Why I Decided To Have A Baby

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This originally appeared on Eat The Damn Cake. Republished here with permission.

“What made you decide?” asked my friend Brenda, on the phone.

“Um,” I said. I thought for a while. “I should figure it out,” I said. “I should try to think of the moment.”

It eluded me.

I could explain the reasons not to very easily. “Having a baby is like giving up.” I’ve never been into babies, really. Over the past couple years, I sometimes wanted to have one with sudden ferocity, but then afterward, I felt a little ill. Terrible idea! What about my life? 

She laughed. “There were a bunch of people in my high school who were pregnant—there was a class for them.”

“Yeah, girls get pregnant in high school and that means they’re not going anywhere. It’s a bad thing.”

“You’re not in high school.”

“But I’m too young for New York.”

What I mean is: I’m too young for my world. My friends. “Thirty-five is a good age,” they have been known to say. They are good at their jobs. They are going to get better, and make more money, and be more famous.

“Technically,” I said, “I’ve already waited over a decade. I’ve been fertile for a long time. I’m, like, biologically old now.”

Fertile is a funny word. It just pops into my head these days, now that I’ve decided to have a baby. Fertile. And I think of farm-y fields. And trees. I think of fruit, like on the cover of a book by Michael Pollan, not the fruit that actually grows on my parents’ trees in their backyard, which is delicious but spotty.

Maybe I am giving up, a little. It feels good. I have this idea that I have to do everything in my 20s. Make myself unforgettable. Make myself permanent, somehow.

As though there will be no time at all later. As though I’ll have missed my chance completely. I have a friend who wanted to get a book deal by the time she was 30, and she came pretty close, but then she turned 30 and the book deal fell through, and there she was on the other side, on her knees, felled. And then she got up and looked around and was like, “In the meantime, I’ve done pretty well.” I have no doubt that she’ll get a book deal someday. Maybe just not today.

I think when I’m not harassing myself, I can see that I probably will too, someday. And if I don’t, I’ll self publish like a mofo and design clever cover art. But I am no longer willing to make everything else wait patiently in the background.

I have decided to stop thinking that my life will end when I have a baby. I have decided that my life will be long and that one day, almost unimaginably, my children will be grown and I will still be writing and living, on the other side of everything. I have decided that I want to have a kid while my parents and Bear’s parents are still young enough to chase after it. And while our grandmothers are still here.

And now it occurs to me that I have no idea about babies. About fertility. About how this whole thing works. I’ve always thought that I’d just get immediately pregnant if I missed a day of the pill. If there was any semen in the vicinity. I was always rushing to the health center in college because a condom had maybe broken a little. A minor tear, possibly.

“No, I wasn’t raped. For real. He was very nice, I swear. Don’t you remember me? I was here last month? Just more plan B, please. Just in case. I really, really don’t want to be pregnant. Really.”

Wait, I thought suddenly after deciding to have a baby, what if I can’t get pregnant? I mean, who knows if I can?

Apparently, even if you can, it might take three to six months for you to start ovulating again after being on birth control. And even if you’re ovulating, it can still take a while to get pregnant. Seven months on average, I think.

I had a lot to learn, so I did the rational thing: I googled baby names. “We have to decide,” I told Bear.

“Elmo,” he said.

“No, look at this list.”

“I like Elmo.”

The list was really long.

“This is boring,” I said. “Let’s just make something up.”

“Poomellia!”

“Sagan!”

“We are not naming our child after someone you had a crush on.”

“It’s perfect! Sagan!”

“Boy or girl?”

“Girl, of course.”

“That’s not happening.”

And then Bear accused Carl Sagan of being a mere popularizer and said he’d rather name his child after a serious scientist or theorist.

Which is ridiculous, because Carl Sagan was a completely legitimate astronomer and astrophysicist.

We started reading a lot of stuff. About birth and the labor and delivery floor and the C-section rate and midwives and genetic testing and ovulation. We watched The Vaccine Wars on Netflix and thought it was pretty well done.

“Science!” said Bear.

“People!” I said.

We agreed that everything is probably ultimately a combination of the two.

We watched The Business of Being Born and I cried pretty much every time a baby came out because it was so overwhelming. Bear got a little teary, too, I think.

I stood naked in the bathroom, looking in the mirror over the counter. My body, in light of the possibility of having a baby in it one day, looked tight and lithe. My belly, which sometimes strikes me as gooey, seemed taut, a sweet drum. Am I ready to give this up? I thought. Which was a weird thought, because usually I’m like, “Hmm…pretty decent, but needs some work.”

And then I just felt proud of myself. My body seemed really remarkable for having this potential. And I felt as though I’d been missing that about it, for a long time. And I was pretty damn psyched to see what it would do next.

Kate Fridkis blogs at Eat the Damn Cake. Her work has appeared in Cosmopolitan, Salon, Tablet, and many more. She lives in Brooklyn, where it’s not totally weird to be as obsessed with sandwiches as she is. You can follow her on Twitter here.

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