I’ve loved babies since I was a toddler. At nine I started babysitting; it was my main source of income for over a decade. I was a camp counselor for five years, interned as an elementary school art teacher and am one of those baby whisperers who calms down crying infants on subways and in grocery store lines. I don’t babysit for money anymore, but I need little ones in my life.
My little babes that I call my nephews are not biologically related to me, but they are absolutely my family. They are moving to the Midwest soon and I will be losing my baby fix. I’m very sad about it — and so is my uterus.
I don’t want kids, at least not right now. But I can feel my body begging me to have one. The biological clock is a clichéd and sometimes sexist trope, but it sure feels real to me. Now that I’m in my 30s, my stupid reproductive system seems to be punishing me for not using it. I swear my cramps have gotten worse because my body is pissed off that I’m wasting an egg every month.
Despite my love of babies and my debilitating cramps, I am still not ready for children. Perhaps you are also struggling with the conflicting desires of your brain and your body. Here are some tips to make your uterus shut up.
1. Have babies in your life.
Being an aunt is the best. You get greeted at the door with big hugs and excitement. I love feeding my nephews dinner, hearing about the four-year-old’s day at school, rocking the baby to sleep while I sing him Paul Simon and Belle & Sebastian songs. But I also like that after they’re in bed, I go home and work or perform or go to a concert or a bar and generally do whatever the hell I want. Have friends or family with little babes? Offer to babysit. I guarantee they will be thrilled to get a night out. It’s mutually beneficial.
2. Acknowledge it.
I hear you, uterus, I know you want me to put a fetus in you that will grow into a baby I birth and hold and feed and love and blah blah blah. It’s not gonna happen (at least not any time soon). It’s okay to experience ambivalence around parenthood. It’s okay to have kids and also to not have kids. It’s okay to kind of want them and not have them. Take a deep breath.
3. Experience the reality of full-time parenting for a day or two.
When my youngest nephew was born, I took care of his three-year-old brother for two days. I’d been watching this kid since he was one, we know each other well, I love him to pieces, he’s not a difficult kid and yet by the end I couldn’t wait to get home to my childless life. He threw a fit when we left the hospital after visiting the baby; I got to deal with stares as I carried a screaming toddler out of the building. He threw a fit when I wouldn’t buy him a toy at the deli; he fell to the ground and did that annoying toddler wiggly worm thing that makes them impervious to being picked up. He woke me up at 7 a.m. since he needed to, like, eat. As a full-time freelancer who works from home, getting up early for me means 9 a.m. and I survive on coffee until at least noon. I’m not used to early calls and feeding a human being multiple times a day. Taking care of a toddler for two days was nothing compared to the reality of full-time parenting. But it was enough to remind me that, oh yeah, I don’t want to be a parent that badly.
4. Rationalize your emotions away!
Make a list of why it makes no sense to have babies now. Here is mine: I can barely afford my own bills. I am a freelancer with no benefits. I live in a studio apartment. I’m hyper-focused on my career. I don’t know if I actually want kids. There’s a lot of mental illness in my family that I don’t want to pass on. I like being selfish. I’m already exhausted all the time without children. With a list like that, why the hell would I have a baby? What’s your list?
5. Remember that there are lots of ways to be a parent.
You don’t have to have biological children. You can adopt, you can foster, you caneventually co-parent with half a dozen other ambivalent fortysomethings. Or you can never have kids. Maybe your uterus will one day shut up for good. Maybe you will have babies and love it. Maybe you will have babies and hate it and regret it for the rest of your life and get drunk every day and pass your bitterness on to your children who grow up to resent their depressed alcoholic mother and decide never to have children of their own until they turn thirty and their biological clock starts torturing them daily. It’s the circle of life, you guys, and it moves us all.