The question “when are you going to have a baby, Sadie?” is like coleslaw. I get it about twice a week. People who barely know me feel fine asking it irrespective of whether they know I can or want to. They come straight in with the “when?” It seems it’s open fodder for anyone who can see you’re carrying a vagina somewhere about your person. It’s more permissible than enquiring about people’s finances or true feelings on love. It’s almost clinical. But the ‘when’ is important. Because time is of the essence.
I’ve always fobbed off the questions, light and smiling, as though having a baby is like going on a hiking trip around Guatamala; possible, but not likely. I’ve been paddling at the luxurious deep end of biological grace; the right side of the right time.
I’m writing a play about the choice that women have to make, about two women – one who has always known that she does not want kids, and one who is quietly (and occasionally painfully) unsure. It’s been an interesting way of making myself think about it all.
I’m 34, and split down the middle. On one hand I am brazenly happy being child-free knowing I am beholden to no one but myself, may choose what I do with my time, and have no overt pangs driving me to stock up on ovulation tests. On the other, I love kids. My niece and nephew are sunshine, and lots of my mates’ kids are great human beings. I can’t imagine never having a son or daughter phoning me in snot and tears on their first night of university – but I also can’t imagine the bits before that. The near-present is harder to picture than the distant future.
Writing the play has made me a bit emotional. Last week at a dinner party, at the tail end of margaritas, paella, and wine, I scooched up to the end of the table to chat intimately with an amazing woman. The men had taken their leave and were singing sea shanties in another room and spilling wine on their trousers. Andrea and I talked about children, about her gorgeous boys Joe and Jack who had charmed me into swooning before they went to bed. We got quite deep – discussing the time you ‘just know’, what happens if you don’t know, about there never truly being a right time, about the leap you just have to make, and the faith you must have that you will love the little person you make more than anything else you’ve encountered in the world for it is biology to do so – and I ended up having a little cry, and through my crying I was half-laughing and apologising for being a total idiot. Then I went to the toilet, sorted my face out, and we carried on. Now, before you all write in to beg me to come to dinner because I am the jolliest gal ever, you should know I don’t often behave in this way. I rarely cry anymore. I haven’t got time, and am happy.
I was crying because I don’t know. It is one of the most important decisions you can ever make in your life, and I am turning 35 in June, and I am no closer to knowing than ten or twenty years ago. And I now have less time.
In your early twenties you can scoff at the question; time is a hefty bugger and it’s on your side. In your early thirties time is of average build somewhere in the same room. In your late thirties it’s just down the hall and might come when called (if it likes you). In your forties time could be anywhere and you have to keep shouting and hoping it comes. Eventually time is standing in the doorway, waving, time is the footsteps fading, time is the silence, the non-reply, the echo of your call. Time is no time at all. That is a woman’s reproductive biology. All very different, but still governed ultimately by an end that is like a mini unmarked death inside you.
I have no end to this. How do you decide the right thing before it’s too late to decide anymore?
Anyone? Answers on a postcard. And make it fairly quick. I’ll be waiting with a margarita at the end of the table.