Somewhere between hours one and two of a really great phone conversation with my aunt (who has long since been screened once I realized she rarely calls me to talk to me in as much as she calls to track down/talk about/reaffirm my responsibility to my mother) right after talking about the dog, she said the thing that I knew she was going to say, but still caught me off guard anyway…
“So… do you think there will be any babies in our future?”
“Oh, I dunno. Lemme ask Honey. Honey, are you gonna have babies?”
“No, *first and middle government names* are YOU gonna have babies?”
“I’m sorry- what?!”
We had the inevitable back and forth; her saying I should have babies, me countering that between all my cousins who have babies (all but me and one other) there are MORE than enough kids in the family; her saying I should have babies, me explaining to her why I love my crisp, white, 600 thread count Egyptian cotton sheets and how having a baby shit all over them is not my idea of a party; her saying I should have babies.
Finally, I removed myself from the inescapable circular children argument with the tried and true, “I can’t afford one.”
Which is true, btw. Though I would love nothing more than to get all manner of tax returns because I have pushed a little human out of my snatch.
In recent years, as I move further from drunken, middle of the yard face plants in the snow
(REALLY funny story involving Cuervo and Hypnotic) and draw nigh of the hallowed, adult ground of 30, this conversation has become more frequent. It probably started in earnest a couple years back at the funeral of a loved one when my mother turned to me and said, “You can have a baby. I will help you take care of it. You don’t have to get married. Or even wait for a boyfriend.”
My mom, probably much like yours, spent my entire adolescence preaching, threatening, warning about the dangers of becoming somebody’s baby mama. And now, because I am on the other side of being sent away to “boarding school” when I find myself in a “situation” it is suddenly ok? The irony of this conversation aside, it became a fairly standard practice; my mother bringing it up, me rolling my eyes and making a snarky remark.
But now, it’s not just her. It is peripheral friends who remind me, at every act that could maybe be construed as motherly, how great I would be at it. It’s every ex-boyfriend who resurfaces with a batshit crazy baby mama who wants to wax philosophical on how different it would be had it been me *eyebrow raise* (for the record, damn near every ex of mine now has a baby and, by extension a baby mama. Except one. And he might be lying. And the gay one, of course). It’s the high school friends who look at me crazy when I explain I don’t have kids. And now my aunt of course. If my daddy asks me when I am gonna give him grandkids, I will likely lay down in the street and die.
The earliest I can remember being ambivalent about having kids was around 13 or so. I was with First Love, daydreaming aloud about what our future would be like, as
dumb ass children sometimes do in the throes of their first love. There was the wedding (mutually decided upon), the small cottage with a porch in Morningside Heights (me), and 3 kids (all him). Every time he got to that last point, the three kids, I would go silent. As a teenager, I wasn’t quite sure why and didn’t know how to articulate my hesitation. I remember pretty clearly it starting with baby steps; what if we waited the first couple years of marriage to have kids? What about five years? What if we wait until we both finish school? Or until established in our careers? That could take until our early 30s.
What if we don’t have kids at all?
The first time I said it aloud to him, somewhere around 17, after we had been discussing these same ever morphing plans for four years, he looked at me like I told him I got my cardio by setting kittens on fire.
“But La,” he says to me, genuinely befuddled, “that’s what you do.”
It was easier then, in ways that it is not now, to just say no thank you.
Then, you have the built in excuse of being far too young, unmarried, uneducated, un-etc, etc. At 26, while still unmarried, but neither of my previous two excuses, I more often than not get the side eye. You know the one; like something is inherently wrong with me.
Don’t get me wrong; I love kids. Other people’s kids. Kids adore me. And I am pretty great with them. Many of my girlfriends are DYING to have babies. And I am dying for them to have them. I am just not dying for them myself.
For me, that isn’t a problem. I have made my peace with it. Just as I have made my peace with the fact that if, in the future, I decide to have children, I can do that as well. The people in my inner circle (mostly) leave me alone about the hereto unknown occupants of my uterine apartment. But I catch the subtle digs. The reflexive side eyes. The assumptions that I am barren/was abused/a lesbian (btw lesbians are generally some of the most baby crazy women you will ever meet so I recommend you dispense with this stereotype). I see the knowing glances when I comment on a baby being cute, because somehow being able to see that a child is adorable means I want one. I am well aware of the subtle ways people imply that somehow meeting the fabled One will magically change my mind, because, you know, finding a man is what makes all the pieces of your life fall together, Tyler Perry style.
It’s rude and insulting in ways you can’t imagine. I won’t even start with the pathology that assumes that as a woman I am a ticking time bomb of conception desire, and that, and if I am not or don’t have a child, that I must be a wasted woman. I won’t even discuss the ways that pontificating on how I MUST be bitter about a parent/boyfriend/familial issue MUST be the reason I don’t desire children is insulting not only to me and my intelligence, but the many mental health professionals I have sought over the years. I don’t hate children (unless they are screaming in restaurants). I intend to be front and center for every baby shower, birth and birthday that all my friends are blessed to have. I just fully expect that they appreciate that my house in Morningside Heights is the only quiet, non chocolate pudding stained one they can come to when they need a break from being great moms.