Published on September 27th, 2013 | by Katherine Clover1
Katherine DM Clover on POSTPONING MOTHERHOOD
We are having one of those long, agonizing, torturous, conversations about it, when she says the thing that makes my heart leap into my throat. We keep circling back over the same points, how we met right after I swore off dating in order to focus on what I really wanted out of life – a baby – and how she never wanted kids until she met me. We both feel like we’ve come a long way, and we are both afraid. She’s afraid of going too fast, but I’m afraid of going so slow that I’m not moving at all anymore and everything stops and my uterus shrivels up and fall out because I totally read once that that can happen.
Then she says it.
I always knew I’d have at least one kid by the time I was twenty-five. I knew it the same way I knew I would eventually shave my head, the same way I knew that I would become more radical as I aged instead of less. How did I know? Well, there were a few reasons:
1. I dated male bodied people in my late teens and for awhile after that. While I was dating these people, I also had sex with them. Like, penis-in-vagina sex. I can’t take birth control pills, and sure we used condoms, but I mean, c’mon!
2. My mom had her first kid three days before her 21st birthday, and isn’t young motherhood generationally catching?
3. I was one of “those girls”, always talking about kids and what it would be like to have them, endlessly discussing pregnancy and childbirth way before it was even remotely on the table. When a friend from High School got knocked up in graduate school, she expressed surprise because we both “always expected that I would go first.”
4. Laura, the first radical, illegal-loft-living, lady plumber, single mom, totally punx, lady I ever idolized was thirty when I met her, and her kid was five. The kid’s dad wasn’t involved because he lived in a commune in Nebraska, and I just couldn’t wait until MY future kid’s dad would move several states away to find himself.
When I was dating male bodied people, I always sat them down and explained my position on accidental conception, should it happen. That position was roughly “So I am pro-choice, but if I get pregnant I am keeping that baby and probably breaking up with you and if you even SUGGEST termination I will hit you in the teeth so hard.”
But it never happened. The condoms held up, every single one. Menstruation came on as regular as ever, you could set your watch by my uterus (though I suppose there are several other options in the modern world that might be more convenient to you). I remember once I was three days late, and I went into full pregnancy-scare mode. When the blood came on the fourth day, I was a bit relieved (my boyfriend had some pretty serious anxiety issues and I was working a minimum wage job) but I was too embarrassed to admit that I was also disappointed.
As I grew up and got to know myself, I realized more and more how queer I was, and I started chasing ladies pretty exclusively. At 25 I was unattached and broke. I had two cats, two roommates, two jobs I hated, and no baby.
I met my first serious girlfriend at a dance party. I was trying to learn how to loosen up, which is a pretty way to say I was drunk. We danced together all night, and I liked her right away. She was exactly my type. She lived in my neighborhood. She also told me pretty early on that she didn’t want kids, but I pursued a relationship anyways because, well, all the normal reasons people pursue relationships, I guess. I liked her right away. She was exactly my type. She lived in my neighborhood. I was lonesome.
When she broke up with me she said “I think we both know we’re not long-term compatible.” And I said “What the fuck does that even MEAN?” But I knew what it meant. She might want to move to Paris someday, or California, or Spain. She wanted to have a fun adventurous life. She thought a pet bunny was probably too much responsibility. And me? I had a used copy of “Your Baby’s First Year” on my bookshelf. I tried, feebly, to change her mind. When they didn’t work, I got my third cat.
Six months later, I swore off dating.
I was sick of pursuit, sick of crushes, sick of chasing ideas and skirts. I found myself trolling okcupid looking for wild and crazy girls, and solid steady dependable career women, not really sure why I wanted either. So I just stopped. I didn’t go to the New Years Eve Party that year (I found out after the fact that if I had gone I would have seen my future wife there). Instead I went to my best friend’s studio apartment and drunkenly cut my hair. Then I walked home feeling clean – I was done with liquor and women, I wanted to be a mom.
Two weeks later I went on my first date with Chelsea. I told her right away, I am going to try to get pregnant this year, so maybe I can’t get too involved. She listened quietly and told me she might be leaving to go the mountains in a few months anyways. This is not the story of how we fell in love, although we did. She was everything I would have been looking for if I hadn’t stopped looking. The shy, impossible cat took to her right away. We held hands a lot. Things got serious.
Then we entered into a series of painful discussions. Could she date someone who was trying to become a mother? How would pregnancy change our relationship? Could I put my energy into someone who might not be involved once The Baby arrived? Should we just cut our losses now? How would I feel if I put our plans on hold for her and then we broke up? I can not emphasize enough how difficult all of this was, for both of us. Eventually the only decision we could make, if we wanted to be together long term (and we absolutely both did) was to have The Baby together. I think we had been dating three months, and the circumstances really forced us to admit to each other, at a time when we might have preferred to pretend to be “cool” or “casual”, that we were both really crossing our fingers for a lifelong partnership. It was terrifying.
A lot has changed since then, and as is often the way it’s sometimes hard to put my finger on exactly when things changed. Chelsea and I live together, and at the time of this writing our wedding (no, it’s not legal) is two weeks away. At some point, we stopped talking about “The Baby” and started talking about “Our Baby”, and there is no lack of discussion about this future-human. Last year she got me a stack of mama zines for my birthday.
One thing that hasn’t changed though, is the discussions about timing. She’s still younger than I am, she’s still more recently warmed up to the idea of parenting, she’s still nervous about loss of sleep and autonomy. I, on the other hand, somehow escape my chronic pessimism whenever the idea of an infant enters into my mind. We will be poor, queer, artists together. And we will have a baby. What could be better? And while I know trying to get knocked up right now is absolutely nuts, I look at pictures of pregnant queers in wedding dresses and my ovaries ache.
The thing about being the one who is ready first is, that if we are being totally honest (and we try to be) “waiting for both of us to be ready” really means “waiting for her to be ready.” I am secure in the fact that we will do this together – there are no ‘if’s, but there are quite a few ‘when’s. I’m terrified of infertility. Every time we talk about waiting I can’t help but think about my own mother, told by the doctors that she was done having kids at the tender age of twenty three. I know our situations are peas and carrots; my mother’s body had been damaged by several extremely hard pregnancies, but still I worry. I clutch my stomach and I worry.
We keep talking about it, it does not end. I’d like to make this pretty, and pretend that the conclusion I’m working towards here is the end of this conversation, but it is not. Just last week I sobbed into a glass of port about my maternal fears and my guilt that I might be rushing my lovely partner just a little.
But to circle back, to come back around to that conversation that I started all of this with, one night we were talking about all of this and it was not a happy chat. I was gripped by all of those pesky fears.
Finally I said the thing that we both know I am always thinking but I don’t always voice. “What if we wait and it’s too long and I can’t carry our baby?” My voice cracked with the tears that I knew were coming.
And she says, “If you can’t, then I will carry our baby.” And I know I will wait for her, even if it is hard.
All photos are by Lydia Daniller and are not of the author. Learn more about Lydia’s work and contact her here.