“Do you want to have kids?”
It’s March 15, 2007. My girlfriend of the last three months isn’t pushing—though previous girlfriends who’ve lasted this long never broached this subject with me.
We’re lying together in my twin bed in my second-floor Washington, D.C., row house apartment. I push one foot into my boxer shorts, then the other, then pull the elastic band around my waist. I turn back to her and—for the first time out loud—answer this question: “Yeah. I think I do.”
“I’m not trying to push you,” she says. I laugh and roll my eyes at her. “But,” she adds, “it’s important to me—and I want to make sure—that we both want the same things.”
We’ll talk about our life goals that weekend and in many long conversations by phone while she finishes medical school five hundred miles away. We’ll talk about our shared concerns. We’ll talk about money. About where we might want to live. About how many children we might want and how we would raise them.
The next year we’ll get engaged. She’ll help me move to Connecticut for a new job, then again a year later to New Hampshire in time for us to get married. We’ll agree to get a second puppy. We’ll move across town. We’ll move again—four more times in the next ten years, a decade that includes her graduating and four years of residency, me earning two graduate degrees, watching my mother and my wife’s grandfather both survive cancer. We’ll deal with my ten-year-old car being stolen, our basement flooded with cold water, attending the funeral of a college roommate. We’ll deal with taxes and tight budgets, wasted concert tickets and terrific travel arrangements spoiled by the fine print we never read. We’ll deal with shoveling three feet of wet snow from our driveway, and dead mice in the washing machine.
We’ll have three wonderful daughters. I’ll deal with being bedside in the delivery room when they’re born—a half-hearted argument I lost three times.
We’ll deal with bags overflowing with dirty diapers and baby clothes so covered in shit they’ll go straight in the trash. We’ll deal with the costs of daycare. We’ll deal with toddler tantrums because I won’t let one child steal apple slices from her sister’s hands. Or because I cut a sandwich into quarters instead of halves, squares instead of triangles. Or because I poured a cup of milk she did ask for instead of getting her the water she didn’t.
My wife will privately resent my sleeping through the baby crying in the middle of the night. I will privately fear that I might outlive anyone in our family. And I will wake up early, many mornings, second-guessing whether we’ve possibly done something wrong to bring into this world lives that can be only transitory.
March 15, 2017. The sun is not yet up and my wife is still asleep. Our bedroom door slowly creaks open. I hear footy pajamas shuffle across the floor, first toward my wife’s side of our king size bed, then backtracking and toward mine. Our middle daughter climbs up at the corner, crawls over my legs, nestles in by my shoulder. “Snuggle,” she declares, not framing it as a question.
I help her slide beneath the blankets and wrap an arm across her body. I stroke her shoulder and watch her little frame fall and rise with her breathing. “Good morning, Honey,” I whisper. Muffled by a pillow, she whispers back: “Morm-mig, Da-da.”
Sure, Greg Hill’s three daughters are inspirations to him, but their needs and priorities don’t always align with a writer’s need for solace and contemplative introspection. On the other hand, ten years from now his house will have teenagers. His work has appeared in Atlas and Alice, Life and Legends, Queen Mob’s Teahouse, Whiskey Island, and elsewhere. He and his family live in West Hartford, Connecticut.
Greg highly recommends Lwala Community Alliance, whose missions include maternal and child health and education in Lwala, a rural village in Nyanza Province, Kenya. Learn about how the community united to build a much-needed health facility and to empower themselves to improve outcomes in HIV prevention, school attendance and infant mortality. Visit lwalacommunityalliance.org.