Two nights ago, I had an interesting, vivid dream. One of those vivid dreams that, even when things stop making sense, the world around you feels as real and authentic as the waking world. The type of dream that leaves you disoriented when the alarm clock goes off. The type of dream that you find yourself thinking about long after, even after you've had another full night's sleep, complete with a new set of dreams.
I get why I had the dream the way that I did. My niece (who is only a few years younger than me, but an explanation of my family tree is for a much later date) recently had a baby. My niece was one of those lucky girls who never "looked" pregnant until the baby bump grew to a noticeable (but cute) size. The type of pregnant that you see in television shows, where a very-not-pregnant actress wears an impossibly spherical pad under her adorable maternity dress. And, furthermore, my niece seemed to slim down to her regular size within a month. My niece was able to wear a crop top to the local country music festival before her daughter was even old enough to hold her head up on her own.
In the dream, I had just had a child -- which surprised everyone, including me, as I barely looked pregnant and was right back to my original shape almost immediately after the delivery. Family flocked and cooed and planned belated baby showers. I smiled and cuddled my newborn daughter. I thought about how I needed to buy a crib and move out the guest room furniture from our guest room. I thought about how relieved I was that I had had a daughter, since the guest room was pink and I wouldn't have the time to repaint it.
But, as much as I loved my daughter, I felt an incredible sadness come over me.
It all felt too early. There was still so much I wanted to do before having a child. And while I loved this imaginary daughter, there was a melancholy that followed me throughout the rest of the dream and beyond, long after my husband's alarm woke me up.
I recognize that there are just some things that you are better off accomplishing before children. I've seen too many plans of new moms and dads fall by the wayside as raising their family took more and more time out of their lives. Writers who never really got that Great American Novel written. Travelers who never see another country for decades at a time. Established career people who take a step back, suddenly unable to log in the 70-hour work weeks like they had before. I never wanted to be a parent who jumped into motherhood, assuming I could get everything else done while raising a family -- that I could somehow "have it all". I've seen those moms. Some are wonderful success stories. Through a lot of hard work and a bit of luck, they end up having it all. But I also see moms who fall short of that. Moms who find resentment building in their chest as they scrub marker from the hallway walls instead of putting together the foolproof business proposal.
And it might be because my background is in working with children. I know firsthand how exhausting they can be. How frustrating and unnerving and upsetting. And while I have to strike a balance -- Lord knows I don't want to be that woman having her first child at 40, putting her unborn child at risk for developmental disorders -- I know better than to toss my birth control out the window every time I snuggle a friend's child and get a bit of Baby Fever.
It's scary. I have a lady doctor appointment in a month and I have to tell her that there is a 50/50 chance that, by this time next year, I'll be completely off birth control. Because, as I've discussed earlier, 28/29 is more or less my hard stop when it comes to the family-free life, and I'm now (semi)graciously sliding into 27. I've gotten a lot accomplished in my 27 years on earth. It's just a matter of making sure that I get what I need to get done before having kids, on the off chance that plans outside of the family go on hold for 5 - 10 years.