Birthing Sofia: On Whether to MotherPosted: March 18, 2014 Filed under: Body, Feminism, Sexuality, Woman, Womb | Tags: Babies, Birth, Bodies, Body, Feminism, Memoir, Mother, Motherhood, Pregnancy, Woman, Women's Bodies 59 Comments
“Honey, I’m not pregnant!” I told my boyfriend the other day.
“That’s good.” He replied.
But the news to both of us feels bittersweet.
It’s not like it was for me in college—a time in my life when I found myself at the campus clinic more than once because of some condom fail. No one, not even the teacher from sex education class years earlier had bothered to tell me I could only get pregnant from intercourse when ovulating. Seated in one of those plastic chairs in the waiting room, my hands clasped together, I would bargain with God: Please Jesus, if you don’t make me be pregnant, I promise to never have unprotected sex ever again. And I will stop talking back to my mom.
But even after college, “pregnant” was the last thing I wanted. It just wasn’t something to worry about until my mid-thirties, early forties tops. “Have a career first and then start a family,” said my mom, who tried doing the opposite. Because we were so busy moving from country to country she never got her professional life going.
Back then, I wasn’t interested in motherhood anyways, so I was happy to take her advice. But by my thirties, the time period for when I thought my biological alarm clock was set to go off, nothing happened: no urges to start a family, no daydreaming about what it would be like to have a child—absolutely nada—although I did go through the motions.
I picked a name for a daughter—Sofia, after the Goddess of Wisdom—and dedicated my first chapbook of poetry to her. I ended a relationship that I knew wasn’t going anywhere to give myself time to find the man I would want as her father. I chose my birthing plan: a water birth, with a midwife, and ideally lots of orgasms like the woman featured in this ABC News video.
I even sought reassurances when talking to a couple of clairvoyants that I wasn’t just procrastinating and the Universe was really unfolding in right timing. “You’ve got plenty of time,” said clairvoyant B, checking my birth chart to make sure.“I see you having them in your forties.
Only now, I’m 43 and the alarm on my biological clock still hasn’t gone off. I can’t help but wonder, what happened? Wasn’t I supposed to wake up one morning and just feel that this is it, I’m ready, and I want it now?
“When is anyone ever ready?” said my friend G., once so ambivalent about motherhood and now about to give birth to her third child. “Just do it. You won’t regret it.”
This “I want to have a baby now” alarm signal that refuses to go off has left me emotionally spinning.
“We have to start getting me knocked up, today!” I told my boyfriend a few months ago. My gynecologist had just told me if we wanted to get pregnant we needed to work on it now. “Who knows how long this could take.”
Except that neither of us is ready yet.
There is a lot of information out there about what you can do if you want to be a mother but can’t get pregnant. Plenty has also been said about why it’s a perfectly fine choice to not feel called to motherhood at all.
But what if you are like me, someone who in theory wants to have kids but remains unready, and despite knowing better feels this pressure that it has to be now or never? I never factored, when coming up with my perfect plan years ago, that the uncertain variable to all of this might be me.
Part of me has been hoping that someone or something else would make the decision for me—my boyfriend, maybe, another condom fail, or the belief that if a soul is supposed to be born, nothing, not even the best birth control, can stop it. Thank you, Virgin Mary for that bit of inspiration.
But even the advice of experts or sound of the ticking bomb that is time moving forward can’t dissuade me from what I know in my body to be my truth. I just don’t want to have a baby right now.
And while I know that I could easily change my mind to a definitive yes, six months from now, three years from now, 10 years from now (or maybe never)—and that carrying a child in my womb is not the only option—this owning and accepting of how I really feel is bringing up a lot:
Am I missing the gene that is supposed to make me feel ready to be a mom? What’s wrong with me? Nothing! Why am I sad? We (my boyfriend and I) haven’t really made a final decision. Not making a choice is making a choice. What do these “experts” really know? It’s my body, my own timing. Does the biological clock even exist?
As I allow myself to sit with this uncomfortable stew of contradiction and uncertainty, there is also relief at the release of all the expectations and pressure that had been weighing me down. And in the emptiness left behind, there is spaciousness. Room where something new can grow.
“My first daughter will be named Wisdom.”
— Excerpt from “Birthing Sofia,” originally published in Howl Naked Raccoon the Moon by Diahann Reyes, 2002.
Diahann Reyes is a freelance writer, editor, and actor.
I always appreciate your authenticity and honesty! Thank you.
Thank you! Thank you for reading and commenting 🙂
By my late 20s my family was pressuring me to get pregnant. I felt like I wouldn’t be ready until I was in my 40s. But was concerned that that might not be the best time to have a child, health-wise. So I started trying earlier, Yet I initially found myself relieved every month when I wasn’t pregnant. Although at some point I started to worry that I would never get pregnant. And I haven’t. So I thought I would adopt, But never got around to it. And my husband didn’t want to adopt, so I had less incentive. For a while–like many childless couples–I had a fantasy of someday adopting. I’ve gotten over that now.
