Unplug the Biological Clock
“You’re going to have kids?” a friend’s mom asked me one day, with a wide-eyed expression, mouth agape. The conversation began when she asked if I had aspirin, and because I rarely have medicine on hand that’s not expired, I said no. She made a comment that when I was older I would need and keep medicine. I responded that I would probably stock medicine when I have kids. For some reason my mention of kids and me in the same sentence prompted her question and flabbergasted expression.
I’m known for conveying my thoughts and opinions through my facial expressions, and I sometimes forget to “fix my face.” I don’t know how I was looking, but my mama taught me to respect my elders. So I answered with a simple “Yes, ma’am. One day.” My age came up, and I could tell what she was thinking: this 31-year-old single woman is going to have kids? I’m not a mind reader, but I’m talking about a woman who, on the first day of meeting me while staying as a guest in my home, asked: “Are you married? When are you going to get married? Does your mother ask you that?” (The answers being no, who knows, and nope.) Trust me; I know what she was thinking.
I, myself, have wondered when my dream of having kids would be realized. However, when I was in graduate school I essentially unplugged my biological clock. That was around the time that I realized putting time tables on life achievements (e.g. I want to do xyz by age 25 or 30) was unnecessary stress. I knew that kids wouldn’t be in my near future and neither would marriage. Did I think back then that I’d be slightly over 30, unmarried, and with no kids? Not necessarily, but back then and now I wasn’t worried. I figure the kids will come when I’m financially ready and willing to alter my social life. That’s because ever since elementary school, when my mom fostered two kids, I knew I wanted to adopt. When I mentioned kids to my friend’s mother, I was referring to my future adopted kids. My age and relationship status don’t adversely affect my ability to adopt (at least in the state where I live).
Even if I did mean biological kids, we as women should know fertility is a touchy subject for some folks. Some women don’t want kids and are judged for it or told “you’ll change your mind.” Some women want kids but can’t give birth to them or have complications during pregnancy. On “Life after Baby,” the latest episode of OWN’s documentary Black Love, a few couples talked about fertility issues. One woman said she hadn’t realized so many women had trouble conceiving until she and her wife were trying. Her wife, an obstetrician who deals with high-risk pregnancies, kept telling her about all the struggles other expectant mothers were going through. Prior to meeting her wife, the woman believed “People just get pregnant, and they just have babies, and nothing happens in between.” In reality, fertility issues are so common that women oftentimes wait until 8-12 weeks to tell friends and family about a pregnancy because a lot of women miscarry before then. (Still, a lot of women miscarry after the first trimester.) I’ve seen more than one couple’s miscarriage news on Facebook, and those were often from my friends in their late 20s or early 30s. The news sometimes come soon after, and sometimes on the anniversary of the child’s passing. Conceiving without difficulty, having a complication-free pregnancy, and making it through the pregnancy to give birth to a healthy baby...this is all best case scenario and not the outcome many women face.
Aside from fertility being a sensitive topic, what really irked me about my friend’s mother’s comments was the underlying idea that a woman over a certain age shouldn’t and couldn’t possibly be considering having their own kids. Tell that to Janet and Serena. Or the woman I met the other day who said she had her son at 39. Or the countless other women over 30 who have given birth to children, including the women on this list. When speaking with other women, we should not assume that 1) a woman wants children, 2) a woman *should* want children, 3) a woman wants to give birth (as opposed to using surrogates or adopting), and 4) a woman that wants to give birth to children can. Another woman’s opinion about having kids (whether for or against) shouldn’t be ridiculed, judge, or balked at. Furthermore, black women should be lifting up each other’s visions, not looking at each other crazy when one expresses what one wants out of life.
Sure, I would like to one day bless the world with a mini-me, despite dreading pregnancy (fatigue, decreased mobility, dietary restrictions, hormonal changes...none of that seems fun). However I’m aware there are plenty of existing kids who need homes. It’s a good thing I can do both, and because my biological clock is on permanent snooze, I’m not pressed.