Thursday, October 13, 2005

Hannah Unanswered

Hannah Unanswered by Wendy Sumner-Winter
Photo by Erica Carter

The question is often asked of me, “When are you having children?” My reply is always simply: “I’m not.” Rarely does anyone leave it at that. Usually the follow-up comment is something like, “Sure you will” or “You’ll change your mind.”

I am Hannah Unanswered. As I have, she prayed, plead, and pined for a child. God gave her Samuel. My Samuel will never come. I am a barren woman.

When I finally reveal this wound to someone, and once we’ve wrestled through the “Have You Tried Everything…I Know A Great Doctor…Yeah, That’s What I Thought Before My First Child” diatribe, I get one of two responses. The first is an offhanded “Oh, well, you can always adopt.” The second: “Then you will always have your body and lots of time and money all to yourself.” This is what people see. I suppose that it is true. I suppose I should feel relieved.

My body will be spared. It will never be subjected to morning sickness – they tell me – never undergo the pangs of bone shifting and stretch marks and toxemia. I will always be the flat-bellied forlorn one in the waiting room searching desperately for anything but the parents’ magazines or Highlights. The only reason my ankles will swell will be from unbridled jaunts of all-night dancing. I will never feel the discomfort of seven pounds of human doing a jig on my bladder or suffer jabs in my ribs from little fists. My arms and neck, legs and back will never ache from carrying life inside of me. I will never have an excuse for craving ice cream or be able to explain away the extra twenty pounds on my hips. My breasts will never sag or deflate.

I am reminded that I will never subsist on a diet of soggy zwieback toast that I’ve found smeared into the rug or smell of rancid baby formula. I’ll never settle for strained peas and chicken fingers. I can drink Diet Coke, coffee, and wine to my heart’s content and never check for Aspartame or worry about fetal alcohol syndrome. My clothes will never be stained with spit up or runny noses.

My time will be my own. I’ll take a shower whenever I please – without having to wait for naptime. I will never have to kiss scabbed knees or hold my cookies and a bloody tourniquet in the emergency room. I will have no sleepless nights.

My home will not become a playground. Sharp and breakable objects will always have a place on my coffee table, and I can listen to Joni Mitchell instead of a purple singing dinosaur. My foot will never be bruised from the mislaid Lego and I won’t ever have to put on a robe to go to the bathroom in the middle of the night. Dirty diapers will never fill my garbage pail and my walls will remain crayon free. Layers of finger painted masterpieces won’t clutter my sleek stainless refrigerator. I can have a white couch.

My counselors also tell me that I will be rich. I will be able to pursue my dreams, assuming they do not include Saturdays at Chuck-E-Cheese with rugrats or field trips to planetariums with prepubescents. I will never have to shell out quarters for the gumball machine at the grocery store or offer consolation when the wrong color comes out. I will always have the resources to be Santa Claus to all the young nieces and nephews, cousins and siblings. I will always be able to buy the extra special gifts that their parents cannot afford to give them. Babysitters and braces, school clothes and space camps will never be line items in my budget. My extra money will buy cruises and couture instead of private schools and prom dresses. I can drive a two-seater that will not accommodate a car seat and never inquire about the school district when shopping for homes.

I am assured that I will always be able to come and go as I please – with no need for planning or forethought. Morning time will be quiet and peaceful with no wailing or gnashing of teeth – I’ll be on time for everything. I will not have to wait for summertime to take a vacation. I will never stand in line for the carousel or a Nintendo Super Duper 64½. My husband and I can have all the time in the world to sit on the front porch reading the paper. We will never be interrupted while making love on the kitchen table. We will never lose the romance in our marriage. My husband and dog will never have to feel second place and I can swear without worrying about my influence.

Of course, holidays will never be stressful. Christmas Eve will never find me piecing together a bicycle or doll house with Danish directions at midnight; and the Easter Bunny will never darken my door with his basket of amphetamines. I can turn the lights off at Halloween, pretending not to be at home. I’ll never hire a clown for a birthday party or bake a teddy bear cake. The Tooth Fairy will not have my address. There will be no need for home movies.

I’m told that we will never have to fight about whether to spank or use time-out or over our favorite boy and girl names. We will never worry over body piercings, tattoos, drugs or curfews. We will never pay for the wedding, deal with a daughter-in-law, or fret over spoiling grandchildren. We will grow old peacefully, quietly, together.

Barrenness, they seem to say, is a gift. I have been spared all the horror, heartbreak and hell of bearing children.

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