Dear uterus: please hold

I’m 31 years old, will be 32 this year. I’m still not entirely comfortable with being “in my 30s,” and my reproductive expiration date is rapidly approaching. I can practically feel my uterus drying out, giving up. Last night my mom texted me: “Don’t forget your ticking clock.” OMG–please stop with all the ticking, I just can’t. Believe me, I’m feeling the pressure. I have my annual OBGYN appointment today and while I do like my doctor, when I turned 30, the visits took on a more urgent tone. “Are you thinking of having children?” he would ask me. “You still have time, but you’ll want to do it sooner than later.”

Of all the things in life, the greatest uncertainty and source of most confusion, conflict, and internal anguish has been the question: “Will I ever become a mother?” I have many feelings about this subject, which I plan to explore in a book–someday. But for today, I need to get some thoughts out. I’m just not fucking ready to have a child. Being single for most of my 20s, having a baby was a distant abstract. I met my partner when I was 27, and time still seemed abundant. He wanted kids “someday;” I wasn’t sure, then we both traded positions and have never been on the same page at the same time. Now he is back to wanting them “someday,” and I am not so much wanting a baby as I am feeling intensely pressured to have one. The fear of infertility (for which I cannot afford treatment) plagues me. The term “geriatric uterus” makes me simultaneously roll my eyes and twinge with fear. Never having a child seems scarier than having one right now.

Many women get pregnant by accident and they do the parenting thing just fine. I like to think that could be me. Having chance and biology make the imperative decision for you, and deciding to continue the pregnancy in some ways, is the easiest way to come to terms with becoming a parent. I have no doubt that I would love any child I had to the moon and back. But I have committed and promised my partner to stay on my birth control, and only go off it with his full consent (entrapment is not a good plan). Life isn’t conducive to babies right now. I’m about to graduate with my Bachelor’s in English come May, and am actively seeking graduate programs for an education degree. To be honest, I’m not sure what I’ll end up doing. But what I do know is that I’ve worked too damn hard to give up my dreams for a screaming baby.

There are so many things I want to do–travel, write, teach, paint, create, explore–and a child would undoubtedly hamper all of the above. My partner and I live in a very modest (read: small, cramped) 2-bedroom apartment and while we are not “poor,” we lack the means to buy a house and have relatively little saved. Having a child is a huge money drain, and that scares me. What a shame to bring a child into a world of struggle and scrimping. I don’t want to do that.

Unlike most other things in life, a woman’s fertility has a deadline. 35 is the recognized age at which pregnancies become “high risk,” and while many women deliver healthy babies in their late 30s and even 40s, I want to avoid the social stigma of having a dangerous pregnancy. I also have a fear that even if I tried to have a child, I wouldn’t be able to conceive, or my treasured pregnancy would end in a bloody miscarriage (I had one when I was 18, result of an accidental pregnancy of course, and it was so fucking scary).

So who knows? I’m feeling a lot of things, but the biggest one is pressured. Society is strongly natalist. Everyone loves babies. The self-centered, attention seeking part of me (which is big, I’ll admit) wants to be a pregnant goddess, protecting the swollen moon of my belly which contains the most precious thing of all: life. But I’m not ready yet…and that’s what I’ll have to tell my doctor today.

Please comment and share your thoughts on this subject–women and men, childless or parents, I would greatly appreciate your advice/opinions on this most personal topic. Finally, this quote speaks to me:

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I don’t know if I want children.

I’ve never been a baby person. I do like little kids, especially little girls (pink, princesses, Barbies!), but babies never interested me. I didn’t go to college right after high school, so when I got my first real job at the age of 18, I noticed the celebration of mother and baby was like nothing I’d ever seen. Having a baby, it seemed, was the ultimate achievement in a woman’s life. I married far too young and divorced quickly, and when I went out into the world on my own at the age of 20, I was relieved to not have the burden of children. I spent most of my twenties partying, working way too hard just to (barely) scrape by, and dating around. I was heavily influenced by the “Carried Bradshaw” lifestyle, which centered around men, going out, shopping, and living on my own doing whatever I damn well pleased. I had a couple of meaningful relationships but none of them brought up the subject of a real future together, someone I wanted to be with until the end. Until last August, when I met the love of my life.

