Crocheted Baby Sneakers Set Me Off

Booties and squirrelsI was looking through Facebook the other day when I saw pictures of little crocheted sneakers for babies. Friends showered the post with likes and loves, as if they had never seen such things before. But I had.

The pictures took me back to the 70s when I was a newlywed crocheting baby booties shaped like sneakers. I had all kinds of fun patterns for baby shoes, and also for stuffed animals. I had graduated from college with a degree in journalism two weeks before we got married, but then I couldn’t get a newspaper job. We were in the middle of a recession, and nobody was hiring. My husband was still in school.

I wound up working part-time stocking shelves in the housewares department at JC Penney. That left a lot of spare time. I spent it watching TV, starting with the early afternoon soap operas, continuing into the talk shows, and then into Star Trek (the original one). Every day. It wasn’t much different from my mother’s life. Between lunch and dinner, she did needlework and watched TV, too. In my mind, that’s what moms did, and I was going to be a mom. Of course. Love, marriage, baby carriage.

I made a ton of baby booties, along with little squirrels and bears, rattles, and tiny hats, which I stashed away for the babies I was sure were coming. No one had ever told me otherwise.

My TV-and-crochet afternoons ended when the people who had loaned us their television took it back. We couldn’t buy our own. We were really poor, so poor Chevron took our one credit card away for non-payment and some days we lived on zucchini and Christmas cheese boxes. Eventually I got a newspaper job. It didn’t pay much, but it got me off the couch.

Decades later, I still have some of those crocheted booties and stuffed animals in the closet. They’re just too cute to throw away. For a while, I thought I’d sell them at boutiques, but I didn’t have enough, and since I wasn’t having any babies, I didn’t feel like making any more.

Silly little things like crocheted baby sneakers can bring all the feelings back. How many of you have made or collected things for future babies? Did you have any doubt at the time that you’d be using them? What do you do with them now?

I never envisioned that I’d be pushing 70, collecting my senior discount at the grocery store as I buy my dog food and dinners for one, nothing for a husband or for kids who might drop in, but that’s where I was yesterday, and those baby sneakers are still in the closet.

I had no idea I wouldn’t live a version of my mother’s life, that the marriage wouldn’t last or that my ex would not want to have children. If I’d known, would I have married him? I hope not. I never thought to ask him, “Hey do you want to have kids?” Or even, “How many kids do you want to have?” Sure, he hustled me into the student health center for birth control pills, but that would end once we got married, wouldn’t it? We’d have lovely brown-eyed, brown-haired babies.

I hope most young women are not as dumb as I was. My advice now to anyone getting serious about a relationship is to ask the questions: Do you want to have kids? How many? How soon? Is there any reason why you might not be able to? You also need to ask about birth control—what is he/she using?—and STDs, maybe not in the same conversation. Ask in a joking way if you need to, but find out. How do you bring it up without risking your relationship? I’m not sure. Choose your moment, but you have to take that chance. If they run away, maybe that will save you a lot of grief.

Most readers here have already gotten into situations where they’re being prevented from having children. Now they need to know whether they should leave or stay. They’re forced to choose between the partner and the children they might, maybe, possibly have with someone else. It’s so hard. If only we had asked sooner.

If only we hadn’t crocheted all those little red squirrels, brown bears, and itty-bitty sneakers.

 

If You Don’t Want Kids, Just Say It

This morning, I found a card in my files that I wrote 13 years ago: “We are biologically programmed to reproduce. Like every childbearing creature on earth, our whole beings are set up to make babies, to continue the species in an unending chain. If we don’t, we wander, lost, trying to find our way home. It’s as basic as eating, sleeping and excreting.” Ironically, I woke up thinking the same thing this morning as I wondered what to write this week. Maybe it was seeing the pregnant women on TV’s “Bachelor in Paradise” last night.

Before you get mad, think about it. We have all these parts designed to make, carry, deliver, and feed our offspring. Why would we choose not to use them? Why would some people go so far as to surgically disable the baby-making parts? What other animal does that? It seems unnatural. What do you think? I really want to know.

Last week’s post about my friend’s daughter’s fiancé suddenly announcing that he doesn’t want kids sparked a barrage of comments both at the blog and at the Childless by Marriage Facebook page. Some were sympathetic, some quite angry. How dare I suggest that that guy or anybody has to want children? He has a right to change his mind. He might have good reasons for feeling the way he does. I know. It’s all true. And it still sucks. In every situation like this, somebody is going to wind up brokenhearted.

Consider this: For most couples, having children is the default position. Children are assumed until someone challenges that assumption. Four out of five women give birth. The number of childless couples is growing, but those of us without children are still the minority.

When you’re dating someone, I think it’s natural to assume you’re both planning to have children someday—unless someone says something. And that’s the thing. It’s an awkward conversation, could be a date-stopper or a relationship-killer, but someone has to ask the questions. Do you want children? Are you able to have children? How will you feel if I get pregnant? How will you feel if I never do? You both need to honestly say how you feel about it: I really don’t want children. Or I want children so badly that I don’t want to live without them.

If you’re not going with the default position of having children, someone has to say it. And not after the wedding flowers have already been ordered. People can feel the way they want to feel. That’s fine. Just say it before it’s too late. Please.

Yes, folks change their minds. But—and this is the old Catholic lady talking—if you agreed to children before you got married, you can’t break that contract later. That’s just selfish and you shouldn’t hurt someone you love that way.

I expect some difficult comments. My back is in bad shape today, and I hurt too much to be diplomatic. So let the comments fly.