Tonight, I am reflecting on babies. Having babies. Not having babies. The right number of babies. The right mix of boy babies to girl babies. In America, we are absolutely fixated on all things baby. If a married couple doesn’t have any babies we ask them why. Or we simply ask them, when will they have babies? If someone has too many babies we put them on TV and make them superstars, regardless of their personal character, because hell, they had a bunch of babies. If we have two babies that are the same sex, people ask us when we will try for a baby of the other sex, because clearly we cannot be happy until we have at least one of each. If we are a “one and done” couple, people ask us when we will try for our second baby, as if having one baby is not an acceptable scenario. As soon as you share with people the most intimate of information, that you are pregnant, people want to know all the deets: Have you picked out names? Will you find out the sex? When are you due? Are you having a home birth or a hospital birth? Are you using a doula? (By the way…bad idea). Who’s your doctor? What is your birth plan? Will your husband cut the cord? Who else will be in the room with you? AAAAAAHHHHHH??? Why not just ask me if you can stick your head up inside my girlie parts and monitor the changes in my cervix for the next nine months?
Having a baby, or not having a baby, is such a deeply personal decision, and the fact that we, as a culture, seem to view having babies as the natural and expected step to take soon after marrying is passé, cliché, and cray cray! In this modern world of powerful women, strong women, working women, it is no wonder that women are choosing to wait and have babies well into their thirties, or not have babies at all, for all sorts of reasons. By the way, all of these reasons are valid whether anyone else thinks so or not! Education, career, travel, or simply wanting to be single, or a married couple without kids, are all absolutely valid and important reasons to forego having babies.
I have two dear female friends, who both made the conscious decision to never have children. Both married wonderful guys. Both are educated women with good careers. Both were in a great position to have babies, with stable incomes, job security, and good marriages. Both went through years of people asking them when they would have children, and undoubtedly both dealt with the varied reactions from people when revealing the ever so shocking truth that indeed they were not planning on having children. I have to admit, there was a part of me that wondered why they were not drawn to the allure of having babies. Like everyone else, I wanted to ask them why they were making this decision. But also, as their friend, I understood that it was completely their choice and perhaps it was the best choice for them. Then I had two babies and I started to completely understand the reluctance to jump into the world of parenthood. Being a parent is hard work and not to be entered into lightly. There, I said it. It’s true, and it doesn’t mean I don’t love being a mother. It just means we shouldn’t assume every woman wants to do this with her life.
Here’s the twist: Both couples did have babies after about a decade of marriage. One couple was in their mid thirties, the other both forty. I don’t know all the details of why they changed their minds. They have hinted at things such as worry of regret if they never had a child, feeling as if this was their last chance, getting over the fear of having a baby, and having an unexpected desire to have a baby appear as if dropped by a stork into their lives. One of the couples just had their first baby last week. They sent us a picture of their brand new, blissful little family in the hospital the day after he was born, baby resting happily on his mama’s chest while dad leans in and snaps their first family selfie. It was adorable and peaceful, and for a moment I remembered the joy of feeling that new little person sleeping peacefully on my chest. I had a visceral reaction to the memory of my son in my arms the night he was born, his little fuzzy head tucked up under my chin. For one fleeting moment I considered what it would be like to have another baby, maybe a girl this time (we have two boys, I mean, come on, we HAVE to try for a girl, right?). Then I came back to reality, to the memories of sleepless nights, endless ear infections, poop, puke, teething, crying, snotty noses, story time at the library, the first day of day care, more puke, more ear infections, potty training, tantrums, changing pissed on sheets at 3 am, endless pediatrician appointments, poop in the pants, poop running down the leg, poop everywhere but in the potty…and…fuck that. No matter what anyone else says or thinks, we are happy with our two perfect sons. We don’t need a girl. We aren’t having another. And anyone who decides not to have a child, we totally get it. Believe me…we do.
We love our boys more than words can say. I enjoyed them as babies, and I wouldn’t change a thing. But that was my path. It may not be someone else’s. Make babies, don’t make babies…it’s up to you. Just know that if you DO make babies, it’s your job to care for those babies no matter what. They aren’t cute accessories – they are loud, messy bags of bodily fluids with real needs, physical and emotional. They are a huge joy, yes, but they are also a huge responsibility. They are game changers.
So no matter how cute a little baby girl in a dress and a bow on her head might seem in my wildest dreams, this is one mama who is all babied out. Two boys it is! And I am totally ok with that.