Three years ago, we celebrated my sister’s engagement. Her friends arrived at our parents’ island lake retreat and they were kind and lovely. They talked about organic sex books with cover photos of tropical fruits and, wearing bikinis that could have fit fourteen-year olds, they spent the better part of the weekend sunning along the shoreline, washed up on the rocks like freshwater naiads.
I felt positively matronly.
One of her friends emptied a bag of pot into the brownie batter, so I didn’t eat the brownies because I wasn’t yet captain of the one-woman, post-babymaking liberation army that I just invented yesterday. I still wanted another child.
The morning after her friends arrived, my sister posed her characteristic life discussion questions as we sat on the couches slurping mugs of Greek yogurt and flax seeds like a flock of lambs in a women’s studies break-out session.
Where were those pot brownies now?
My sister wanted to know what goals we had for the coming year. I was still awaiting the container from Germany, filled with my material life from the previous four years. My goal was to move into our new house and register my kids for summer camp so they would stop asking me to fill the plastic pool in which my son simply stood and peed.
I listened as my sister’s friends spoke animatedly about pursuing multiple graduate degrees, starting charity programs, and ticking off their travel goals. When it was my turn, I brought up my utterly nugatory desire to have another baby. Then my mouth quivered and I pressed my face into my hands, sobbing.
Instead of continuing to explore South America in nothing but a muumuu and hiking boots, I had succumbed to my unbearable desire to employ my ovaries—those furry little knobs that most of us have never actually seen. And there I was, admitting that I was willing to do it again, which was at once sadistic and wonderful.
It was another fifteen months before I actually became pregnant with my number three. First, I had to endure an agonizing year of triple miscarriages, an odd twist of irony given my initial misgivings on the subject of a third. The first and most difficult loss happened just days before my sister’s wedding. Months later, I remember staring up at the ceiling in my new bedroom, flattened, if not exactly pulverized by my grief, and actually wondering if some ancient fertility goddess was making me ratify my desire for another child through each crush of extinguished possibility.
Then we had the baby, and all of that fell mercifully away. After the first few months, I slowly made my way back into my weary skin, slipping it over my shoulders and looking back skeptically, wondering whether all the anguish could really be behind me.
It was then that I emerged from the chrysalis, a nymph myself of sorts, redirected and no longer ashamed of having abandoned early, problematic visions of my life trajectory. Not that I’ve altered my core; I still think my mind matter comprises silly putty, beet noodles, and seven kinds of washi tape.
My sister and her friends are all expecting children of their own now. This bolsters my somewhat belated manifesto, which argues that there’s nothing wrong with smart women wanting children, and those children don’t have to be conceived by accident in a crab-infested Puerto Rican mangrove to make the whole affair adventurous. There’s always the savory challenge of creating your art—whatever it is—wherever you are. Sometimes, for now, that has to be enough.