other things that end for good once the kid arrives? Could I really be responsible for caring for someone else 24/7 and putting their needs first and tending to their every physical/mental/emotional problem for ever and ever amen? Could I really handle poop and vomit and sleepless nights and colic and schooling and potty training and all sorts of things I can’t even contemplate?
I’m afraid, Internet. I’m afraid I wouldn’t love the kid. That I’d put it in danger. That I’d resent its relationship with my husband. That I’d resent it for eating up my time and money and energy. That I’d screw it up in some way. That I’d neglect it – like poor Martha and Steve – or worry it to death or give up on it.
Listen, some people are meant to be moms. They know it. And they pop out a kid as quickly as possible.
But not me.
I’ve been firmly “anti having kids” for years. My husband and I have had dozens of teary conversations about whether he’d be able to love me even if I never want kids. (Teary on my part, at least.) (Yes, he is okay with it.) I know having a kid is a life changing event. And I am delighted – truly – for people whose lives get transformed by bringing home a little bundle of joy. But I don’t want that kind of change. I don’t have any desire to procreate, or be pregnant, or share my life with a tiny human. My five- and ten-year plans do not include “having a baby.” We haven’t even tried parenting a pet yet, for Pete’s sake… probably because I’ve done such a bang-up job with the plants.
My Google reader is jam packed with mommy blogs. I love gootchie-gootchie-gooing at little babies when we’re out. I’ve envied the mommies I see on my lunch breaks, pushing their babies around in jogging strollers. I’ve oohed and aahhed at adorable baby bumps. I’ve day dreamed about which of my husband’s features a baby would have… how it would favor me… what I would teach it. And my husband and I have had a lot more “If we have kids…” conversations than ever before.
I don’t REALLY feel any desire to have kids. Just a sort of… fascination with the whole thing.
But maybe this is a beginning. A beginning of maybe… just maybe… someday being okay with the idea of having a kid.
What say you, Internet?
When did you know you were (or weren’t) meant to be a parent?