That same consulting firm that had us do Rivers of Life last month has been offering ‘trainings’ for my workplace since October. Back in October, they had us ‘write a letter to a child under six in our lives’ expressing what we wanted for their future. It had a handy Mad Libs style format where the “I hope” type sentence starters were already preprinted, and all you had to do was fill out what came after. After we all filled these out, they then did the classic ‘reverse psychology’ twist in which what we want for the child is actually a reflection of our values. And, values differ by culture, etc. etc. etc…
Now, I do have a nephew-in-law. (Or, I guess, just a nephew? Does the child of your Partner’s brother still require the ‘in-law’ moniker?) I just…kind of forgot he existed for the duration of that exercise in October. Because we live half a continent away and haven’t seen the kid in person since he was first born in 2017, because first The Crisis of 2018 happened, then in 2019 we were trying to recoup financially from my being off work in 2018, and then in 2020 covid happened. (And, also, too many of both sides of my Partner’s family started espousing horrible opinions, and we were more than happy to have an excuse not to go visit them.) So, we are very much the ‘send the kind of actually awesome Christmas and birthday gifts that the more religious relatives won’t allow him to take to their houses, but at least he’s allowed to play with at my Partners’ parents’ house’ and ‘keep a photo on the fridge’ kind of aunt and uncle. (Except, not even that. Because we have lost all of our magnets but one at some point, and that pride of place is used to hold up the menu of our favorite Indian place. So, we don’t even really have a photo on the fridge…) We’re not anti-kid in general, but we aren’t also so oriented towards our families that I thought of an extended relative when asked to write to a ‘kid.’
So – having forgotten that there was an obvious solution – I wrote my letter to our Hypothetical Future Child. Because, as I’ve alluded to occasionally, we’ve vaguely “talked about talking about” having a kid someday.
But, did I ever mention I have poor executive functioning? Because I do.
Now, normally I’m quite good about working around that. So good, in fact, that a full six years before I ever got diagnosed with ADHD, I had already had the thought that “birth control pills are a recipe for failure for me.” Taking a single pill at the very same time each day? Without fail?! Or I’d end up with a child while still working on my degree?! Yeah, no thank you. I could (can?) barely manage to finish all 14 days of an antibiotic, and I still regularly forget to take a good 20% of my weekly doses of those ADHD pills that are supposed to help me to not forget things like taking my pills.
Planned Parenthood will always have a fond place in my heart because when my university health clinic – as well as most of the ‘in plan’ private doctors vaguely in the area that I went to for second opinions – all told me that I couldn’t get a copper IUD as a then twenty-something nulliparous woman for unspecified ‘reasons,’ Planned Parenthood happily acknowledged that, yes, a scatterbrained woman trying to manage pills – when she can’t even ever seem to manage to remember what the date of her last period was when asked by the clinic doctor – maybe required a slightly more ironclad solution. Thus, they gave me an IUD, informed me that technically it was rated for ten years, but really could go up to twelve, and presumably assumed that I’d probably remove it long before that time when I behaved like a normal adult who remembered time and did things like actually decide to have a child. (So why worry.)
I’d love to go back and find that doctor and say a retroactive thank you. Because that IUD did, in fact, work so well that I entirely forgot about it ever even having an ‘expiration’ date. Until right before Christmas when my Partner absentmindedly watched a commercial for the copper IUD, thought a moment, realized my IUD was older than our relationship, and asked me roughly when mine was due to expire. Which I, at first, absolutely could not remember, until I randomly remembered which *particular* movie I had happened to go see that same weekend. (Because the way my memory works, I can have absolutely no idea what year something happened, but I can remember a tiny detail of what I did after that thing. Because reasons.)
I looked up that movie’s release date. Turns out – fun fact – my IUD is due to expire even it’s “will last up to an extra two years over what it is rated” in…March 2021. Hrmm. And, uh, getting pregnant with an expired copper IUD isn’t a great move, because it can increase the risk of ectopic pregnancies and scarring that reduces fertility later.
Right then. So, uh, the IUD has to come out. That seems…readily apparent. But, uh, then what?
You see, if I put another one in, it’s almost de facto giving up on having kids. Because if I were the kind of person who was secure and safe and ‘confident’ enough in myself (or the world) to ever actually choose to have kids, we’d probably have chosen to yank the thing in 2019. (Presumably, if my Partner didn’t leave me in 2018, he isn’t going to for anything else? Once you’ve walked through Hell with someone, you’re probably good to actually trust them? Even with massive trauma-based trust issues?) But, I am not that kind of person. I have no idea what it would take for me to wake up one day and suddenly go ‘yes, I am confident and ready. Let’s voluntarily pull this thing out and go for it.’ I just don’t have that kind of certainty about anything. Ever. To the point that I’ve said on multiple occasions over the years that I almost wish my IUD weren’t so perfectly reliable, because an ‘oops, surprise’ might be the only way I ever actually made the ‘choice’ to have a kid.
