Jewish World Review August 2, 2011 / 2 Menachem-Av, 5771
The baby craze
By Betsy Hart
http://www.JewishWorldReview.com | My children were all buzzing around me one day recently. I finally cracked, as I sometimes do, and offered a general, "Oh, good grief. Where did all you people come from, anyway?" To which one of my daughters immediately responded, "Well, Mom, you see, when a man and a woman love each other very much ..."
Everyone's a comedian.
Studies show that, typically, women respond warmly to babies whether or not they have had their own. (Men, typically, respond warmly to babies only after they have their own.) Full disclosure: Throughout my non-baby life, I could look at a baby and be entirely unmoved and uninterested.
I'm not sure I've ever written about the fact that until right before I got pregnant with my first, I didn't have any great desire to have children.
There's a reason I'm sharing it now. Stick with me.
I thought I eventually would have children as part of an obligation of some sort. True enough. But the prospect of a career was far more interesting to me than babies. I would not have chosen to forgo children. I do sheepishly admit that at one point in my 20s I actually thought if somehow I were infertile, I could at least close that door without guilt.
I married when I was 24 and he was 29. I don't remember ever once discussing thoughts about children before our wedding. Even several years into our marriage, I panicked when I had a "pregnancy scare." At age 30, I still had never been pregnant. Somewhere in there, I remember that my then-husband and I had church-nursery duty one day and left congratulating ourselves that we hadn't done that nonsense yet.
But needless to say, when I got pregnant -- eventually, it just seemed like now or never -- everything changed. Everything. At some point, I realized that one of the reasons I had avoided "that nonsense" was because I somehow knew that having a child would make me vulnerable to the world, and the pain and even the joy it could open me to, in a whole new way. Suddenly, there was a chink in my armor.
Eventually, there were four of them.
My children know I wasn't exactly the maternal type before I got pregnant with my first. I'm not proud of that -- but in any event, they don't care. They know that I love them more than life itself. And that I dread -- and I mean dread -- the day fast approaching when the first moves out.
All of this isn't about facing unwanted or unexpected pregnancies. It's about wanted, expected pregnancies that don't happen. You see, I was deeply moved as I recently read about an unsuccessful pursuit of a baby in "The Baby Chase: Adventures in Infertility" by Holly Finn, as excerpted in The Wall Street Journal. (Buy the book in Kindle edition for $1.99 by clicking here.)
Finn started fertility treatment a few years ago in her late 30s, and so far, no baby. She accepts that it's unlikely there will be one. She is heartbroken.
Finn notes, of course, that while there is no guarantee of fertility at any age, it's dramatically more likely a woman will get pregnant the younger she is. But women are increasingly delaying starting their families. And while gynecologists routinely ask a woman what she is doing for birth control, it's rare they will talk to her about her fertility. It's somehow seen as condescending.
Women are too often left to visions of celebrity mothers having babies well into their 40s (though it's frequently with borrowed eggs), and often mistakenly think they themselves can easily wait.
So much for knowledge is power, and empowering women.
Well, back to my story and why I'm sharing it now.
I'm guessing that today, more than ever, women in their 20s and early 30s might think that whatever else goes into their decisions about starting families, they should at least "feel" like it's time. Strongly. So in case it's helpful, I just want such women to know that I myself didn't "feel" much at all like having children before having them. My children changed me in that regard. So much.
Oh, and FYI: When I see a baby now, I utterly fall to pieces. Every time.
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