Kids have been on my mind lately. Friends of mine are starting to get pregnant (a few years behind the 20-something bracket, but I run with a pretty financially savvy crowd). I don't exactly feel that stereotypical baby-ache — supposedly, a longing feeling coming from somewhere near my uterus whenever a stroller wheels by. Instead, I find that I'm peering curiously inside the bassinets, wondering to myself, "What's it really like to have someone like you?"
I've been thinking a lot about it lately for a number of reasons: I'm in the midst of fertility tests, those aforementioned pregnant friends, and Jean Twenge's article in The Atlantic called "How Long Can You Wait to Have a Baby." Presumably, the "you" in that title is intended generally, but I read the article as though it was going to personally deliver me some bad news. The article talked about a couple fertility cliffs — one at 27, so that ship's long since sailed, and another around 38 — and the how fertility-rate statistics are often manufactured from outdated or poorly interpreted evidence, and presented in a breathless catastrophe narrative that tells women of 35 their eggs are stale and their uterus is toxic. The article's counter-narrative was, perhaps, a little too rosy, but it was nice to have a reprieve from the usual discourse.
Of course, statistics about other women do nothing to assuage my personal anxieties. I have no idea if I'm running out of time, or if my levels are abundant. I don't know if my eggs are dumb, with Neanderthal brows and a tendency to miscarry. I don't know if it'll be easy to get pregnant because I've never tried; the fact that I've never had an accident or a scare makes me feel like less of a birth-control champion and more like something is awry.
And that's before the kid is even born! Then I have to worry about work-life balance, about keeping the romance with my partner alive, about money — always about money! — about what happens when our upstairs neighbours smoke, about playschool and which books to read them and food allergies. I want, fiercely, to be a mom, and to have a partner who wants to be a father; I also suffer from ambivalence about what I might lose when I become one. I know I'm not alone in this.
Tonight, I was buttonholed by a friend of mine who proclaimed that couples should be married for at least five years before they have kids. This was awkward, because this person is neither in a relationship nor a parent, and when I mentioned that a five-year window probably wasn't in the cards for me, became insistent. "You need to get your fights out," he said solemnly. I'm not convinced that crossing the five-year threshold puts a moratorium on conflict, but it's an interesting theory. I just don't have that kind of time.
These feelings aren't going to go away: as more and more of my friends become happily, easily, joyously pregnant, the more convinced I am that I'm part of the infertile minority. After all, someone has to take on that role. It's exhausting: trying to balance the knowledge of not-being-ready-now in so many ways (financially, in my relationship, possibly in my body, in my living arrangement) with that curiosity, burning ever brighter, about what's really inside all those baby carriages.