In the last few weeks two young women I know have had babies. One was a part of my youth group when I used to be a youth minister and one was the very first editor I hired for the Rat Creek Press.
I know them – not well, but know them and have known them for a long time. I have known them as young women, they are young women still. It has been delight to watch their pregnancies progress and delight to see their babies, two happy and healthy little girls.
Delight mixed with a bit of sorrow. My friends, at least those who are going to have babies, have done so. Their children are older now, the last of them almost school aged. I am getting older, and in the not so distant future will approach a time where it would no longer be feasible to have a baby. This is the start of middle age for me.
This is the next stage I suppose – the time where I give this over to the younger women. For a long time others would have babies and I would wish it was me. Now I watch over them from a distance, feeling the old crone, watching and wringing hands and hoping. Trying to position myself between them and fate and life. Making signs to avert evil and crossing my fingers. Holding up amulets and picking simples. Praying my store of bad luck will some how protect them. Praying for the young to have their chance and remain innocent of sorrow and tragedy.
Time has passed and when people ask why I don’t have children, I don’t tell them of Gabe. Now I know that it won’t be me. I know that I made a choice, and I am aging and soon there will come a time when people will no longer assume that I might still have children. The sorrow and stickiness in having to find an adroit answer to an impossible question will pass.
While the time will come, I am not so old that people don’t ask me if I will have a baby. They don’t mean to pry, they don’t even offend any more. The time is coming though, and soon, when they will stop asking. In times past, a less mature me might have wished that they would stop asking or that I could race to a point 6 years hence where I would be to old for people to ask.
I would have rushed ahead and substituted one type of grief for another. The forgotten child for the curse of the old woman, she assumed to have ovaries dessicated and hopes dashed.
And now I know better or different. There is nothing for it but to watch the ship sail. Not all the time. It isn’t healthy to spend your days staring at a distant horizon and waiting for the ship to pass out of sight. Better is to get about your life and perhaps look up once in a while.
Time will pass. Babies will be born. People will still ask for a while. And I will tell them that the ship sailed.
Late at night, I will stare at the horizon, knowing the truth, the ship is still sailing, without me on it. I will stare at the horizon, watching the sun set. I will see how much further away it is.
And one day, the ship that was my fertility, it will pass out of sight. Other, younger women will populate it. I will wish them well. God speed and bon voyage. I will turn around and kick the sand on the beach, and then head back to the life I made for myself on a more distant shore.
And I will know this truth – the grief will change with passing seasons. It will not leave.
No change in the weather and no change in me,
I don’t want to leave but you can’t live for free;
And you can’t eat the air and you can’t drink the sea,
No change in the weather and no change in me.
Ron Hynes and Murray McLauchlin – No Change in Me