Saturday, October 01, 2005

No Babies Here

One thing I am very grateful for is never really suffering from “baby fever.” There was a short period around age 30 when I thought I wanted to bear and raise a child, but three years of doing childcare took care of that craving. I know a lot of women like me (coming up on age 40, never married, never mother) feel an increasing urgency to get on with the process of motherhood, whether that means finding the guy who’ll be the daddy or figuring out the finances and logistics of becoming a single mother. But even in my worst depression, convinced I was the failure of all time, doomed to never find a man, too old to be a “young” bride anymore, et cetera --- even through all that, I felt grateful to not be battling baby fever as well.

As much as women hate it, it’s now pretty well established that pregnancy past the age of 35 has a much greater possibility of complications, starting with how hard it is to get pregnant. Even Oprah has featured a fertility specialist who hated to say it, but had to inform all of us childless older women that the later it gets, the more we risk never getting pregnant at all.

Because the truth is that we can’t really “have it all” if we define “it all” as having a child-free, accomplished, kickass career until we’re in our 30’s or 40’s, and then having babies we bear ourselves and feed in a rocking chair that’s surrounded by our kickass awards and trophies. I mean, we can approximate that by adopting or by having a shorter-lived career or trying to do that ideal juggling of work-and-family which never really approaches anyone’s ideal. But to truly devote ourselves to our in-the-wide-world vocation for as long as it takes to fulfill that part of ourselves, we really do have to sacrifice the best years for childbearing. Those years are roughly before age 35, but do you know what the absolute best childbearing age is? The female body is most primed, healthy and ready for pregnancy and childbirth between the ages of 18 and 25. As early as our late 20’s, our bodies start to lose potential for conceiving and bearing children.

Sobering.

Sucky.

But not for those of us who have no interest in having children anyway. At the overripe-and-only-good-for-soup age of 39, I responded to this information with a sense of its unfairness, but no anguish. My initial response the first time I heard this news was simple gratitude that as hard as I am on myself about everything else, I have never felt bad about not being a mother. I'll never know what it’s like to carry another living being inside of me and so be it. I won't pass on my genetic material and it's for the best. I don’t think I have genes that should be reproduced anyway.

Actually, I think way too many parents do a poor job of raising children and I’ll proclaim before the world that I don’t think I’d do it any better. We all witness parents behaving abusively, say, in the grocery store. What do we think when we see a parent screaming at their child, their anger out of proportion to the misdemeanor? We think the parent is being unreasonable, or if we’re kind we might give them the benefit of the doubt, or if we’re very judgmental we might think they shouldn’t be raising kids. But most of us think we’d do it differently: we wouldn’t be so punishing to our children, so belittling, so shaming.

Not me. When I see parents emotionally abusing their children in public it makes me mad as hell, but I doubt I’d do any better. Any child that was raised by such a parent will reproduce that behavior with their own children, unless they put considerable effort into breaking the pattern. I'm not willing to find out if I can do that. I tend to be an angry, fearful adult with a fury that usually turns inward on myself rather than towards other, but I still have no desire to see what I’d do with a child of my own.

I've also seen the parent who decides to never scream at her child and never turn to her in anger, but that can turn into a lack of strong discipline, which can create kids who are out of control. I don't even want to attempt the impossible goal of "getting it right."

I don't want children because of my low expectations of my mothering abilities, my desire to keep myself first in my life and my fear of being needed by others. These things pretty much tell me that I am not mom material. Plus, I just don’t want ‘em! I like plenty of sleep, I like my time being my own, I like saving money just for me. I like being the center of my life and I do not respond well when anything threatens that arrangement. I understand that most parents feel they receive plenty of benefits to compensate for the headaches of childraising. From what I see, motherhood provides wonderful experiences that no mother would give up for anything in the world, but those mothers also pay a very high price for those experiences. I just have no interest in paying that much for that particular rollercoaster ride which has no exit and lasts the rest of your life.

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