‘What if I die’ is number two on my list, but it’s a big, neon number one in my heart. My step-dad was diagnosed with cancer when I was a freshman in high school and died when I was a senior. It was obviously a much, much worse experience for him—and for my mother—than it was for me, but there was enough awful to go around and I think I got my share. Losing a parent (even one with whom you have a less-than-perfect relationship, as I did with my step-dad) is brutal for a kid—and I still had three parents left.
What if he’d been my only parent? What would have happened to me? Where would I have gone?
These are the questions that have kept my baby-having-or-adopting on hold for… well, since my experience in Ethiopia. It took that experience for me to realize I was serious about moving forward with becoming a parent, even if meant doing it on my own--but if I was serious, I had to be prepared. Because when you’re single, there’s no default. I had to have the answers to questions like: If a have or adopt a baby on my own and get sick, who will help take care of my child? Who will raise my child if I die?
This approach to planning for the future, I’ve recently learned (from Tim Jarvis on Oprah.com—hail Oprah, full of grace), is called “defensive pessimism.” And apparently, it’s a very effective strategy. People who employ defensive pessimism tend to be more successful because they’re prepared for worst case scenarios. (That's my interpretation, anyway-- check out the article for the full scoop.)
In my case, I’ve already talked to friends about being the guardians of my theoretical future children if something happens to me. I’ve made arrangements for them in my will. And once my children aren’t theoretical, I will have a whopping life insurance policy.
Even with all the preparations, the death thing will always be my biggest fear about being a single parent. (A little less since I talked to the astrologer— she says I’ll live a long life. Yay, long life!) It’s the primary thing that makes me lean toward in vitro (with a friend, not an unknown donor), rather than adoption (although I'm constantly waffling). There’s the obvious benefit of a child having a father in his/her life. And there’s the security of knowing that if something happens to me, my child will still have at least one parent left.
There are no easy answers... but yesterday I wrote about fears and hope and saying yes. Being a defensive pessimist helps me deal with my fears, embrace hope, and mean it when I say yes. And what’s more optimistic than that?