I’d been married for three months. We’d been together for six years. I was thirty. My friends were having babies. I wanted a baby. I decided, in my infinite wisdom, that the best time to bring this up would be in the car on a long journey between his family house and mine during Christmas.
Anyone who’s in a relationship will know that there are certain trigger points for fights: going to IKEA together is one of them, travelling to your holiday destination is another and long drives, confined spaces, family overload and Christmas is a fool-proof recipe for instant divorce. So, in terms of bringing up a heavy conversation about turning our lives upside down, this wasn’t my smartest move.
“So, I think we should start to talk about kids.”
“OK. We only just got married three months ago.”
What he meant by this was, “There’s always something with you. First you want to move in, then you want to get married, now you want kids. Are you never happy? Never content with things the way they are?”
At least that’s what I thought he meant and so already we were pissed off at each other and we were only twenty syllables in.
This wasn’t going well.
“Yes, I know but I’m thirty and we are married and we both want kids and I think we should talk about it.”
“I’m not ready.”
This was backed up by a whole lot of very practical but infuriating reasons about things such as owning our own house, earning more money, me leaving a stable job to become self-employed, my debt.
A fight ensued. I wasn’t surprised. I felt like our whole relationship had been this way. Me wanting something, him taking ages to come around to the idea. I felt that we were working to his timeline. Whenever I wanted something, I had to wait. And wait. And wait some more. When he finally came around to it, I started to feel resentful in a ‘oh NOW you’re into it’ kind of way. I wanted him to say that I’d been right all along and that he was sorry he made me wait. Maybe I was self-absorbed and demanding. Maybe he was immature. Maybe it was just the way we were made. Either way, I was feeling frustrated about this niggle in our relationship.
But nevertheless, I wanted a baby. That conversation in the car ended badly. Waiting to get married was one thing, but waiting to get pregnant was a completely different thing. After all, it was biology. This wasn’t me just demanding another one of my never-ending ‘wants’, this was my body, my ovaries, it was literally mother nature herself screaming at me from deep inside me. Wasn’t it?
Well maybe. Possibly. I mean, sure, I wanted a baby and this was, to some extent, a force of nature, a physical natural instinct to procreate with the man I loved. But, if I’m honest, at that time it was also exactly what he said it was. It was ‘the next thing’ after we got married. It was something new and exciting to get my teeth stuck into, it was moving forward, it was what my friends were doing, it was what we were supposed to do.
Over the next few months we continued to talk about it. I became ok with the fact that he wasn’t ready. He became ok with the fact that I was ready and waiting for him to get on the same page. This meant that we could talk about it without fighting (mostly). I still got upset at times and I’m sure he got frustrated too but thankfully, the lines of communication remained open and the more we talked about it, the most comfortable he started to become.
We talked about friends that had babies. My best friend had two. She said she’d never been happier. She said it was hard but it was all worth it. All our friends with children spoke about them with real, heartfelt smiles on their faces. They gushed about the time they first smiled, crawled, walked, grabbed their feet. They remember funny stories about how they got into a box of chocolates at Christmas, how they walked paint all over the carpet. Our friends could go on and on about how wonderfully fulfilling being a parent could be.
Of course, they mentioned that it was hard at first. They glossed over the exhaustion (“You get used to it”); they alluded to strain it put on their relationship (“We didn’t have time to fight! Ha!”) but really, they colluded in what has become known in our house as The Conspiracy of Silence. They didn’t do it maliciously or even consciously; they just simply couldn’t bring themselves to explain to a fresh-faced, naïve couple talking about having children how god damn awful and miserable and terrifying it all can be at first.
So, my conversation with my husband in the car was based on all sorts of falsities that I believed to be true. I wanted to feel that rush of unconditional love when I watched a small person I had created land on my chest covered in goo, ripe with potential. I wanted to move headlong into the next wonderful challenge that life was presenting me with and I wanted it at that very moment.
Now, when I think back to the night in the car on the way home from Christmas, tired, gluttonous, overloaded with family cheer, I’m thankful that he said, ‘Not yet.’ He was right. It wasn’t the right time. Not because of the house or the job or the debt (there’s never a right time when it comes to those sorts of things) but because I wasn’t ready. He knew we weren’t ready and I can only be thankful that he doesn’t have the same impulsive approach to life’s great decision that I do.
In that car, my husband knew me better than I knew myself and it’s only now that I realise just how desperately unready and unprepared we were…even when we thought we were ready.