My IUD was perfectly reliable and discharged its duty faithfully. I, however, still managed to be very ADHD about it. To the point that it took a commercial designed to convince other women to get an IUD to remind me that I a) had one and that b) it wouldn’t last forever. And, with true irony magnet timing, I was magically reminded of both of those facts right at the exact moment in which I needed to be reminded.
Did I also mention I have no filter sometimes? At least, when trying to make ‘small talk’ with people who have been in my life for years, but who aren’t quite ‘friends’? Like, say, my hairdresser? Who has, by this point, heard all about my chronic illness diagnosis journey (and watched me faint) and handled one time when I literally cried in her chair during 2018 reasonably well? And for whom I’ve (hopefully also reasonable well, I hope?) handled the time she cried while telling me at our first appointment after 2020’s lockdown about how her husband had barely survived covid in the Northeast’s initial Surge?
Yeah. So, she knows a lot about me that probably polite conversation dictates she shouldn’t. And vice versa. Which means that – given I had a hair appointment shortly after I discovered my IUD expires in March and I was still in the initial ‘panic’ phase – she has now also discovered that it is due to expire. And, either she knows me well or I’m just that transparent. Because her response to the whole thing was:
“Well, you seem like the kind of person who needs the universe to force you into the decision. It’s probably the only way you’ll ever have [a kid]. And, since you’ve been getting your hair done once every six months, I look forward to seeing you again next year when you are completely stressed out about having made the decision that I – and the universe – am telling you to make.”
My Partner’s response to her response? “Yeah, seems about right.”
Is it wrong that my hair stylist is probably so right that she has a point? I really never am going to be capable of deciding to have a child. But neither am I quite capable of deciding not to have a child.
It it is almost a relief that the stupid IUD is expiring. Because I can choose to not choose. I can theoretically have it removed (in February – not March! – apparently, because the universe has also dictated that that is the only available appointment where they can accommodate a Partner in the room during covid) and just do nothing else different.** Not actively ‘try to conceive,’ but not actively avoid conceiving either. Just be my usual ADHD self who has only the vaguest idea of when her own cycle is and eventually either wake up one day and go, “Okay, pretty sure I should have had a period by now…” or just continue to have them. My Partner is also ADHD. It’s not like he has much better of a sense of my cycle. (See also: the Harry Potter quote from this previous Brevity is the Soul of Apathetically if you need proof of that.)
Or, at least, that’s vaguely the (not a) plan. I still have a whole month in which to freak out about that (not a) plan. (Or, alternately, given ‘one month from now’ is most definitely in the ADHD ‘not now’ time horizon, I have one month in which to totally forget I even made the appointment. Because it doesn’t actually feel ‘real’ at the moment, so could still conceivably be forgotten. Then – when my calendar helpfully reminds me one day beforehand – just shrug my shoulders and go because ‘well, it’s too late to cancel and reschedule before the actual March deadline.’)
Since the absence of birth control implies the hypothetical potential that the ‘Hypothetical Future Child’ to whom I wrote in October might “someday” be “no longer hypothetical”, have my letter. It – per those consultants – reflects something about my values. (As, I’m sure, does the fact that I forgot to write it to my nephew-in-law, but, uh, I’m sure I won’t forget my own child exists. Even with ADHD. So, uh, please don’t take that October lapse of memory as any kind of sign what sort of parents we’ll be.) For those wondering, the parts in bold are the actual prompts we were given to start.
October 28, 2020
Dear Hypothetical Future Child,
Welcome to the world. I hope that you grow up to be able to trust yourself and that you find others who deserve your trust. I want you to experience finding your passion, and to always speak up for what’s right (even when it means speaking up alone.)
I know that you will learn to embrace those parts of yourself that others might claim makes you a “freak”, or lesser, or “wrong” as your strengths, and that you will never let others extinguish those things that make you, “you.” I hope that you will also embrace the uniqueness of others without judging them.
My greatest hope for you is that you will always know that you are enough, just as you are. You are more than what the world will try to reduce you to. I also want you to feel that you can always tell us both what you really need to feel safe and loved.
Your future mom (and dad)
P.S. – This is totally a form template. That I was given for an exercise at work. If you ever actually find this note, please note this is probably the shortest note I will ever write to you. I am much less concise than this normally. But, I hope, also more elegant when I’m writing freehand.
**I know someone is going to mention that there is should be at least a couple of things I do differently. Like take a prenatal vitamin and watch my alcohol consumption. Don’t worry. It turns out I’m just naturally so deficient in so many things that I already take a bunch of supplements, and my doctor has recommended I take ‘prenatal’ vitamins for much longer than a child was ever on my radar. Because they have higher amounts naturally of things I need. (And I still have to take additional targeted supplements on top of that!) And, while we do drink, we only really ever drink on very special occasions and not that much. None of the things you are ‘supposed’ to do actually reflect enough of a change in my life that they (in theory) break the illusion that I am ‘not doing anything different.’
Need a recap of anything I’m talking about in any post? Check out my Glossary of Terms.