Today has been all about babies. First thing, I read a facebook update from a colleague declaring his (understandable) excitement about his wife & new-born daughter coming back from hospital. Out shopping, I bump into an old school friend; she’d just found out she was pregnant. After lunch, a very dear friend sent me a photo message, announcing the arrival of his beautiful baby girl. This evening I sat knitting for the baby card I’m making for a cousin’s new baby.
I know of two sets of twins who have arrived in the last couple of weeks. Another friend is about to become a father any day now. My ex-partner will also become first-time dad later this month.
Of these ten babies, all the ones I have seen are truly adorable. Their soft, peachy faces & teeny, tiny hands bring a lump to my throat; all that innocence, all that hope, all that miraculousness that is life. I am overjoyed for all their parents; it is always a thrill when babies are born to people you know will be fantastic mums & dads. Also, having had a fair few arrivals in our extended family over the past four years, I know how a new generation can serve to bring families together – birthdays, Christmas, any occasion really, take on a special meaning when there are little ones about.
So why am I feeling such a sense of loss? Alongside my real happiness at all today’s baby-related news, I have felt a twinge of melancholy. Why? Is it envy? I doubt it. I don’t particularly desire a child of my own; I have never felt broody, nor have children ever figured in my vague dreams for life. Is it nostalgia? Possibly. Several of the parents of this ‘batch’ were comrades in my younger, wilder days; the arrival of children confirms my growing sense of ageing & signifies that those days are gone, never to return.
More than anything, though, I feel a sense of absence. I don’t yearn for a baby, but I yearn for a sense of something. Where will my rites of passage come from? Without marriage or children providing the usual punctuation marks, my life could just stretch out from here to its end without any of the rituals & changes that give shape & meaning. A life of one’s own defined by nothingness.
I will (hopefully!) graduate again next year. But even this seems unsatisfactory; not socially celebrate enough to really be a rite of passage – like weddings & christenings, graduations have a ceremony but there’s no corresponding reception or the other paraphenalia of such events – graduation shower, anyone?! Plus it’s too work-related; I don’t want to become like the academic who supposedly claimed that for every child her siblings had, she had written a book.
I want a life of my own, but I’d also like cultural recognition of the choices I make. Maybe I will travel down an unexpected path & find myself getting married or having babies. Or maybe I will just have to invent my own rituals & rites of passage… Look out for your invitation in the post.