I can’t remember the last family function where my husband and I weren’t faced with the all-too-personal question, “So… when do you think you’ll start having kids?”
We’ve been married for a little over six months now, but, according to family law, it’s already open season to continually ask us one of the most personal questions of all time. I’m not sure where this “tradition” of putting newly legally bound people on the spot about a monumental life decision came about, but it’s sadistic to say the least.
For me, the question pushes a pressure button that connects to an underlying well of anxiety. I’m in my early 30's, and everyone around me is procreating or trying to procreate, which makes me feel practically obligated to have babies on the brain. And while I find them cute (for the most part), my biological clock must be on snooze, because it doesn’t make me scream “I want one!” In fact, sometimes my lack of baby enthusiasm makes me feel downright broken.
I fear I’ll never genuinely have baby pangs, and that one day, I’ll just give in to the social pressure to spawn. Even now, those hopeful looks from friends and family are starting to wear on me, as they often seem laced with judgment.
There’s also a not so little thing called Tokophobia, which is the crippling fear of being pregnant. While a reasonable amount of fear surrounding pregnancy is normal, Tokophobia is an extreme fear that often stems from pre-existing anxiety or depression, and results in women abstaining from getting pregnant altogether.
Today however, while I’m feeling relatively confident in my current choice to be baby-less, I’d like to say this to anyone who’s ever been asked the dreaded question: You don’t owe people a “satisfying” response.
If you and your partner don’t think you’ll ever want to make a human together, you’re far from alone. According to the 2014 U.S. Census Bureau’s Current Population Survey, 47.6% of women between the ages of 15 and 44 have never had a child. That’s the highest percentage on record since the bureau began tracking this data. Try throwing those numbers in the face of your second cousin once removed who says, “Oh, I’m sure you’ll change your mind someday.”
Another reason procreation might be off the table for you is emotional trauma. This often goes underreported because it’s a difficult thing to articulate. For example, a pregnancy that ended in a miscarriage or birth complications could do such emotional damage to a mother that she may never want to get pregnant again, even if she wants another baby.
Or perhaps you’ve been trying endlessly to get pregnant through painful, expensive measures, but so far to no avail. Probably not something you want to get into at a cocktail party when someone casually lobs the baby question at you, but hey! You’re in a long-standing relationship, so it’s fair game, right?
There’s also a not so little thing called Tokophobia, which is the crippling fear of being pregnant. While a reasonable amount of fear surrounding pregnancy is normal, Tokophobia is an extreme fear that often stems from pre-existing anxiety or depression, and results in women abstaining from getting pregnant altogether. Sometimes, I fear that I fall into this category, because my anxiety of the unknown can be all-consuming. But again, responding to the baby question with something like this is not easy, especially considering you’ll have to give a vocabulary lesson along with your answer.
Finally, you and your partner may want to have kids eventually, but that time is definitely not now, and you don’t have a clear idea when it will be. This is where my husband and I are at the moment, and explaining it is proving progressively trickier with each passing month. Just like in politics, people are not satisfied with vagaries, so they tend to push harder for a more satisfying answer. Needless to say, it’s not fun for us.
While the above reasons to postpone baby-making temporarily or permanently (and the many others I’ve left out) are totally valid, there’s still enormous pressure put on couples, especially from the older generations.
One explanation for this may be the plunging birthrates in the United States. Yup, that little census from before was no fluke — it’s a noticeable trend that’s continuing its downward spiral. What might that have to do with the older generations, you ask? If their kids aren’t having kids, there will be fewer youngins to replace the aging workforce, which could ultimately destabilize the economy.
Also, they desperately want babies to play with.
Are these concerns your problem? Not one bit. Your parents, grandparents, aunts, uncles, and friends do not have the right to put pressure on you about such a life-altering decision. It is your body and your relationship, and you should have sole discretion over who takes up residence there and when.
As for me, if the dreaded question should come up again, my response will look something like this: “No plans for any human babies at the moment, relative X. I’ve got twin cats at home, and with the constant meowing, puking and scratching, they’re all the baby I can handle right now.”