The baby, the bathwater.

It took me a long time to admit to myself that I wanted to become a mother, let alone others. Even now, after being actively engaged in a community of women that are focused on motherhood and how to get there, I usually talk process, rather than risk getting overly emotional, and making the resultant choking sounds that should be reserved for sea animals, by verbalising the core emotional thrust of my quest.

Examples of statements that have never come out of my mouth include:

  • “I just can’t wait to have a baby!”
  • “I’ve wanted to be a mum my whole life!”
  • “Look how cute that outfit is/awesome that stroller is/ adorable that soft toy is – I can’t wait to be a mum and see my baby in that/on that/cuddling that”
  • “Imagine how awesome it’s going to be when we all have kids and X happens”

One of the advantageous things about shifting motherhood high up one’s life to-do list over other equally valid pursuits, such as moving to the Middle East, climbing a huge mountain or striving to finish that PhD on the rare Mexican fire breathing ant colony, for example,  is that people very rarely question or challenge your desire to become a parent. It’s accepted broadly that it’s a difficult to pin down/difficult to explain biological urge and if you’re talking about the How (even if it involves conversations about donors and turkey basters), it usually doesn’t have to include the Why. I actually find this a little odd (as I am sure you would if you’ve read The Mask of Motherhood) but for the purposes of this post, and those conversations, it is a good thing. For me.

In line with my no frills communication policy, I have never commercially manifested my goal to mother either. I have not collected artefacts that could give the game away, even if it was only to myself. No hidden, or not so hidden boxes with special little outfits, socks or cuddly toys.

Until last year.

In the period leading up to trying to conceive, I did start to collect baby items. Yes, this was a surprising movement in positioning, but I went with it. A wonderful friend cracked open the gate that would flood by sending me some leggings in honour of the beginning of my baby making adventure. Hoorah! I then started collecting socks and 2nd hand singlets at markets. The dollar started to improve and “Hello!” –  Threadless were having a $10 sale on onesies! And I just had to have the beautiful baby quilt from the Etsy seller in Colorado. I piled all of these items on a shelf in a wardrobe – and then snapped up Itti Bitti cloth nappies on sale to round it out.

I didn’t feel overly attached to the items. But they were ‘nice-to-haves’. Just to glance at as I grabbed out the day’s work outfit, or packed away a scarf when I got home on a chilly evening.

This weekend just gone, roughly three months after my last failed attempt at trying to fall pregnant, a box happened to free up (err, I may be still unpacking from my move in June last year) and within minutes, the baby shelf was no more. It wasn’t distressing me or screwing with my thoughts about what my next steps were, but it needed to be done nonetheless. While I am still moving towards parenthood, the avenue I have chosen to hopefully get there does not (often) offer the opportunity to parent an infant. Going directly through to the program designed for adoption (officially called ‘permanent care’) almost always means that you will not be placed with a child under the age of two years old.

I am fully cognisant of this and have obviously decided that parenting an infant isn’t necessarily a critical component to my overall parenting experience, otherwise I would’ve probably continued to try and conceive, but it is still something that I need to process and come to terms with. I also think I’ve straddled the unusual divide of being young enough, but wise enough,  to know that anything can happen – parenting an infant may still be in my future. However, in order to open myself up fully to the possibilities and opportunities with adopting from foster care, I also need to recognise and accept the elements of the parenting experience that I will most likely not be privy to on this round and make sure I am reflecting that in my environment. So baby clothes, begone!

Plus, what must my traditionally minded Burmese house cleaner be thinking?!

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12 Responses to The baby, the bathwater.

  1. Duckie says:

    Agree that motherhood comes in many forms and that the birthing process is not a pre-requisite for parenting. Your now-boxed little treasures in various hues may still be used for a child that the universe sends your way.

  2. JP says:

    While collecting baby clothes before you have even started trying to conceive is not quite as frightening as naming your embryos, I totally understand the need to put those things away and step back a bit.
    You ARE young enough and wise enough to take your time and although none of those things have come out of my mouth either, I know as you do that being a parent is more important than giving birth.
    I look forward to more installments of your adventure my friend.

  3. Amanda says:

    Nice work!

    I look forward to more musings…


  4. purple000princess says:

    I’m 44 and I’d love to sit with ‘the beautiful baby quilt from the Etsy seller in Colorado’ tucked around my knees on a chilly night, so I’m pretty certain that any little person who’s lucky enough to find themselves at your place, whether they’re a little bit over 2 or a lot over 2, will love it! The thing about this process is that it’s totally unpredictable, so boxing the stuff from ‘the baby shelf’ is looking after yourself, whilst still remaining open to all the possibilities that are out there.

    • It’s so funny you mention the quilt – I should have put it in my post, but it is the one item that I decided to give away. My oldest friend in the universe had a son earlier this year and I instantly knew it had to be for him. It was so precious, and she is precious and her son is precious – you get the picture.

      Thanks for stopping by and commenting. Your adventures with your sons have had a considerable impact on my understandings of parenthood and helped considerably in rejigging my plans. Truly xx

  5. TM says:

    Opening your blog is like Christmas for me. So excited to wake up today and realise there was a new present under the tree xx

  6. kate says:

    I’m really interested in the statement you make here that “people very rarely question or challenge your desire to become a parent.” It’s funny, but people seem to question my desire to become a mother more than they question anything else in my life – what must (from the outside) look like risky career choices, my determination to get my PhD – and I’ve been pondering that lately. I think perhaps in my case the questioning is related to my age (sub 30), and also related to the fact that, from the outside, I look like a career driven workaholic (hmmm… actually I am that). But for as long as I can remember, my strongest ambition has been to be a mum.

    Perhaps it is not so much that people question my desire to become a parent, but rather, they question the way I want to do it (sans partner), whether staying home with a baby is actually viable for me in terms of my sanity, my reasons for wanting to have a baby now rather than in five or ten years time… Close friends and family get it, because they’ve known me long enough and they know me well enough to understand my motivations. But to an outsider, an almost-29-year-old with a successful career and a PhD in progress who is planning to become a mother in the next couple of years is something of an oddity.

    Is it like that at all for you? Or do people just accept this is what you want?

    I’m so pleased you’re blogging so I can drop by and read your musings! Thanks for sharing!

    • Kate – I get challenged all the time on the ‘why this way’, and I have no doubt that people will express very strong views about my new plans. I do rarely get asked why I’m interested at all though, which is what I was meaning above, other than from my mum friends on the bad days! I suspect people get the basic interest in parenthood, because it is so universally accepted as a stage in life. I may write a post at some point about all of the inane and ridiculous comments that have come my way when trying to conceive using a donor, and I have no doubt there will be a fresh set with this new plan! It used to distress me a lot and significantly impacted me along the way, although at the time I probably didn’t really acknowledge it all that well.

      Thanks for dropping by, Kate!

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