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I love stories. I'm the one at social functions with a dozen new anecdotes. But I worry about hogging the conversation. Sometimes I tell myself that I'll be quiet and let others do the talking. But no matter how hard I try, my stories insist on bursting out! Here I can let my stories (the classics that I tell again and again, as well as new ones that unfold along the way) run free. I'm a professional writer and editor, and sole proprietor of The Word Cellar. I write for a variety of publications and clients on everything from green buildings and nuclear reactors to entrepreneurship and the arts. If you need words written, edited, or enlivened, I can help. Contact me.

4.17.2006

Maybe Baby


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?"


Not really.

I'm not sure how I'd feel if baby lust suddenly appeared, but I think I'd be relieved.

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add to kirtsy | 9:57 PM

9 Comments:

Anonymous Allyson said...

Don't push the issue--if you have escaped baby lust, then rejoice! Sometimes it's the most annoying, peace-threatening thing out there! There is nothing wrong with not wanting to have kids--people make that choice all the time. Be glad though, that it's a choice you get to make. It's better, probably, to NOT want it and not have it happen, than to want it and not have it happen. I know you would love your children, because you are a decent human being, but I also know that you don't have to want to have them to BE a decent human being. Am I making sense? I saw this book in the library; I'll probably grab it next time I'm there. And hey, in five years, if you've changed your mind and we haven't gotten pregnant yet, let's go to China or Russia or somewhere and get us some babies there together. :)

4/18/2006 7:52 AM  
Anonymous Famous Mike Benard said...

Hey baby,
no fear about babys. they are cool cats. you dig? if not your thing then relax jack.

4/18/2006 11:20 AM  
Anonymous Famous Mike Benard said...

my link keeps going bye bye bye like Justin Timberlake.

4/18/2006 11:21 AM  
Blogger Jennifer said...

Thanks, Ally. And you might have a deal on the foreign adoption thing if it comes to that!

4/18/2006 12:05 PM  
Blogger Jennifer said...

Hey FMB -- you're too cool for your own good. You dig?

4/18/2006 12:06 PM  
Anonymous Famous Mike Benard said...

oh i dig, like grave. you trying to burry me like some old cheese. but like the smell, you cant keep me away.

4/18/2006 12:16 PM  
Anonymous Jess said...

here's what i think. you can't worry about what everyone else is doing and everyone else is saying because everyone else will not be getting up in the middle of the night to feed your baby or clean up poop. it's an extremely personal decision and i think that you shouldn't worry about what anyone else might think. it's all about you!

4/18/2006 3:28 PM  
Blogger Jennifer said...

I agree. I'm not so much worried about what other people think anymore. I'm more concerned with making sure that I really know what I want.

4/18/2006 4:27 PM  
Anonymous FamousMikeBenard said...

Jess hit the money shot. exept it isnt all about you, its all about the benjamins.

4/18/2006 5:29 PM  

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