If there was one song I thought might sum up my life most succinctly right now, it is the 1968 Led Zeppelin classic Babe I’m Going to Leave You. No, I’m not thinking of abandoning a person or leaving the Yukon in the wake of impending cold weather, but rather, when Robert Plant howls the song’s famous “babe, babe, babe babe … baby, baby, baby, baby, baby” lament, I feel like he’s hacked into my e-mail account and is giving me a point-form summary of its contents.
Simply everyone I know is having a baby. Older friends, young couples, acquaintances from high school — even What’s Up Yukon‘sirreplaceable office coordinator is leaving us to start a new journey with a baby due this very week. At first I thought there was something in the water, and thus avoided the tap for weeks, and then I settled into the reality that I was “getting to that age” when my friends started having families. But as a colleague recently noticed, staring back at her from the covers of magazines like People and Us Weekly lately are smiling teenage starlets, posing with full bellies or cradling unnecessarily Photoshopped infants in their arms, their faces glowing with the joys of new motherhood.
I am truly happy for them all. Really. But the selfish part of me braces whenever a friend says “I’ve got some news,” because with every new pal who embarks on the journey to parenthood, I know that bothering them with my petty whining and silly gripes will soon be, if not off-limits, then certainly not tactful. I know the order of things. If a mutual complaining session with a friend can be viewed as a game of relativist rock-paper-scissors, swollen ankles, scary amnio sessions and college savings accounts beat “my Internet is unreliable” every time.
The flip side of this, of course, is that — as many have remarked — motherhood can be the loneliest place in the world, and I’m certain no mother wants to be excluded from the absurd pleasure of gossip and idle chit-chat simply because she’s given birth. Parenthood changes everything, but it surely does not quash the innate human need for intellectual stimulation and discourse.
A funny thing happens to those not currently parentally inclined in the wake of a wave of baby-mania. There are mixed emotions — jealousy, relief that it’s not you, admiration and eventually, outright awe. I’ve always thought having kids means submitting to the idea that your heart pops right out of your chest and runs around with arms and legs, and you have to maintain enough faith in the world to let it explore, run free, bang into tables and fall down without falling to pieces yourself. It fills me with fear and admiration at the same time. From weaning to kindergarten and from college to marriage, being a parent is a series of goodbyes.
Early this September, my maternal grandmother passed away, surrounded by her children and one of her many grandchildren in a hospital in England. She had been sick for a while, and, when things took a turn for the worse, my mother got on a plane from B.C. to be by her side. After a 10-hour flight, my mother went directly to the hospital. She spoke to my grandmother briefly, and then, two hours after my mother had arrived, my grandmother passed peacefully, in her sleep. I don’t know how she did it, but I’ve no doubt she waited for her baby girl. Waited for that piece of her to return her before she went. I’m not given to sentimentality, but it makes me marvel. Thousands of miles and a lifetime away, your child is always a piece of your heart.
And so, while my circle of friends-without-babies grows smaller, and my petulance about being knocked down their priority list occasionally rises, at the same time I can’t help but marvel while observing these incredible connections form before my eyes. That said, I think I’ll stay away from the tap water for the next little while, and reserve my own “baby, baby, baby, baby” moments for when I get the Led out.