Here's the subtitle of the book of the same name: 28 Writers Tell the Truth About Skepticism, Infertility, Baby Lust, Childlessness, Ambivalence, and How They Made the Biggest Decision of Their Lives.
You can imagine there are a lot of thoughts about and sides to the story. I haven’t yet read the book, but I plan to. Because I fit in there, somewhere along the Skepticism, Ambivalence, and the unlisted Fear of Regret.
Yesterday, I attended a baby shower for a friend of mine. It’s the 2nd I’ve attended recently, but skewed very differently from the last one.
The first one was held in a yawning mansion in Russian Hill or Pacific Heights, some “you will never afford this” neighborhood. It was hosted in a home that would not be out of place in Dwell, or Architectural Digest, and peopled by beautifully draped women who would be staged in such a photo shoot.
The conversation was all about babies. When you were due, how many you had, getting into preschools, Diaper Genies, the best nappies, where you take your toddler.
The striking thing, to me, is that all of these women were intelligent, obviously savvy, had or have a career. And they were all talking about poop.
I was (very obviously) one of two women in attendance who was childless, and I felt so fish-out-of-water, I was relieved to leave and call a single, childless friend to … not commiserate, per se, but to, I don’t know, vent, maybe.
Yesterday’s event was entirely different. A baby shower, yes. Held in a gorgeous home with a catered lunch, yes. Obviously savvy, intelligent, careered women, yes.
But somehow, the conversations were completely different. Sure, there was some “helicopter parent” talk, a few “we’re trying to get pregnant” comments, and a story of a friend who bought a racecar, and by default, because of the cost of the car, decided she wouldn’t freeze her eggs. But mostly, these women were talking about themselves, their interests, and random wordly gossip; about new restaurants opening, the surprisingly inviting nature of the L.A. community, and, in one instance, syphilis.
Why was this event different? The two guests of honor would be at home talking with one another, smart, hilarious, worldly. I don’t know. But, I know I left feeling a hundred times different than the last time. I felt like a person who’d attended a party, not a single, childless oaf who didn’t fit in.
I have two friends back east in very different stages of the spectrum. One I spoke to in New Jersey last weekend told me she’d looked up freezing her eggs recently, as she’s back in her on-again-off-again relationship with a man in his 40s who's already been divorced and has two school-aged kids. He does not want more.
She just turned 33 and doesn’t know what she wants, but is scared that if she enters this relationship again, she is making a decision by default to not have children. And she definitely does want them. Just not now.
My other friend is 6 months pregnant, living in suburban Long Island in a new house with her new husband, having gotten pregnant on her honeymoon cruise through the Aegean. Really.
She is 35 and this is her first child, and because she’s one of the most straight-shooting women I know, I get to have all kinds of “what is it like” conversations with her—like, are you still having sex?
I called this friend yesterday while driving home from the baby shower, having been acutely aware after leaving the party that I probably won’t get to go to her shower. That I won’t really be there to be Auntie Molly to this child. It was a very different phone call; it wasn’t really about me, because I didn’t feel that my value as a human was called into question over the “Do you have children?” line.
My friend and I spoke about how the 30s are just this minefield of all this information, questioning, and decisions. I am imminently grateful that the parents I respect most are friends of mine who didn’t have their children until their late 30s and early 40s, and they are by far the most fully-formed mothers I know—with lives and interests and hobbies and careers. These are my role-models. And they help take the pressure off the ticking eggs in my womb.
My friend in New Jersey is surrounded by women our age who are in the depths of baby-land, and she gets the “you better do something soon” message mirrored back to her daily. The suburban life will do that more than city life, I think.
But I didn’t feel yesterday, after the party, after speaking with my pregnant friend, that I had to make any kind of decision. It felt like, Wow, this is a lot of information all we women have to wade through in our 30s. More observational than judgmental.
I don’t know if I want kids. I know I don’t want them now. I feel like in 5 years I might be ready, and may try then. I know for sure I don’t want to intentionally become a single-mother through mishap or I.V.F.
I know that I feel very selfish with my time and my life right now. I feel like the 5-years-from-now mark is one that caps the “trying to be an actress” portion of my life. In 5 years, I will hopefully have done something around all this, and I won’t feel that by having children I’m “giving up” myself and my dreams.
Because, despite my role-model moms being super and self-possessed and interesting, their lives still revolve around the upbringing of their children. And I am still just rearing myself.
I feel extremely grateful to not feel the pressure my NJ friend feels to make a decision now. I feel proud of my friends who’ve made the decision to have children.
BUT. I know many women, too, in their mid-40s who regret terribly not having children. And I know that option stands for me too. But, I’m also not willing to have children, to bring a life into this world under the shadow of longing, desperation, fear, or simply, “I want a legacy, and someone to visit me in the nursing home.” It’s the same selfish motivation.
So, back to Maybe Baby.
For now, Maybe Breakfast. Those eggs, I’m not ambivalent about.