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April 3, 2016

The M Word: Kerry Ryan on Wishing and Washing

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This is the first in a series of posts catching up writers from The M Word, and finding out what they’re up to now. (Find out more about The M Word and read its rave reviews right here.) 

Kerry Ryan’s “Confessions of a Dilly-Dallying Shilly-Shallier” was a will-she/won’t-she essay exploring the question of whether or not to take the great leap into motherhood, which makes the prospect of catching up with her more than two years later—it’s actually been even longer since the piece was written—most enticing. 

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Motherhood: More Wishing and Washing

Confession: by the time I’d finished writing my essay for The M Word, about deciding whether or not I should have a child, I was already pregnant.

Which seems pretty damn decisive for someone who wrote about flip-flopping on the “should we/shouldn’t we?” question.

Writing the essay didn’t exactly help me find an answer, but it did help me understand I had to make a decision. In the end, the decision I made (and ok, my husband was part of it too), was kind of a lame one. I decided we would try.

I was 36 and knew the fertility odds were against me. Plus, my periods were irregular and I figured that didn’t bode well. So, believing it wasn’t likely to work, I decided we’d try for a year and that would be that. We’d have tried, and our life of quiet activities, sleeping until 9:00am on weekends, and taking vacations would continue as usual.

Looking back, I wouldn’t have made it through a year of trying; I’d have chickened out, probably after the first month. Luckily for all of us, my daughter is brave, decisive and seizes the day. I was pregnant after the first try.

At the time, I thought didn’t think: I have made this decision. It was: the decision has been made. (And sometimes: the baby has decided.) But, no matter how, the deciding was complete. What I didn’t realize was this decision was a monster from mythology – decide to have a child and you face 5,000 new decisions. Name. Brand of car seat. Helicopter or free-range parenting. Cloth or disposable. Gender neutral or gender specific.

When you don’t have a newborn, deciding the exact minute a baby should fall asleep or be woken, the position to hold her when she’s nursing, seem inconsequential. When you’re a new mother, every decision is dire. Choose incorrectly and your child will never again sleep in her own bed, will have trust issues, or be otherwise stunted and screwed for life. Even now, whenever I google ideas for trying to get my three-year-old to eat her veggies, I learn that my decision (no dessert until you eat your green beans), guarantees she’ll have an eating disorder when she’s twelve.

Of course, I am not the only decision-maker in the family. My husband and I have equal parenting roles. But in the case of one for and one against, who breaks the tie? The one who is most/least tired/frustrated. The one who is sitting closest. The one who is blaming the other because our toddler is being irrational. So, we’re not always consistent. I’ve read that this will cause our daughter to become a gambling addict, but sometimes we all just need to get back to bed.

As a mother, the decision I have to make most often is laugh or cry? (And, truthfully, sometimes it’s cry or weep uncontrollably?) But, all those little questions have helped me answer the next big one: should we have another? On that, I am resolved.

Kerry Ryan has published two books of poetry, The Sleeping Life (The Muses’ Company, 2008) and Vs. (Anvil, 2010), a finalist for the Acorn-Plantos Award for People’s Poetry. Her poems have appeared in journals and anthologies across Canada and she has a poem forthcoming this month in All We Can Hold: Poems of Motherhood (Sage Hill Press).

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