At a friend’s barbeque this weekend, a woman I didn’t know approached me as I played with Lila in the pool. There were the oohs and ahhs customary to seeing a chunky infant splashing around in a swimsuit, and simple small talk. She did something my innocent pre-baby self used to do, comparing child-rearing to having a dog (man, I was a tool), but then asked a wildly unexpected question.
Instead of the typical, “What do you miss about life before kids?” She more thoughtfully asked, “What would you miss the most if you returned to life without kids?”
This woman, who had shared her own desire to remain childless, threw me for a loop with this one. She asked it earnestly, but I struggled to answer appropriately without sounding like a total whack job.
I kind of wanted to scream, “LOOK AT HER, DUH, SHE IS THE PERFECT HUMAN SPECIMEN.”
But, since I’m a lover of words–the right words–for every situation, I opted against shouting baby-loving obscenities and paused to consider my answer.
I just didn’t know what to say. It felt suffocating to try to explain the love for your child on the spot. Nothing I said would be good enough, and everything I considered felt like a canned beauty-pageant contestant response.
It’s like explaining why you need air and the sun; you sound like an idiot when you try to break it down. You just do. They are essential to life. And you don’t know or care if life could exist without them.
Until you experience it, you can’t really understand what it feels like to nurture a human life, day in and day out. To have created an utterly unique soul who is equal parts you and your spouse. You will be fearfully awed and humbled.
It’s like the moment in The Wizard of Oz when things switch from black and white to color. The world may still appear the same, but somehow everything you see is different, and brighter. And there’s no going back.