The biological clock, a beautiful experience being a stepmom, and being with The Luv of My Life conspired to bring me four-plus years of self-torture self-discovery. Logically, it did not make sense to change my life plans, to complete the leap from childfree to undecided to childed. I've got significant health problems. I worry, like most thinking humans, about passing along medical and psychological characteristics from my birth family to any children.
Most importantly, my household family are happy the way they are—the biological dad with his biological daughter living with us half-time, a great biological mom living nearby, and a loving stepmom to boot. Ironically, it was their love that cracked my little walnut of a heart open... and inspired me to actually consider having a baby, not something I'd ever expected to see on my "Things To Do Before Death" list (yeah, I've got one of those).
The intensity of "maternal desire" or "the generative urge" took me off guard and blew apart everything I thought I knew. Whatever this Thing was, it was much bigger and much stronger than me. It was connected to history, ancestry, biology, nature, the great cycle of life, blah blah blah, stuff I had no control over. I did everything I could to stand up to its power, to remain a free woman, to wield my own damned willpower in the face of what felt like insurmountable pressure. I wanted to be a happy stepparent who wasn't contributing to the world's overpopulation problem. I wanted to be "free," and I grew up during the advent of second wave feminism, aware that I, unlike most of my forbears, could choose to have a career, focus on art and writing and music, follow my dreams of education and travel, without getting bogged down by that whole mothering thing. That's what I thought I wanted.
Whatever ran this universe—biology, DNA, evolution, Mother Nature, Father Nature, god, goddess, the Fates, the universe itself—really didn't give a shit what I thought I wanted. It had another plan for me, the same plan that finds 75-80% of humans reproducing, the same plan that keeps termites pumping out tens of thousands of eggs every day.
If you've read the Nymphe blog before, you know that I was not happy. I couldn't kick the grief that accompanied my decision to not-even-try becoming a birth- or adoptive-mother of a baby. I couldn't kick the sensation of regret: that I might regret this my entire life. The sensation of love: a giant wave of overwhelming, cheeseball LUUV that made me want to connect with the world, with history, with family, and with my husband in a very particular way. A procreative way.
And I couldn't kick the sensation that I was very, very tired. Standing in the universe's way, fists raised, refusing to surrender to this deep internal need, sucked a little more life out of me every day. It takes a fuck of a lot of hubris to pull against everything that feels natural and inevitable, but, ya know, I'm no stranger to absurd bouts with pride. I'd tilted at plenty of windmills in my time. What was one more?
Maternal desire turned out to be the gigantic wind turbine that blew me off my warhorse. If I 'won' this battle, what was it, exactly, that I was winning? The bitter reward of knowing I could say 'Fuck You' to the universe, even if it meant stabbing myself in the heart? The classic female reward of pleasing the people I loved, so that they wouldn't have to bear the responsibility or inconvenience of a new child in their midst? The chickenshit reward of not having to radically change my life? The equally chickenshit reward of avoiding risks (any parenting or mentoring of a child is a risky proposition; throw in my panoply of mental and physical disabilities, and the risks grow)? The intangible spiritual fulfillment of getting through something unbearable? That which does not kill me makes me stronger? The intellectual reward of surpassing typical gender programming? Keeping the freedom to la-ti-ta, do whatever the hell I want with my days and months?
These rewards were not enough.
I recently came to terms with what I really want. What I would like and love is to have a baby. But what I really want is to let go of the rock and float downstream. What I really want is to earn a sliver of acceptance and relinquishment; to surrender to that which is bigger than me, more ancient, beyond comprehension, beyond the everyday American business of free will and self-meta-programming.
I didn't want maternal desire to be the bane of my existence anymore; I wanted to accept it. I finally had to say, OK, I don't really have that much control over the deepest parts of myself. I am not the ruler of my limbic system and the reptilian depths of my brain and nervous system. Dealing with the biological clock was like dealing with my bipolar diagnosis in my twenties: it took me years to accept that some things were bigger than me, that much of my body and mind were controlled by chemicals floating around within me.
It took many years, near-ruination of my life, and several suicide attempts to come to terms with bipolar disorder, to accept that Wonderful Me was not in charge of all this. Wonderful Me needed to step aside, try the medications, and learn that maybe being run by a bunch of hormones and neurotransmitters, though it sounded dehumanizing, really wasn't such a bad thing. I just had to get used to the idea.
Now I'm learning to accept that whether it's cultural, personal, or merely hormonal, maternal desire is real, and it's got me by the ovaries. I wanted to step out of the universe's way. If it wanted to grant me a child? That would be fabulous. If not? At least I would no longer be leading a fierce charge against the entirety of nature and the gorgeous, painful yearning within my own body, soul, and mind. My husband agreed. He, too, is a person full of love.
Researchers have noticed age-related distinctions in how and why we experience regret. The young are more likely to regret things they did rather than things they didn’t do. After all, at that stage in life there’s still time to see Australia, climb K2, or write a novel. But as we age, this tendency reverses, and it’s what you didn’t do that stings. When you look back and see all the mountains left unclimbed, the sense of loss can be devastating. (from AARP via The Situationist)
I may look back and regret my choices. I may regret that I didn't insist on having children when I was younger, more fertile, less likely to have miscarriages and birth defects. I may regret that I didn't stay childfree and keep battling, keep fighting, keep seeking comfort and peace on my own weird terms and against all odds. I may regret that I wasn't satisfied with stasis, the status quo, remaining the footloose, fancy-free, childfree Tiffany I had always known. I kind of doubt it. That Tiffany was struck down long ago. I guess this is what they call growing up. I've never been very good at it. I'm a little slow that way.
I don't think I'll regret this decision, however it turns out.
To my childless and childfree sisters, brothers, and others, I send out love and thanks and gratitude and love again. It sometimes feels like a loss or even a betrayal when one of our kind, in the 15-20% minority, crosses over to the dark side, joins the mommy club. "You'll change your mind," people told me a zillion times when I was young and vocal about being childfree. I really fuckin' hate that they were right... but they were. I changed my mind.
I'm pregnant. Pregnant and aware how fortunate I am to be pregnant, when thousands of people must struggle with infertility every day, must tilt at the gods' windmills for other reasons than mine. Pregnant and aware that this isn't the politically and environmentally correct thing to do (as an anti-breeder man recently reminded me a few months back, before casually dropping into the conversation that he had a grown son!). I'm pregnant and aware that the parenting, childed majority carry a great deal of entitlement and privilege in our society, along with the stress, responsibility, and dedication that accompany good parenting. I'm pregnant and thankful.
I'm floating downstream.