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I’m 27 now (28 in August). I just began taking college classes about a month ago, and am working full time at a job I don’t really like. The company is decent, the setting relaxed, and the pay is decent for what it is, although I still struggle to get by. My boyfriend and I are poised to move in together within the next few weeks or months, and with that come a lot of change-driven issues (about which I could write a whole other post), one being to have children, or not to have children. On my first date with my boyfriend, I texted my best friend from the bathroom “he’s so amazing. I want to have 1,000 of his babies.” And I really thought I did. (Not right away, of course!) We fell in love pretty quickly, and like all the cliches would tell you, when you meet the right person, you “just know.” I couldn’t imagine ever loving a human being more. He’s my best friend, my partner, my lover, my teacher. It isn’t perfect and lord knows I’m not, but I know he’s the best one I’ll ever hope to find. If there was ever a person to share a life and start a family with, it would be him. Without a shadow of a doubt.

But I’m having doubts. Serious doubts. We discussed this, and it started in jest – I tend to poke fun at other people our age and younger who have children. They don’t have the level of freedom that we do, financial or otherwise. It’s so fucking typical. Can’t they contribute something more meaningful to the world than carbon copies of themselves? They have to deal with diapers and daycare, soccer practice and PTA meetings, or making sure their babies/children don’t somehow hurt themselves. This may seem odd to some, but I really haven’t the faintest clue what being a parent would be like. I only know what I see on TV and secondhand from coworkers; as I’m an only child with no hands-on experience with kids. Ever. I don’t really have the biological “itch” to reproduce. I guess every now and then I’ll see some episode of a show or a movie that is touching, but I don’t know if it’s me being compelled to reproduce, or me just reacting to what I’m seeing at face-value.

While I know it’s not at all fair or kind to ridicule someone else’s choice to have a family, I think it may stem from my own fear of reproducing. I am literally TERRIFIED of having children for a host of reasons. I was born into dysfunctional family. My mother was pregnant at age 35; my father was 39. Neither of them planned on being parents. When I got old enough, my mom told me she and my father had never discussed having children. My father was abusive towards my mother, and very controlling. (I believe I’ve inherited my father’s anger and control issues. Thanks, Dad.) For most of my childhood, my life was my mother. She was a stay-at-home mom, and she doted on me like you wouldn’t believe. My parents split when I was seven, and things got really weird then. Shuffling between parents, getting caught in their divorce – needless to say, it was bad. I’ve been estranged from my father since age 20. My mother and I remain close to this day.

Add to this the fact that I just began college at age 27, ten years after most people do. I’m so happy I’m finally on my way to getting my education, but the time investment makes me wonder. I’m going to be working on school and career goals at the time when my biological clock begins ticking the loudest. I think the “best time” for me to have children will be around 31-33. (When I was younger, I thought if i had kids, I would have had them by now…but I digress. Life happened.) Does having children mean I’ll forfeit my professional goals and my pursuit of a higher self? All of this also creates some resentment towards my boyfriend, who chose the so-called “right path” and did college right out of high school, got his teaching certification and is pursuing his career as an English teacher. Something I always saw myself doing (maybe), only I dicked off for too long to make that a reality.

I don’t know why I don’t think I want to have kids. It isn’t just one reason. I’m terrified of the damage it will do to my career, my home, my body (weight/stretch marks/c section scars, tearing/pregnancy pain/labor pain), my relationship, my sex life. I also don’t know if I even believe in reproduction just for reproduction’s sake. How could I ever, even for a fleeting second, consider bringing a sentient being into the world if I didn’t want it with all of my heart and soul? There are so many children in this world that aren’t wanted, or treated right, or even given a fighting chance. It’s such a huge ethical dilemma. Most people don’t consider the overpopulation of the planet and its dwindling resources when considering their family. I’m sure those John and Kate Plus 8 people didn’t. But I do. On many levels, I feel that having natural-born children is narcissistic and selfish, especially in today’s environmental and economic climate. However, I understand the biological urge to do so: To have something to call your own, to create something larger than yourself, a piece of yourself that will last longer than you do. (Narcissism again? Maybe…)

So my boyfriend, the absolute love of my life – he wants children someday. Not even in the next few years, but someday. And while he sees the benefits of not having children, he has that deep, innate, biological desire to be a father. I love him so much. I wish I hungered for it the same way he did. We’ve discussed this at heartbreaking length and have yet to draw any concrete conclusions. I can’t promise him a child, but I can’t necessarily rule it out. Maybe, as so many people have told me over the years, I will change my mind. But maybe I won’t. Sometimes I’ll read or see something that pulls at my heart. I try to compartmentalize. “Do I want this? Or do I just think it’s sweet?” The image that compels me most of all is almost always the same. It’s me with my love in a big soft bed, with a baby in between us. Sunlight is pouring in through the window. No one is talking. Everything is still and perfect.

And that’s what keeps me from saying “no, never.”