A good friend told me today that she is pregnant. She'd initially faced some struggles conceiving, and is just overjoyed with this news. I'm so happy for her. She said, "All I do is eat and sleep. So if you want to go out to dinner anytime, I'm game!"
Having pregnant friends poses some problems. For one thing, they try to make me pregnant by proxy. My co-worker-turned-friend Jenelle had a baby last October. All summer long I heard, "Let's go get ice cream!" "Anyone want to go out to lunch?" "I have snacks in my drawer!" It's okay for you future mommies to pack on the pounds, but what about those of us who need to lose weight before even considering conceiving??
All of this baby making seems to make the topic unavoidable. As if it wasn't a constant theme in my head anyway. I really thought that by the time I was 30 I'd figure out whether or not I want kids. But my third decade dawned last December, and I'm still listening ever-so-closely to hear my biological clock. I'm really not sure that it's even ticking.
I spent a lot of my life swearing off kids. They just didn't interest me. Some time in my twenties I decided that I was open to the possibility of offspring. And there was that weird episode last summer when I thought that I might be accidentally pregnant and wondered if I might be disappointed if I wasn't. Turns out, I wasn't, and I wasn't. (Jenelle, who was about 6 months pregnant at that point, seemed more disappointed than I was.)
I have quite a number of friends and acquaintances who desperately want children and haven't gotten pregnant yet. I almost feel guilty about my ambiguity. Society programs us to accept parenthood as the natural progression of life. And really, I guess it is for most people. I feel like I should want them. But that's not a good reason to have them. Neither is the advice I got from my husband's boss: "Once you had a baby you'd love it SO MUCH!" (say this with a southern drawl.) (She then made comparisons to how much I love my cats. Which makes either her or me crazy. You decide.)
For the record, I never said that I'm a baby hater. I'm sure if I had one I would love it. Again, not a good reason to just jump into things!
To help me ferret out my true feelings on this subject, I bought Maybe Baby. It's a collection of essays originally published on Salon.com, in which "28 writers tell the truth about skepticism, infertility, baby lust, childlessness, ambivalence, and how they made the biggest decision of their lives." The book is divided into three sections:
Part One: No Thanks, Not for Me
Part Two: On the Fence
Part Three: Taking the Leap
The different perspectives are fascinating. And it's also been good to see that I'm not alone in my fears and ambiguity and such. (For the record, one of my best friends is also on the fence about having kids, so that also helps a lot!) But so far, I haven't made any inner progress. Then again, I'm still in the "On the Fence" section. Maybe "Taking the Leap" will do something for me.
But I doubt it. No amount of reading is going to help me decide if I want to completely upend my life, for the rest of my life.
Thankfully, I have a husband who shares my ambivalence. But I see him inching towards wanting a family beyond just the two of us. He says that he's always wanted kids, but now that the time to have them is here, he's not sure about actually doing it. Before we got married I told him that I may never want kids and asked him if that would be a problem. He told me that he'd rather have me without kids than not have me at all. Good man.
Still, the biological countdown has begun, even if my clock is silent. With each passing year my fertility declines. Will I be 50 and regret not having kids? I don't know. Conversely, will I be 50 and regret having kids? That would be the true tragedy.
I could go on about the loss of freedom, self, and individual identity that motherhood seems to bring. I could expound on my fears that the drudgery of motherhood would suck the life out of me. But then I'm afraid that I'll get lectures on the joys of motherhood and how the sacrifices are worth it and that children are the best thing in the world, etcetera whatever.
But those lectures, well-meaning as they may be, don't help. They just make me feel like I'm missing a maternal gene. (which, by the way, might be a real thing)
But most people don't lecture me. I think that I lecture myself. I just wish that I would stop feeling ambiguous. I told my brother that I wish that I wanted kids. He said, "Isn't that the same thing as wanting them?"