I wake up Friday morning with a sentence in my head. “I’m never going to have a baby.” I always knew I wanted to be pregnant, knew I wanted to carry a baby inside me, grow round and heavy, even when I was afraid of giving birth, even when I waffled about raising a child. I’ve known for years it wasn’t happening, not this lifetime. I don’t know what odd fitful spitting of neurons, what elusive dream has me recognizing it again now before I am fully awake, as I lay belly down in my warm bed, the birds making a lovely racket outside my open door, my two furred ones nestled against my calf and curve of back. I think about how I’d decided to have a child on my own, had begun to do my research. Then I met Joe. The day I first laid eyes on him on the bus, I came home to a message on my answering machine from a potential sperm donor. I turn now on my side, trying not to jostle my felines, remembering the voice on the machine, the bizarre timing. But Joe didn’t want anymore children, and I wanted a life with him more than I wanted a child on my own. I chose Joe. I remember standing in the doorway looking across the bedroom at him, wondering if he had saved my life, if I would have died in childbirth. I stretch and extricate myself with care, kiss my companions, crawl out of bed.
Hours later, my morning walk behind me and my chores almost done, I am mixing oats and tuna juice and medicinal tea together for the cats. I am ready to be done, longing for my own first cup of tea, my dreamy downtime on the courtyard patio. I place their bowls on the kitchen floor. Sable tastes his, then returns to glare at me where I stand beside the stove. He sits there, waiting for rectification. I added a few grains of cayenne to the mix this morning. How could it possibly make that much difference to him? Seven grains between the two of them? I am angry, then, maybe because I am feeling behind in my day, maybe because I am cranky, too long without a proper breakfast, only one tablespoon of almond butter in me yet. I yell at him, maybe because it is so damn frustrating to have him waltz away from his full bowl when I already worry he is too thin. I don’t want him skipping breakfast, am afraid he can’t afford to, so I take out tomorrow’s oat concoction to start over, no cayenne this time. I place the glass bowl on top of the toaster oven to warm it. But I don’t just sigh my helplessness, my worry–I yell at him some more. I say things to make him feel guilty for not liking the food, for making all the work I just did be for nothing.
“I work hard for you,” I yell. I know how ridiculous I am, but I don’t stop. “This food doesn’t just materialize,” I say. He looks at me like I’m crazy, which I am. He walks outside, and I make my tea while the oven takes the chill off the second batch of food. I sit under the little red umbrella and sip the hot, sweet tea. I let things slide off me. I remember my waking thought, and I think about how good it is I don’t have children. I would have yelled at them the same way. It would have been bad, doing that to a child, making them feel wrong. I want to learn not to yell at my cats, but they don’t take it on, don’t take it in the way a child would. They have thicker hides. And they don’t speak English. They avoid me until my sanity returns. I apologize to Sable while he inspects a cluster of rocks beside the small palm. There must be signs of invasion because his sniffing is serious. “I’m sorry, Boo,” I say. I tell him a few times. He blinks at me. All is forgiven. I’m never going to give birth, I think again. This is a good thing. I have my hands full learning how to tend to the little ones I already have.