Online magazine for twenty-something women
By Erin Russell
I somehow missed the gene that makes people think babies are cute. I hate to say it, but yes — probably even your baby. It might be an only child thing, a lack of experience, but it has always been present. When I was tiny and my mother would ask me if I wanted a little brother or sister, my shrieked dissent broke decibel ordinances. I believe one of my main concerns was present-sharing.
I did not grow out of it like everyone said I would — things only got worse as I got older. As a teenager, I saw babies as slimy, drooling, germ-infested blobs that were not even house trained, for chrissakes. They always seemed wet from at least one orifice. In my 20s, I learned of the horrific things they do to the female body: Placentas, greasiness, defecating during labor, and of course, tearing in THAT region were not rituals that I wanted to be a part of.
And yet, when I reached my late 20s, I realized I needed a baby and started panicking about completing the requisite steps to get there ASAP.
As far as I know, I am the last Russell. For all intents and purposes my family consists of my mother, my father, and me. Currently, I am the only one with breeding capability, so continuing the line falls squarely on my shoulders. Given how — and I am being unbiased here — utterly fabulous I have turned out, I feel that these genes need to be replicated for the good of mankind. In addition, there is value in keeping the name going: my father’s family includes the second-runner-up Miss Iowa and a math genius. I have been adamant since a young age that I would not only keep my last name, but make my husband take mine. (I’m not sure if this was a feminist thing or an only child thing, but I did have a point.) However, it’s not pressure from my family or suddenly unlocking hidden maternal genes that have made me more keenly aware of my need to have babies. Though the 35-or-bust deadline is looming in the distance, my aging eggs are not the driving force for this feeling. Yes, I feel like I am racing against a clock, but it’s a bit more complicated than that.
In the last few years, there have been a lot of changes in my life. Your 20s are a time of change, and they trick you into thinking adulthood will be fun. At first you get to do great and exciting things, like drink alcohol, go to clubs, freely traverse foreign lands, and have cereal for dinner every night, but then BAM: All of a sudden, you’re comparing car insurance quotes, scrubbing your toilet, and finding spider veins.
It’s also a time when you may realize just how brilliant your parents are. I am independent to the point of fault, so after I finished college I struck out for California. My parents had to institute a mandatory weekly call, which I thought was a chore until I crossed an ocean into Italy. Having their support logistically limited while I was abroad was a huge part of what made me start to truly cherish their company. Trust me when I say nothing makes you miss your parents more than Christmas by yourself in a foreign country, with MTV blaring in a language you barely understand while you watch the clock slowly tick off the minutes until the misery of the stupid day is over.
After going through the post-teenager realization that my parents actually have worthwhile advice, my mother has navigated me throughout countless boyfriend, job, and health insurance issues, while my dad can tell me how to fix anything and provides comic, yet poignant, relief when I am going through tough times. Phone communication quickly became insufficient, and I recently moved back to be closer to these wonderful people.
Unfortunately, in your 20s, your parents start to get older. I recently had to cut short a leisurely stroll with my mother because she felt dizzy and sick in 80-degree weather. Her arthritis has twisted her hands into gnarled, swollen lumps, and she complains that she looks old in pictures. My father, who swims every day and has never gained a pound in his life, is on medication for high blood pressure. He used to have a workshop filled with car parts and wood, but a hernia and shoulder injuries keep his Shopsmith under the dust cloth. You will see that these problems you associated with old people are happening to your parents. Your friends’ parents may start to die. You wonder how you can possibly thank them for everything they’ve done for you, how you can make them happy. And you start to think, “Well, I want them to be able to meet their grandchild.”
The biggest tick of my biological clock, the pivotal event in my relationship with my parents, came from someone else’s. I had a half-Dominican boyfriend in Italy, and I had the honor of being the first girlfriend to meet his beloved mother when she was there. Within 10 minutes of me walking in the door to meet her for the first time, she asked my boyfriend when we would give her grandchildren. At 25, we both guffawed.
Six months later she was dead. He had gone to visit her in the Dominican Republic; on the way home from taking him to the airport she was killed in a car crash. I was the one who met her only son, and we had laughed at the idea of grandbabies, the only thing she had wanted and that now she would never have.
Shortly after, I began to make arrangements to move home.
While my parents are the reason that I now worry about having a baby, they have not once mentioned the matter to me. My urgency stems from both wanting to give something to people who have so selflessly loved me, and wanting to share my parents with someone else, someone who’s related to them. I want my child to have happy memories of a grandmother spoiling them rotten, because I know that’s exactly what my mother would do. My father would dust off the Shopsmith and meticulously build a tiny bookcase that my mother would then stuff with treasures. So yes, I still shudder involuntarily when someone says the word “pregnant” and most of the time I see babies as poop machines that may or may not throw up on you. But gradually they have started to look cuter to me as I see them as the continuation of a family, and I imagine the joy of my parents seeing their blood, my baby. Plus, I am terrified to go through it without them.