Growing up, I never particularly wanted children. I preferred dressing up Barbies to caring for baby dolls, and building forts to playing house. Life at home wasn’t always great, and early on I decided I didn’t want my adult life to resemble that of my parents.
My boyfriend through most of high school and college didn’t want kids whether, so when we got engaged our senior year of college, our plan was to enjoy the extra disposable income of couples who choose to be childless and travel the world, or maybe build a wine cellar or a second home on a lake somewhere. Though he was my best friend, we were too young and I was kind of gay, so I broke off the engagement shortly before we sent out the invitations.
My yearning for a child didn’t happen overnight. It really ignited the first time I was intimate with a woman. I finally got it. Despite the biological facts conspiring against us, I felt we were creating something beautiful, magical and alive. The experience of feeling so connected to another human being definitely turned on the spigot of maternal longing, if only at a trickle.
After finishing my graduate degree, I started to realize that maybe this whole motherhood thing I’d minimized for so many years had some merit. I worked at a women’s organization where most staff members had or planned to have babies. I noticed babies at grocery stores, cafes, the farmers’ market, parks. Suddenly, it seemed they were everywhere. Their small, wrinkly hands, old man faces, perfectly shaped heads that have that delicious baby smell. And they seemed to notice me too. Was this what it meant to have your clock start ticking? It was as if any baby in a 50-foot radius could feel my ovaries quivering in his or her presence. I’d make goofy faces and they’d smile and laugh. I began having dreams about being pregnant almost weekly. I asked my straight friends if I could babysit their children, and my gay boyfriends if I could reserve some sperm someday.
Today, I have four children who are like nieces and nephews to me, as well as a real-live niece of my own. Amelia Mae was just 3 days old when we met. Now she talks a mile a minute and lets me paint her toenails. Greyson came into my life when he was about 3 years old; his mom was my boss and now one of my best friends. It’s a joy to watch him learn to be a big kid—a 9-year-old skateboarding, tennis-playing, trampoline-jumping whirlwind of fun and energy. And Isaac, now 10, and his brother Lincoln, 6, are adorable towheads that love to play music and perform in plays they write. They draw me birthday cards and valentines and tell me they love me.
Having these children in my life and watching their parents handle the ups and downs with grace, humor and solidarity has cemented my desire to one day have a child of my own. But I struggle with how much to wear that desire on my sleeve.
My straight single girlfriends have told me they don’t want to advertise how baby hungry they are for fear of scaring men off. I can relate. I’ve had two long-term relationships end mostly because of my baby fever. And maybe my exes were right: I am more interested in being a mother than a wife or girlfriend.
Sometimes I question why I want to be a parent so badly, especially when the stars seem to indicate I will be doing it single. Do I just have narcissistic tendencies? Am I hoping a baby will help me heal from my own dysfunctional upbringing? Do I just want to be loved? But when I ask myself, what I come back to is that: I relish the idea of loving someone unconditionally and without any attachment to what I might get in return. A lot of people grow up to hate their parents, or at least not enjoy spending time with them. In fact, it’s probably easier NOT to take the risk of reproducing. I’d certainly have more vacations in my future, but I think I would be missing out on an essential part of the human experience.
Whether it’s just me and a turkey baster in the Montana moonlight, or the less romantic setting of a physician’s office, I look forward to beginning a family of my own someday soon.
This story was originally published in our print issue, HUMOR.