For approximately 31 out of the 32 years I’ve been alive, I’ve had no interest in babies. I’ve had brief moments of interest in pregnancy, for example when I became fixated on having a round pregnant-like belly at some point during my twenties, but I managed to achieve that in a significantly more fun and care-free way with beer. Even those times I desired the feeling of being ‘pregnant’ (within whatever odd interpretation I had developed around that concept) the idea of that hypothetical pregnancy resulting in pushing a human being out of my vagina, and then having to live with that being for the rest of my life, seemed unappealing to say the least.
Other people’s babies have generally struck me as alternatively boring and/or irritating (why yes! I am a grouchy old lady!). Today, I know a few babies on a more personal level and they are interesting insofar as the fact that I’ve become familiar with their weird little baby-personalities. A word to the babies out there: being related to me or especially odd helps keep me interested. But even the ones I like, I still don’t want to live with day in and day out.
While I always kind of assumed that some day in the far-off future, the biological clock that others seemed to believe was as real and logical as gravity would start tick-tick-ticking in my womb/lady-brain/ovaries, but always felt like if it didn’t that would be pretty ok with me.
My twenties passed and as I entered my 30s, nothing changed. My ovaries didn’t start screaming at me, I wasn’t suddenly ogling babies at the park, if anything I felt more certain and comfortable with the fact that baby-making just wasn’t my thing.
The time that biology was supposed to kick in had arrived, and yet my hopes for the present and for the future were distinctly baby-free. In fact, as I got to know myself a little better and further developed goals and dreams and hopeful plans for the future, the realization that the last thing I wanted or needed in my life was a baby became ever-more solidified. I mean, where would I put it? Would my dog get enough hugs if there were a baby around? Would the baby let me sleep until 10am every day? How much money would this thing cost and where would that money come from? How on earth do people stop drinking wine for nine (plus) months?
Having a baby simply didn’t seem to fit with my life. I had other priorities and I was ok with that. The other priorities seemed so much more interesting and exciting and fulfilling than a baby did.
Meanwhile, I look around and babies are taking over. It feels like everyone I know has entered the race. Suddenly, at around 30, so many people I knew began rushing to the alter and into parenting, in whatever order that happened. What was I missing? Did I simply not have the baby gene? I didn’t get it. I don’t get it.
Ok, that’s not entirely true. I have some inklings. For a few months, when I was about 26, my hormones were successfully thrown out of whack by a pregnancy that ended in a miscarriage (the pregnancy was meant to end via an abortion but my body beat me to the punch – no pun intended – about a week before my appointment at the hospital). The miscarriage was traumatic in that it was physically painful. Like, thought I was going to die painful. Not like the heavy period I’d been told it would be like. No, no. More like giving birth minus the birth.
In any case, I don’t know the science behind this, but after I miscarried I became obsessed with getting pregnant again. All my body kept telling me was that I wanted to be pregnant. Hormones are crazy things. I assume they serve the purpose of trying to keep pregnant ladies pregnant. That sounds like something nature would do.
Despite my crazy hormones, I didn’t go so far as to follow its demands because, as luck would have it, my brain was still functional enough to know that I didn’t have to do everything my body told it to. In past experience this has not been the case so, thanks/you’re welcome, brain/Meghan.
So that feeling of babybabybabybaby happened to me for maybe two or three months. But I ignored it and it went away, never to return again. More than literally wanting a baby and actually wanting to parent, my body just thought I should be pregnant. I definitely should not have gotten pregnant. It would have been a bad scene. I don’t doubt that I would have ended up either trapped in an abusive relationship for years, dependent on someone else’s income or stuck in court with an abuser who could actually afford a lawyer and was manipulative, spiteful, controlling, well-off, and powerful enough to be sure to take custody of any potential children that would have come from this ‘relationship’. Bodies aren’t always practical. Brains are better.
