I have a friend we’ll call Jessica. She is a supermom. She was raised by a supermom. By all indicators, her young daughters will one day be supermoms with theme birthday parties, perfectly organized hair accessory drawers, and pretty children who score above grade level on aptitude tests. We hang out at playdates and sometimes talk about motherhood, moms with paid jobs outside the home (me) vs. moms who stay home with their kids (her), moms who planned to be moms (her) vs. moms who just fell into it (me).
Today my nine-year-old stepson zooms across her backyard on a zipline, his long hair flowing, his orange “Awesome” hoodie stained on the pocket from the strawberry sundae he ate yesterday on the way home from school. My twelve-year-old stepdaughter sits on the highest point in the crook of an oak tree, her long legs dangling, her black high tops like a pendulum mesmerizing the younger girls as she leans down to display the gallery of selfies she taken since her mom got her an iPhone two weeks ago.
I yawn. Last night the boy came to our bed. He had a bad dream. I stumbled him back to his room, tucked him in, and fell asleep, his elbow cocked between my shoulder blades, my head hanging off the mattress.
I wonder out loud how I’d ever manage to care for a newborn.
Jessica says, “It’s different when they’re yours. Our bodies were made for this.”
Since marrying Henry, I’ve been asked by more than one friend, neighbor, acquaintance, family member, “When are you going to have a baby?”
“We already have two,” I joke.
The sensitive inquisitors change the subject, but some, failing to see that my reproductive future is none of their business, prod, “I mean your own baby.”
My own baby.
Our bodies were made for this.
Before I meet Henry I want children the way little girls want ponies. I picture a fantasy nena with my cinnamon skin and her father’s high cheekbones or doe-like lashes or poet’s hands or insert current beloved’s best feature here. I picture her wrapped in a rebozo at my breast, sleeping, occasionally waking to nurse without causing pain or disfigurement to my breasts.
In my twenties I want this baby more than I want a husband. This says more about the quality of my relationships with men than about my preparedness for motherhood.
In my mid-thirties something shifts. I get tired of dating the same guy over and over again. His name and profession and style change; but the constant is that he loves me best from a distance, loves the idea of me more than the actual complicated, messy me.
I think I love me—and by extension, my fantasy baby in the rebozo—the same way.
I start trusting the voice in me that warns of red flags (first date mentions of a “complicated” relationship with the ex; saying I love you too soon; he can call me, I can’t call him; take your pick), that heavy feeling at the bottom of my heart that knows I shouldn’t be dating this person no matter how beautiful his bone structure or lashes or hands.
When I reach home after my first date with Henry—appetizers and drinks at a rooftop patio in Old Town, plans for our second date already in the works—I text my best friend: I want to have his babies.
The mini me in the rebozo has hazel eyes and a tiny mole under her left eye.
Henry and I fall—and grow—in love. We date for a year and a half.
And then, while I am on vacation in Mexico, my apartment building burns to the ground.
I return to Albuquerque with my passport, my laptop, and a pink suitcase of clothes. I move into Henry’s house. I make peanut butter and jelly sandwiches. I play Legos, Build-a-Bears, bedroom-turned-grocery store where I can buy toast on a Hello Kitty plate for ninety-nine cents. Tutors, summer camp, chore charts, voice lessons, what do you mean that jacket doesn’t fit you anymore, play dates.
The rebozo baby vanishes. In her place stand two real, live, human children who go back and forth between our house and their mom’s.
Their birthday parties stress me out. They rarely make beds or pick up toys without being reminded. They don’t really like school.
I am not a supermom. My body was not made for that.
I am a writer. My body was made for story, the stories that flow from my pen, and this story—my life, this family, these kids.
Michelle Otero is a writer and Creative Director of Valle Encantado, a nonprofit dedicated to sustainable development in Albuquerque's Atrisco neighborhood. She blogs at michelleotero.wordpress.com.