When my friend John started going out with Lizzy, a teacher at least 20 years younger than he was, I kept my qualms to myself. Who was I to judge? Had I not married a much older man myself?
A couple years later, I ran into John and Lizzy at the Toledo, Oregon summer festival. Weary from strolling up and down Main Street, I saw them in the crowd sitting on orange folding chairs by the stage outside Bank of the West and decided to join them in the shade of a big alder tree.
I didn’t notice Lizzy’s belly until they stood to move their chairs into the sun. Was it really rounded under her denim overalls or was I imagining it? No, she was definitely pregnant.
Battling hot flashes and glad to be out of the sun, I remained alone in the shade, gazing up at the yellow and green leaves. With each gentle breeze, waves of sadness washed over me. John had finished raising his family. He had retired. He enjoyed his life of writing, music and bicycle trips. I was certain he did not want to start raising children again, but I could see the whole picture: Lizzy was young, she wanted a family, he loved her, and he could not deny her that part of life.
Of course it could have been an accident, a birth-control failure, but they were both too smart for that. This was pregnancy on purpose. That he would do this for her . . . It echoed in my head like a mantra: that he would do this for her. A corresponding chant answered: that my husband would not.
But I got it wrong. When I asked John about it later, he said he was the one who wanted another child. Lizzy didn’t mind doing without, but he wanted a chance to do a better job than he had before.
Why wasn’t my husband like that?
I had been through this so many times. It was not Fred’s fault. I had married him despite his declaration that he did not want to have children with me, that the three he had with his first wife were all he ever wanted. I had decided it was better to have him without children than to marry someone else I loved less or, more likely, to remain alone. Besides, had I not always placed my career above everything, thinking that someday I would get around to kids, but not today, tomorrow, next week . . .?
Suddenly the toe-tapping music grew tiresome. I needed to do the laundry, start dinner, make some phone calls. I kept glancing at John and Lizzy, unable to stop staring at Lizzy’s belly.
I had thought I was past this, beyond this agonizing over not having children. As I gathered my things, waved goodbye to my friends, and started the long walk to my car, I asked myself “Will it never end?”
Sue Fagalde Lick has been married twice to men who did not give her babies. She blogs on the subject at www.childlessbymarriage.blogspot.com.