#64: Missing the Target

#64: Missing the Target

It started, as many epiphanies do, in the middle of a Target store.

While I am intimately familiar with the layout of most local Targets, one day found me in uncharted waters – the children’s section. I had wandered from aisle to aisle clutching a multi-page baby shower gift registry, trying and failing to understand the odd item descriptions. I mean, seriously, can you imagine a childless person successfully making sense of “Naked Baby Bop”? Much less, locating one of the darn things on a poorly labeled retail shelf? After thirty minutes of scrutiny, I had found not one hint of a single item on the list. I called a fellow childless friend in tears.

I am not sure why, but shopping for this particular shower had brought several uncomfortable realities to the forefront of my thoughts. First, I knew “nothin’ bout birthin’ no babies,” or their gear. Second, I was beginning to doubt that I would ever get the chance to learn about those things on a personal level. Third, given the ages and life plans of many friends and co-workers, this was just the first of many, many shower shopportunities ahead.

You have to bear in mind that as a thirty-something unmarried female who had showered and married off several groups of friends, only never to hear from most of them again, showers in general are kind of a sore subject. But word got out that I owned a punch bowl (punch being a legal requirement for most showers), had a good source for petit fours, and knew how to make nifty invitations using Microsoft Publisher. And so, my shower planning/giving season began.

The opportunity to share in the excitement of friends who were beginning, or adding to, their family, was a blessing. But beneath my joy for others, began this ever-increasing well of sadness for myself and the family I did not have. This was weird, because I didn’t have the “must have children” gene, or perhaps it was just recessive. And having no younger siblings or babysitting experience made infants seem very mysterious.

Ever the researcher, I started reading “mommy blogs” to demystify the baby having, baby rearing process. I studied mommying like I was going to take a test on it. The multitude of showers in my life gave me plenty of opportunities to obsess over whether or not I felt I was cut out for motherhood. Most of the time I was relieved the answer was no – parenthood being the hardest work in the world to do! But occasionally, the answer was yes. Often, it was maybe.

My Target epiphany? In the event I had a baby, it would be unlikely that I would do so on my own, alone. I had totally forgotten one half of the parenting equation. This was such a relief! It was ok to for me to be me, with all my crazy imperfections, and still, maybe, possibly, one day, conceive of conceiving. I didn’t have to talk myself out of the future family that had secretly begun to take shape in my head.

It’s been several years since that epiphany, and unfortunately, the second half of my parenting equation has failed to materialize. Maybe I was not looking for him in the right place, or hard enough. I suppose that point is academic now. In my mid-thirties I was diagnosed with a health condition. Not serious, but a major cause of infertility in women. Then I reached my mid-forties, the mostly universally acknowledged fertility line in the sand. There is no potential husband in my life, and I just don’t have what it takes (on several levels) to be a single parent.

I really can’t explain how odd it feels to grieve the loss of a family you were never fully convinced you wanted, but now can never have. If there is a how-to book or blog on this I’ve yet to find it. But shortly after my Target epiphany, I made two decisions that seemed like cop-outs at first, but really have helped me maintain some emotional equilibrium. I no longer shop for baby gifts; gift cards are fine. And I don’t attend showers anymore.

Maybe someday will bring another “shower season” for me, and I’ll be able to fully enter into the joyous celebrations of parents-to-be. But until then, if I see a bewildered person roaming the aisles of a Target clutching a baby shower gift registry, I will gently point them in the direction of the “Naked Baby Bops.” Anything to help a fellow single shopper! And then I’ll probably point them towards the chocolate aisle. Because that’s a target everyone can hit.

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