I am a box checker. In fact, completing items is something about which I am rather obsessive. In my entire life, for example, there has only been one book that I didn’t finish (“Catch 22,” if you must know). Several of my bookshelves contain books that I haven’t yet read but plan to, and I will feel a vague sense of dissatisfaction until they are complete; the stack of four by my bed is arranged in the order in which I will read them next. A new book may come out and move an older one farther down the pile, but the old book will remain until it is read (and promptly donated to the used book store down the street, unless I deem it a legend).
I tell you this because I think that this obsession about completing items on my “to-do” list is what is contributing to my panic about not yet having a child. Admission: I’m 32. I sometimes try to obfuscate my age to seem older, because my panic about being too old to have a child is a little silly when you learn that I’m “just” 32.
I’ve wanted a baby for years. Many of my friends have toddlers already, and I was anxious to get the “have 2.5 children” box ticked off on my life goals. I felt a desperate need to “catch up,” which I know is both ridiculous and insulting to those good friends of mine who aren’t even married yet and also want children. But as previously mentioned, we decided to be responsible and wait until K was finished with grad school and had a job. Therefore, I got pregnant at 31 and gave birth at 32. Ander died when I was 32, and now I’ll likely be 33 before I get pregnant again, maybe 34 when I hopefully birth a living child.
32 is middle-aged in fertility time. At 32, my doctor told me I was “approaching advanced maternal age,” so I could start trying sooner than she would normally recommend. By the time you’re 35, you’re Advanced Maternal Age (AMA, which also ironically stands for Against Medical Advice. Don’t think that escaped my notice). I’m obsessed about completing this to-do item before it’s too late. (Please note that I’m using an analogy here and don’t only think of having a child as an item on a “to-do list” that I must check off :). I really do want to raise children and think we would be great parents. I can’t WAIT to have a little one, not only because I think I’ll finally be able to breathe a sigh of relief, but also because I’m crazy excited about having a baby who becomes a toddler who becomes a kindergartner… you get the picture).
My therapist calls this anxiety of mine “anticipatory anxiety.” I’m anxious about completing tasks at some nebulous time in the future, and can’t fully feel relaxed until they’re complete. The problem is that I am the one who makes the to-do list. And it’s an arbitrary to-do list. There is no “rule” that says I have to read those books next to my bed, or on my bookshelves. If I didn’t read a single one of them, no one would know or care but me. So when I find myself saying, “I shouldn’t watch Scandal tonight. I should read my book, because I need to finish it before I can read that other book that’s been sitting on my shelf since Christmas,” I am learning to take a deep breath and say, “Let it go.” It helps that “Let It Go” was such a popular song this past year, with such a catchy tune. I particularly like the version in which Idina Menzel sings it with The Roots on SNL. I’ve started singing this to myself regularly. I haven’t seen the movie so have no idea what the song is really about (I’ll save that for when I have a child to watch with), but the words and the tune of the chorus are comforting.
“Let it go” translates to child-bearing, too. I get anxious All. The. Time. about getting pregnant again. About how old I’ll be when we can start trying again. About how long it will take me to get pregnant. About if I’ll miscarry. About if I’ll have another abruption. About if I’ll be on bedrest. About if something goes wrong with the c-section. About if the baby has another issue, like a disability or heart defect. About SIDS. About childhood cancers and diseases. About a whole lot of other things I have to learn to LET GO because they cannot be controlled. When I see another friend get pregnant, have a baby, have a second baby before me. “Let it go,” I remind myself. K’s colleague just had twins at 47. My colleague just adopted a baby at 45. No one will think less of me for being an older mom, if indeed I end up being an older mom at all. I won’t be so old that I won’t be able to help my kid move into college, see my grandchild. I have made up an arbitrary to-do list for myself, and an arbitrary completion date. Let it go.