I Wish I Was Born a Man

Without a ticking time bomb in my belly

Photo by Anete Lusina

Men can have children whenever they feel like it. They don’t have a clock inside their bodies that starts to go off when they turn 35. They don’t have to listen to that incessant ticking, a reminder that the bomb will explode when they reach the age of 42, whether they like it or not. And no matter how many embryos we freeze, and no matter how many rounds of IVF we put ourselves through, most of the time, women simply cannot wait.

I always thought that when the time would come, I would know what to do. At first, I thought I would have a baby in my twenties, like every single one of my friends did. Then I wanted to wait until I was married. I also wanted to travel before settling down. Later, I thought I needed a solid and cozy home first, and a dog, or a cat. Or both. Even after I had all that I was still finding excuses. I thought that I needed to finish writing my book because I wouldn’t be able to do so with a mummy brain. I needed to read some pregnancy books and educate myself first, then lose some weight, and have enough me-time; the list goes on and on.

It would be easier if I didn’t want to have children, at least then I would know what to do. But I do want them. At least I think I do.

Just as there are women praying for the safe delivery of an unborn baby or living in hope of the next IVF cycle, there are others who wake up every day consumed by the most life-altering decision we as human beings can make: should I have a child?

— Sarah Macken, IMAGE Magazine (Source)

Should I have a child? I read all the books on the subject and scoured the internet for any insight I could get my hands on. I did all the are-you-ready questionnaires and completed endless pros and cons lists. I even questioned all my mum-friends, relentlessly and annoyingly, as I wanted to find out the truth from those who’ve been there first hand. I truly hoped all this scrutiny would help me make a decision, but no amount of information was ever enough.

I was even lucky enough to experience baby fever. This sudden, and very intense desire to procreate was supposed to help me take the leap, but it always disappeared as quickly as it arrived, giving me no time to even properly undo my pants. I tried spending more time with my mum-friends, hoping a real “day in a life” would pounce my baby fever, but it did the exact opposite. I couldn’t ignore the babies’s drooling mouths, their revolting smell of diarrhea, and their constant need for attention. I hated all of it. Even hanging out with my, at the time pregnant sister-in-law, didn’t spark any childbearing joy in me, especially after she disclosed that being with a child is as far from a blessing as it can be. All in all, it made me feel even worse because deep down, I knew I wanted to have my own child one day.

Maybe our ticking clock is there so that we get pushed into maternity, rather than wait around lingering, like men do.

I go back and forth like this every day, many times per day. Just as I think I’m not ready to have children, I imagine a toddler, for some reason a boy, running past the living room as he chases our poor scared cat under the couch and whose butt remains sticking out, as I burst into laughter. Or I picture myself cuddling an infant with the softest porcelain skin who smiles at me as I gently tickle him. Even while writing this, I can’t help but picture a baby rocking in a crib beside me, as I’m rushing through these last sentences before he wakes up. I would love to read something I’ve written to him, to transfer my love for stories, to maybe empower him to create one of his own one day. I would hate to miss out on so many potential happy moments, even if they go hand-in-hand with the less happy ones. But then, there are so, so many of those.

The thing I dread the most is that once you’re pregnant, that’s it. You can’t change your mind anymore, it’s done. Over. Kaboosh. Life as you know ceases to exist in that very second. With my luck, I’ll probably get nauseous straight away, and the throwing up won’t stop for the longest three, make that a six, months of my life. The only good thing about it is that I’ll lose a couple of pounds in the process, but I’ll probably triple them later, and never lose again. I won’t be able to sit comfortably, but I’ll be able to fart in any position (even beat my husband to it). My back will hurt so much that people on the street will think I have some sort of disease, as will my feet, which will by the end of the pregnancy look so incredibly sore I will have to walk around barefoot. And that’s all before the delivery.

If I’m lucky, which I’m not, I imagine my delivery to be around twenty hours long. And just because I’m not, the epidural won’t fully take, so it’ll be a total of twenty-four excruciatingly painful hours. But then finally, finally, the baby will come, with his shoulders stuck inside my pelvis and after an emergency cesarean of course, but he will come. And at first, I’ll look at this purple thing and wonder what the hell it is, because he will look more like an alien than a baby, but then I’ll hear him cry for the first time and my chest will hurt. They’ll put the baby on top of me to do skin-to-skin with all the shit he’s been pooping for the longest nine months and I’ll be disgusted, and horrified, but then I’ll look into his darkest eyes and feel something I’ve never felt before. It’ll feel like a missing puzzle that finally clicks into place after you’ve been looking for it for so long. With my baby in my arms, it will suddenly feel like all of this was worth it. Up until I take him home and start a whole new chapter of my life, called: You’ll never sleep again.

But that’s just how I imagine it.

I recently learned that what happens in a cocoon is not that a caterpillar grows wings and turns into a butterfly. Rather, the caterpillar turns to mush. It disintegrates, and out of this mush, a new creature grows. Why does no one talk about the mush? Or about how, for any change at all to happen, we must, for some time, be nothing — be mush. That is where you are right now — in a state of mush. Right now your entire life is mush. But only if you don’t try and escape it might you emerge one day as a butterfly. On the other hand, maybe you will not be a butterfly at all. Maybe you will become a caterpillar again. Or maybe you will always be mush.”

― Sheila Heti, Motherhood

I wish I could say I’m ready to become a mother, but is there anyone who truly can? Maybe our ticking clock is there for a reason. Maybe it’s so that we get pushed into maternity, rather than to wait around lingering like men do. If I didn’t hear it ticking, then I would probably never choose to go ahead and do it. Having a baby is terrifying and there is so much pain and sacrifice involved. And the scariest thing about it is that it keeps on coming, it never stops. From a constantly crying infant to a tantrum-throwing toddler, that never allows you to change him, let alone hug him. Not to mention the self-absorbed teenager or the busy adult who never remembers to call you. It’s a life sentence that women keep signing up for. But why? Probably because what you get, is far more than what you give up.

What you get, is far more than what you give up.”

Truth is I would love to see my baby awake in the bassinet next to me right now, even if it meant that I couldn’t finish writing this. Or maybe I’ll read this to him one day, saying I never wished to be born a man after all.

This article was originally published in Human Parts.

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