Based on that short-lived experience of bodily confusion, I do believe that women sometimes experience some kind of biological urge to procreate. But I also think that women have babies because they think they’re supposed to. I do think there is some kind of desperation or urgency women start to feel when they are in their 30s that is more about societal pressure (as well as, possibly, family pressure, partner pressure, and the pressure and expectations we put onto ourselves) than it is about biology.
Like I said, I’m not too sure about the science behind baby-drive, but I’m willing to believe that there is something there.
Over at xojane, Lesley Kinzel wrote a great post about how women don’t need to be mothers in order to fully understand love and to, as a result, be better or more ‘enlightened’ writers (or, really, better anythings), as a recent article about the late (childless) Maeve Binchy by Amanda Craig implies.
Kinzel includes, in the article, a graph that shows at which point women are most (and least) fertile. According to said chart, we are at the top of our fertility game at around 20; our slow decline into infertility hitting the less-likely-to-become-impregnated zone after about 35.
So if this pressure we supposedly get, as women, from our ovaries that causes us to obsess uncontrollably over baby-making is real, than wouldn’t it start in on us at about 20 rather than when we are creepin on 35?
Now, I don’t think there is anything wrong with people wanting children. Reproduction has been a popular trend for some time now. I totally believe that this is a real desire that some people have. What I’m not so sure I believe is this idea that women have some kind of inner ‘clock’ that takes over their brains and physically coerces them into pregnancy. In fact, I believe there are a whole bunch of potentially more powerful forces at play that convince women they must reproduce in order to fulfill their destiny as women.
The fact that women are feeling this supposed clock ticking later in life strikes me as a sign that, in fact, it’s not biology telling you to get pregnant and that it isn’t your hormones that are suddenly making other people’s babies seem oh-so-appealing. More likely is that women still feel, after all our supposedly modern choices and freedoms and independence that real womanhood is about making and raising kids. I think that, suddenly, at 30 (because now we can choose do these things later in life), we start looking around and seeing other people getting married and having kids and doing all the things that ‘regular’ folks are supposed to do in order to lead ‘regular’ lives and start to feel like there’s something wrong with us if don’t follow suit.
In particular I think that women start to get the ‘I’m old and there’s something wrong with me if I’m not on the marriage + baby making path by now’ feeling and I don’t think it’s biological. Just like getting married doesn’t say anything about your self-worth, femaleness, value, or humanity, neither does reproduction. Making a baby doesn’t make you a woman, it won’t necessarily fulfill you more than writing a book or doing activism or art or whatever it is you like to do (but hey, it could, I’m not saying raising kids is necessarily unfulfilling but I am saying that it’s also not necessarily going to make you a better or more real or more fulfilled person), and it definitely isn’t every woman’s ‘natural’ destiny.
My baby-drive still hasn’t kicked in. Who knows, maybe I’ll turn 40 and become an entirely different person, but I doubt it. I think we need to acknowledge that there is still a lot of pressure on women to be nurturing caregivers and that many are convinced that, somehow, they are missing out on something integral to the experience of being female if they don’t reproduce. Women who don’t have babies live equally interesting, loving, fulfilling, happy lives as those who do. In fact, my assumption is that my baby-free life will allow me to actually follow the path that allows me the most happiness, freedom, independence, and fulfillment possible.
The delusion that a child is going to fill some kind of empty space in your heart and life needs to die. You are ok with or without a baby and, luckily, many of us are privileged enough to be able to choose. The Western, white, privileged woman’s fantasy that romanticizes reproduction and child-rearing seems like a stupid joke when we remind ourselves how many women have not, in the past and still don’t, in the present, get to choose whether or not they want to go through child birth and then be saddled with however many kids their body/husband forces on them. Just because something happens in nature doesn’t make it right or innately good.
Kids may not be part of your future. Get over it. Things will be just fine and you’ll also have more time to bake cookies and have secret, embarrassing dance parties and read books and make out and learn how to play all of Tapestry on the guitar and walk your dog. It’ll be great.