Somewhere within that hazy cocoon of unbridled lust that is the ‘honeymoon’ period, I turned to my then-boyfriend and proclaimed,
“I really want your babies.”
It was true – I wanted his cells to combine with my cells to form miniature versions of he and I. I dreamed of the day we would swaddle up and croon over our tiny, squishy mini me’s, day in, day out, for as long as we both should live.
It’s a desire I hadn’t had up until that moment, stirring cup-a-soup over the stove. Partially because I was 24-years-old and surviving on barely minimum wage, and partially because I’d never considered myself maternally inclined. And as half of a young couple that had been dating for merely three months or so, it was an assertion that gave us both pause. Were we both completely lovesick, or were our dormant child-rearing instincts coming to the fore as a grand display of evolution? I was used to sporting a lean figure, and now my hips were starting to expand, my breasts fill out, and weight did not fall off as easily. I looked like I could house an infant.
A few years later we broke up, and I won full custody of two oriental felines. No children to speak of.
And at 29, here I am having landed solidly in that point of adulthood when choosing a partner based on a desire for children is going to be a deal breaker. In Australia, the average age for a woman to conceive her first child is 30, up from 27 in 1991. My biological clock is ticking, but I feel I’m in the minority in feeling anxiety about this. Just yesterday I scrolled through Instagram to find a friend announcing her 29th birthday with a selfie, affirming her current status as single with no savings. It rung so true it was almost a parody of my own internal quandary. Except in this instance, the declaration seemed to be a proud statement, as it should be. You do you, babe. Part of my version of feminism, as has been so eloquently put before by others, is respecting each other’s choices as autonomous beings.
But what of us who do want children, and feel annoyingly old-fashioned and conservative for saying so?
Almost none of my friends have children, bar a few who gave birth in high school. Growing up in a heavily Christian area of Sydney, marriage and babies were the norm. Today, my Facebook feed is clogged with women proud to be childless. I used to think I was one of them. Now as a woman with a focus on her career, I feel I’m committing treason against my community of open-minded compatriots.
And still, I pick up friends’ babies and feel a rush of hormones take control of my brain as I speak in a tongue familiar to those who feel the pull of parenthood. All of sudden, I feel like there is nothing more exciting and important than protecting these squishy little humans, and speaking to them in hushed tones reserved for those who don’t possess the faculty for language.
I feel lonely when I don’t encounter other women who possess a strong desire to conceive within the next few years. I do however interact with many who feel their businesses are their children, their lovers, and their entire lives. It’s just the nature of the start up communities I belong to, who admire the hustlers, the hardworking, and the freedom of not being tied to an office or boss. Because of my same value for freedom and role as a self-employed writer, I repress a nagging feeling that I would really like to settle down and go shopping for onesies. Just for once I’d like to say, “Actually, I do want to get married. I like interdependency, and I do identify as an adult. How about you?”
To be clear, I’m wary of my privilege as a young, white female in a world-class city with access to Planned Parenthood. I’m physically and mentally able to earn a living wage, so I have the financial resources to raise a child comfortably. I’m not in the minority with my desire to give birth, and I’m not hinting that the tables have been unfairly turned on us who still want to be part of a family unit. I’m not ignorant to the fact that adopting a child as a gay couple is incredibly bureaucratic, and gay marriage will still likely be illegal despite tomorrow’s protest.
But I do feel that motherhood has become coloured as detestable, old-fashioned and socially backwards. It’s a paranoid feeling I have when I smile as a couple with a pram enters a room, conscious that dates and friends are judging my affection for infants. And for this, I feel othered with my maternal urges. It’s an issue that sex worker and writer Tilly Lawless mentioned recently on her private Instagram account, expressing her conflicting desire to have children with a need to uphold one particular version of a strong, independent woman. What further complicates Lawless’ want for children is her status as a known queer sex worker.
I want kids with the same strength of feeling that so many of my friends don’t want them, but I lack the same conviction,” she writes. “They’re always so adamant and give practical reasons (overpopulation, why brings kids into a cruel world, hogging of resources). Reasons that make me wonder hey, is it selfish of me to want them? Is it just a biological urge? Veiled egotism? If I can’t explain it to someone, can I justify actually doing it?”
Her post, published here with her explicit permission, is a declaration of a desire for procreation, sans political expression. Can a desire to have children just be a desire for love, and not a statement?
All I know is that I want them in the same way I want my horse & to be near the person I love. I’ve imagined children in my life to the point that I’ve planned to have them by myself even if I’m single.
When I express this, people are surprised. Perhaps because I’m a sex worker/queer/politically vocal, people can’t see me as a mother. In the same way women are often reduced to their ability to be mothers, I’m not allowed beyond the sphere that people view me in. Because of patriarchal ideas of motherhood, and that women must be or behave a certain way, I’m not seen as an appropriate candidate to raise children by mainstream society, and by queers I’m questioned for wanting to pertain to a heteronormative future.
Motherhood is seen as a ‘sacrificing’ of a woman’s life – her career, freedom, personality – and so when I say I want to be a mother what people hear is that I’ll give up my vociferousness, my passion, that I’m happy to ‘lose’ parts of myself to this role that society has shoved down the throats of women. Why should having kids undermine my politics or myself? Women can be good mothers, activists, people, all at the same time. I’ve found solace in Princess Nokia & FKA Twigs talking about their desire to be mothers; it’s certainly not ‘cool’ amongst young creatives to admit, seen as conforming to the status quo.
I do worry that my children will be branded those of a whore. It’s the only regret I have about coming out about my work, that they’ll suffer for it. It scares and saddens me. I hope they’re born into a kinder world that my words have helped create.”
Of course, there are those who will affirm that choosing motherhood is a statement and a privileged action, in the same way that wearing a t-shirt from TopShop emblazoned with FEMINIST is a statement and a privileged action. And I agree. I have not had to jump through the hoops of social welfare, nor is it likely that I will fall pregnant as the result of a lack of sexual education, or a lack of access to contraception. It will likely be a deliberate choice, for which I will receive immense support for from friends and family. I acknowledge the women who aren’t as lucky.
But I don’t want my motherhood to be necessarily characterised by a social politics. Nor do I want it be a desperate attempt to find meaning in a wretched life once the passion of marriage has gone (yes, I want that too). For myself, I somewhat naively want to be the mother of a baby, a child, a teenager, and eventually, a fully formed human with a moral compass. I, through a need to love and be loved in return, want a family to belong to and find strength in. I want to participate in the moulding of the next generation with ethics and emotional intelligence that might help change the world. And I feel that despite a lack of complex rhetoric, it’s a good enough reason for me.