“Belize is a great place to have a baby.”
I heard myself say this to Jamaul recently. It felt heavy on the tongue, kinda rolled off and fell out even though I wasn’t sure I wanted to say it. It almost had a question mark at the end. Jamaul nodded and verbally agreed, but I was a little embarrassed. That’s how I often feel when I talk about having a baby at 39.
I admit that baby talk at my age feels a little silly, and also hopeful. I’m well aware that were I to get pregnant today, the pregnancy would be considered high-risk because I’m so old. And yet, it’s not totally crazy, or so I’ve been encouraged. It’s become a bit of a joke in recent years, a novelty, like “Ha, wouldn’t it be funny if I had a baby?!” I’ve been grateful for the kindness of my mother and friends for smiling and laughing along, and not reflecting the complete insecurity I feel when talking about having a child. Because that’s totally what it is.
In my grand vision of things, moving to Belize was part of the baby plan without really calling it that. I’d spoken this out loud to a few folks before I came. It’s cheaper and healthier. The health care is affordable. I can have a doula and a midwife and an herbalist! The change of location suddenly made the possibility greater, as if a shift in geography would magically remove all my worries about becoming a parent. I told myself, inwardly, that I would be happier and more relaxed in Belize, therefore creating the perfect conditions for being pregnant and having a baby.
In New York it was easy to be ambivalent, smiling at babies on the street but being adamant about child-free brunches. I had the safety of high rents and expensive food and the necessary wine to accompany my hectic work schedule as good excuses for why I would be postponing motherhood. Little bits of baby talk peppered my conversations with family increasingly over the years, but more so as an indulgence rather than interrogation. I found myself liking the idea of having a baby but could not really picture that happening in New York, and so was able to settle into the safety of I just need to figure it out.
Now that I am here, I don’t find myself less ambivalent. I have noticed that there are babies everywhere and there is a general baby-friendliness that seems to be part of the culture. On a recent trip to the wireless phone company store I saw that there was a little corner for kids with a table, chairs, and toys – something I would never see in an AT&T store in New York. There’s a relaxed attitude about children here, an openness to them being in all kinds of spaces with adults, and a more hands-off approach which contrasts the pervasive over-parenting and overly-cautious style in the States. I notice these things with curiosity, yet still experience a good deal of anxiety about what it would mean to have a child of my own.
I think I was hoping that finally being here would quell that anxiety. I imagined that the act of moving here would demonstrate my ability to make firm decisions and follow through. That has happened to a degree. However, trying to figure out how to make a living and create a stable life has been a process that has caused me some doubt in itself. This has not made it easier to feel confident about becoming a mother.
The truth is that I want Belize to be my home. Along with that desire comes a wish for Belize to be what I need to feel settled, to be the holy grail location where I can exhale and say “Now I can do anything.” I don’t know if that is possible or if such a place even exists. I do believe that I am here to enter boldly into another stage of my life. Hopefully that includes motherhood.