Magic Number... 32

WARNING:  This post talks honestly about stuff that we (and by "we" I mean single, reproductively challenged women) are made to feel we should keep to ourselves.  It might seem a bit cliche to some; but so is getting married, having kids, and resigning yourself to a life in the suburbs and dinners at Chili's on a Friday night.  We all are a cliche in one form or another. 

A week from today I will be 32.

32, that's heavy.  Almost as heavy as a box that I keep in my closet.  Five years ago after a grueling year and a half of attempting to get pregnant, I was told that I probably would never have my own child, and if I did get pregnant the chances of carrying to term were very slim.  Then I lost my husband (at the time it felt like it was because I was a failure (reproductively speaking); after a seizure and many hours of therapy I have been able to separate these two events in my mind, though the timing of these two events eerily coincide).

32... it's one of those numbers... every woman has one.  It's the number where you start to analyze how your life isn't measuring up to where you thought you'd be.  It's the number where you start to project the "even if" scenarios.  Even if I weren't reproductively challenged... I would still have to meet someone, fall in love, be with them for long enough to be sure (which as we get older the time lengthens because--- let's face it--- we have been hurt so now there are walls that have to crumble, and tiny ninjas (aka BELIEFS) with swords that need to be assassinated... they are all around our heart "protecting" it in case someone actually manages to scale or knock down the wall).  And "if" someone can make it that far... then there is the traditional path of marriage, and then the oh so scary... attempting to start a family.  "Even if" I meet some champion samurai wall buster and we go through all the phases at olympic speed... I'd still be somewhere around 35-36 and then not only am I working against my reproductively challenged organs... I'm also working against a flood of statistics that say the chances are getting slimmer every year because I'm "old" in terms of having babies.

So... what to do when you are turning 32 and reality starts settling in?  Sure, I'm not where I wanted to be, but after 5 years I do think my divorce was a blessing in disguise.  It's the baby stuff that won't leave me... after all of the convincing myself that children are not something I really want in my life, and after telling myself that society makes us believe that we want kids but if people would take the time to do some serious reflecting they would probably find that they really don't want that "traditional" life at all.  After all of this... why then does it still feel so bad when I'm looking over the rough draft for my grandma's obituary and there is a list of all the grandchildren scribbled off to the side, each with a number next to it and I realize mine doesn't have a number because I don't have any kids?  Why does it cross my mind that when I die, I won't have a slew of children, grandchildren, and great grandchildren sitting around my kitchen table planning my funeral?  Why does it hurt so bad when I hear my mother say to my sister in law, "that you're not a real woman until you've had five kids!"?  Why is it that when I'm being lazy and having a Sex and the City marathon I find myself having small outbursts of grief anytime Charlotte has to face another disappointment in herself and her body that she can't just do the one thing she wants more than anything and that our body is made to do???

Sure, my life is not all sad tears over children I might never have.  In some ways, I have a very charming little life.  I have an amazing family, adorable nephews, and a fabulous group of friends.  While the house that I live in is not maintained on the outside... the gutters are filled with leaves, and there are some trees with a lot of dead branches that need trimming... the inside (of my little place anyway) has an infinite amount of old world charm.  Yet, sometimes I can't help feeling that this is where the old and rejected have come to pass their measly single lives!  Which then makes me think--- am I just lonely for companionship?  If I knew that I could let down the drawbridge and let someone in when the day comes... can I still have the life I always wanted... just with a slightly skewed picture... maybe a little less ABC Family and a little more Food & Travel?  Is all that I want is someone to care when I'm gone?  Do I need kids for that?  Do I even need a husband?  Will it say that my life was less than someone else's in fullness if I don't have rows of people, whole generations, that are there because of me?  Will my life be less meaningful if I don't have a fireplace with stocking after stocking hanging above it at Christmas time, and framed pictures of people throughout the years-- dance recitals, graduations, weddings?

And, I confuse myself...  because I can't tell if I'm accepting things the way they are and pressing on or if I'm just convincing myself that I actually want this other life when in reality I want the cookie-cutter, pottery barn, big house in the suburbs near the good schools life???  And this life I'm convincing myself that I want (or do I really want it?) isn't even one that I can maintain right now--- sure, I might be ok not having the husband and kids if I could afford to travel, if I was doing something I love (like writing-- and I was good at it).  But that is not my life. The reality is I go to a job where I make enough to get by, I escape through books, my biggest joys are the days I spend with my mom, my sister, and my nephews and my morning latte.

And at the end of the day as much as I want to believe that I will someday be the next Elizabeth Gilbert, the reality is my box wasn't filled with National Geographics and maps of places I'd like to go.  Sure, I always knew I wanted to go to Paris & London (and I did) so maybe now I just need to dream of new places... but my box was always filled with a family.  I had names of children that I thought I'd someday have written down in a notebook long before I ever had my first period.
In college I wrote this poem:

I want my little girl
to sit next to me in the mirror
imitating what I do
powdering her nose
and smearing lipstick from one
side of her precious lips to the other
I want to laugh and take pictures of her
so the moment can be with me always
I want to go all out for big events
like Christmas
I want to decorate
to entertain
to go caroling and create new traditions
to pass on to my little girl
I want to go to her dance recitals
and watch her move gracefully
because she is a girl
and she can
Most of all I want her to
give me a kiss good night
every night
and then go upstairs and say
her prayers
before her little head rests
on her pillow and she is
carried off to the sweetest of dreams

I even knew what I would decorate her nursery like... and I'm still the girl that though my life was falling apart and I was prancing around town in a bracelet that said "Fall Risk" from my ovary surgery (I thought it was too symbolic to take off), I still went into the little children's clothing store Janie and Jack (mostly because I'm a masochist) and bought a onesie that was a promise to myself that I would not give up hope or let go of my dream.

So here I am... 5 years later, approaching 32.  Is it time to give up hope?  Life sure isn't what I expected it to be or even what I want it to be.  I've heard it said that God only gives us what we can handle-- and for the most part I feel with what I was dealt I've done a pretty good job, but I do feel I'm at the proverbial crossing in the woods.  Do I get my ass in shape, find someone to share my life with, and hope a miracle happens or that we can someday afford to adopt?  Do I let go of the box in my closet and quit dragging that around with me?  Do I start looking for a career that satisfies me and takes me places that can make me forget that I once wanted more than anything else to be a mom?

I think the answer is that I build the kind of life that I want if it's just going to be me, and if life throws some curveballs (which it inevitably will) then I adapt as they come; and the most important thing is to not close off my heart to the possibility of curveballs.  And hopefully, I'm praying to God, I figure it all out one day and can find peace with what has been given to me and the choices that I've made since.