The Thing About Babies
To have a child or to not have a child? That is the question people keep asking me — and one I’ve been asking myself. I’ve been in a committed relationship for some time, and to the generation before mine and even within my own generation, a child seems like the next step in adulthood. Certainly, it’s a step some of my friends have taken that I continue to linger on.
words Kimberly Hickerson
art and captions about babies Roz Adams
I don’t hate children. I love some of them. I don’t find baby pictures as cute as puppy pictures, but I still appreciate a lot of them. This, however, does not mean I want children, but also that doesn’t that mean I will never want children. I think some people feel more sure that they do or don’t. Currently, I’m sure that I don’t, but I hate to say that I never will. At 36, I feel like the window of opportunity is closing, and that I should make up my mind and live with that decision.
I can see the appeal of having a baby. The love between a mother and her child seems like an unparalleled experience—what could compare to the joy of bonding with a person created from the very fibers of your body? So much goes into a child: hopes, dreams, pains, and other unforeseen troubles and anxieties.
To be honest, it’s been a long time since I’ve really loved a baby. They are quite boring, they really do just eat, shit, smile, and cry. I have vague recollections of babysitting my younger cousin Nicole and swinging her in a baby swing while she was giggling. She was the last baby I really loved, and now she has her own adorable baby girl. My little brother was twelve years younger, but I was pretty much over babies by twelve or thirteen. Around the same time I got my period, they really lost all their baby charms.
When they are a little bit older they seem more fun, until they throw tantrums or eat candy off the floor, and then I think, “What a pain.” They’re coddled and scooped up from playgrounds for the first hint of tears, and I can’t help but think, “toughen up babies, it’s a rough world out there.” Then I think of elementary school, and disagreements with parents and teachers. Sure, there are school plays and delightful things that they say, and though these years seem easier then babyhood, they seem so all encompassing. Where do I exist in this? When can I do me?
Some mothers make it look it easy, with after school activities and smiling baby photos on Instagram—all while they keep a good job or career going in some capacity. How much happiness and joy their children add to their lives, and I am happy for them, but it just doesn’t feel like me. At thirty-six I don’t feel done growing up, there is so much more traveling, creating, dining-out, and staying-up late I want to do that a child might inhibit. I think it can be just as selfish to have a child when you’re kind of ambivalent about it and just see a need to respond to societal pressures or out of a simple human fear of being alone.
Honestly, all I really want someday is a dog. I have a cat already. She’s kind of a puppy cat that plays fetch and waits for me at the door, but she has no interest in going for walks in the park or meeting other pets of any variety. I fear I will finally get a dog in my forties or something and people will comment on it being a child replacement because I will let it wear cute sweaters and buy it fancy treats, but a dog doesn’t need a college fund, I don’t have to carry a dog in my belly for nine months, and people never bully dogs on Facebook, so you don’t have to worry about their social standing and emotional agony.
I also resent that if I was single I feel like people would be less interested in my having a child and more interested in my relationship status. Both are annoying and none of anyone’s business. Over a working dinner, a coworker asked me if I planned on having children. I thought, what if I was trying and had just had a miscarriage? What if I was simply incapable and the subject brought me great pain to think about? How is this an appropriate question for a middle-aged man—or anyone for that matter—to ask a coworker?
All of this not wanting and who knows, maybe someday instead of a Corgi or Beagle I will have a little human beast that runs on two legs, and I will love it and it will fill my heart with a million times more warmth than any Instagram post could, or maybe I will choose to surround myself with adorable pets and trips to Europe with my partner. Whatever happens, it’s my choice, so unless I—or any woman for that matter—brings it up with you, please stop asking.