These were just some of the string of questions I received within a 20-minute span at a recent family reunion, with which I deflect with a polite smile and reply, “‘Eto po muna,” as I cradle Presto, my fluffy two-year-old Shih-Poo/Pomeranian mix.
Although I could just resort to avoiding family reunions altogether, I’ve already mentally prepared myself for the deluge of inquiries surrounding our relatives’ intense fascination with our child-bearing situation (or lack thereof). I got married to my long-time boyfriend just shortly before the pandemic. We had been together for 11 years at that point and, in the eyes of our families and polite society, had abided by the rulebook—or at least fulfilled expectations best summed up in a children’s song: “First comes love, then comes marriage, then comes the baby in a baby carriage.”
While we happily chose to get married, if we were being honest, our decision to tie the knot felt more like the next logical and pragmatic step in our relationship as opposed to hitting a life milestone. Yet those around us would celebrate it as such either way, and for those who care enough to be invested in our lives, it was time for the proverbial carriage. I’m nearly 30, and people have opined over my so-called biological clock, urging us to make haste as it was ticking quickly. I’ve had different answers over the years when it comes to the kid talk: My husband and I once told relatives that we were trying in two years—a deadline by which we experienced an unexpected extension when the pandemic struck.
A sudden change in direction
Like many others during the lockdown, the situation left us in a state of uncertainty and precariousness. One curious side benefit is that no one questioned our decision to hold off on the topic of kids. “Pandemic po eh, mahirap na,” was our go-to answer, and everybody understood: Trying for kids was less of a priority, not when hospitals overflowed with patients and overworked, underpaid health workers; not when people (ourselves included) struggled with the economic and social anxieties of the times.
A few years later, the query has returned to the dinner table as a perennial topic. And apart from the incessant inquisition, it’s a question I’ve had to face myself. I thought I knew what I wanted: have a kid, maybe two, and be completely involved in their formative years—raising them with the right mix of kook and unconventionality my husband and I always imagined our parenting styles to be. I’d homeschool them, tailoring their hobbies according to their interests, and spend our days finding the right answers to questions about the number of stars in the sky or why humans have belly buttons.
In the years leading up to this plan, my husband and I bore blood, sweat, and tears to afford this life we imagined for ourselves. Yet, if there is anything the pandemic has taught me, sometimes no amount of preparation can properly equip you for the unexpected. The sheer nature of the lockdown hit us like a brick wall, and we have been forced to recalibrate our decisions and life plans, along with answering existential questions: How badly did we want to become parents, and were we truly prepared for this lifelong commitment?
At this time, we’re less concerned about whether we can financially afford to raise children. Yet, in the grander scheme of where we are mentally, emotionally, and spiritually—were we truly ready to be parents?
We’ve also had to accommodate other surprises too. We adopted a dog after our friend had an unexpected litter at home and could not care for more puppies. He has quickly become our bundle of joy and wonder in many ways and has, quite frankly, fulfilled a certain parenting instinct in us. As a being dependent on us for care and survival, we’ve diligently kept up with vet visits, trips to the groomer, and doted on his nutrition and well-being. Who says we’re any less of parents, too?
The time is ticking—and while I’ve learned that planning is crucial for having some direction in place, I’ve also embraced the waves that come into my life. I have no idea when I’ll have children, but I’ve come to realize that the biological clock isn’t the only rhythm guiding our lives.
It’s easy to get caught up in societal expectations and the pressures of time, but we’ve learned that there’s no one-size-fits-all formula for happiness and fulfillment—the same way there’s no single right way of getting married or living the so-called domestic life.
Life has a way of surprising us, and sometimes, the detours lead to unexpected joys. Presto has shown us the joys of nurturing and caring for another living being. While he may not be a human child, he is every bit ours and has taught us valuable lessons about responsibility and love.
As we navigate the uncertainties of the future, I’ve come to appreciate the beauty of embracing the present moment. Life doesn’t always go according to plan, and that’s okay. We may not have all the answers right now, but we’re learning to trust in the timing of our lives.
So, to those who continue to ask when the baby will arrive, I don’t have any answers for you. I recognize that the clock may be ticking, but we are content to go against the grain of time. If and when the time for parenthood arrives, we will be there waiting with open arms.