From what I’ve heard, you shouldn’t really have a child unless you really want one because it is a lot of stress and work.
I have my doubts about there being a biological clock. I suspect that Women know that their fertility decreases over time, and for those who really want a child, at some point they’re going to feel a strong sense of urgency to get pregnant. Mostly because they know there’s a limited amount of time left rather than because there’s some genetic reason behind it all.
Thank you for sharing your experience, Georgia. It’s such an intense, personalized journey this decision whether to mother.
I agree w/ you that pressure rather than total desire is probably not the best reason to have a kid- and yes- is this biological clock- urban myth? Another kind of standard set up for women for them to feel they must adhere to-or else? I’ve been wondering myself.
First of all, I can’t believe you’re 43 – you look SO young! Secondly, I feel for you with the turmoil you’re going through. I’ve been there several times in my life. Now childless at 47, I know I’ll never have children. I’m okay with this. I believe, however; if I did have children I’d be okay with that too. I think it’s normal for people to feel uncertain and not sure if they’re ready to have children. It’s a big step, and it’s wise to be cautious. This doesn’t mean that you won’t enjoy having children or won’t be a great mother. Of course, it might, but only your gut can tell you that. I trust that you’ll figure this out and make a wise course chica! Celeste 🙂
Thank you for sharing, Celeste. It is really a strange emotional personal journey- trying to figure out whether to become a mom- and who knew there could be so many nuances and layers to the entire process!
Diane, if you were to have a child I think you would make a great mother. And if you had a daughter I think she would be raisied in such an amazing manner to be an intelligent, independent-feminist human like her mom. But you give birth to words and stories. If you have pets–you nuture them. I wanted kids but it never quite worked out–now I think I am just too old and too tired. So I just mother my 3 dogs instead. Life is funny that way somehow.
Gracias, Ivonne. Yes- I sometimes do feel like my stories are creative babies… and a soon-to-be stepmom to four cats. LOL. I remember very well your love and devotion to your babies.
Diahann, I’ve never, even in theory, wanted to have children. For me, the most important children to nurture have been and continue to be my inner children. I don’t think there is anything wrong with not wanting to have children, wanting them, but not feeling ready or finding yourself ready at a time when your body no longer has the ability to bring a child into the world. It’s a choice that I wish more people took the time to think through like you have. So much pressure is placed on having babies before it’s “too late” I think many people have children without considering what exactly that means—yes, a world of joy, but also a tremendous life-changing commitment and responsibility. Something wonderful will grow in the space you have created for yourself, whether it turns out to be a child or not.
Thank you, Audrey! Yes, I feel the same about this new space. Room for possibilities-whatever they end up being.
It is strange, I didn’t realize that I would end up feeling all this pressure despite knowing what I know- it really has been an emotional journey to go through. ANd I hear you as well about nurturing the inner child and mothering her well. For a long time that’s what I was so busy doing and now she needs less tending, thankfully. But yes, so important to constantly be there for her.
Thank you for sharing so openly, Diahann… I have had a similar journey. I wanted children on and off from 35-42. Now I’m 43 and I feel a definitive No. Maybe it’s just that my biological clock has turned off? Or maybe I’ve found another purpose to my life that feels fulfilling? Or maybe I’m just really enjoying my free time nowadays, and the thought of being attached at the hip to a baby for the next several years of my life seems like a prison to me… I’m now dating a man who is a wonderful father, and probably would have fathered my child if I really wanted one. I just called the clinic to schedule a vasectomy for him! I definitely do NOT want to have children anymore … That said, it takes a few months for the sperm to completely evacuate his vas deferens after a vasectomy. If I happen to get pregnant between now and then, I might see it as meant to be…
BTW, I love what you would name your daughter.
Thank you for sharing too, Annie. We obviously need to do some catching up. I want to hear about your guy and all the changes in your life. If you are the one scheduling his vasectomy this sounds like a serious relationship. 😉 🙂 Isn’t it fascinating how whether or not we end up being moms for a lot of us there is a whole emotional journey to go through about it.
Interesting post:) You seem to be on the fence as to whether you want a child or not. Maybe you’re fearful that a child will cut into your creative time. Yes, a child takes up a lot of time but also brings tremendous joy. You have all your life to create in your writing but only so many years to create a child. Choose with your heart. Choose wisely:)
Thank you, Carol. I was really moved by your words of wisdom.
You’re welcome…The bottom line is really for you to decide how you see your future. Or rather what kind of future you want.
Of course there’s nothing wrong with you, D. And this was beautiful. In fact, perfect:
“And in the emptiness left behind, there is spaciousness. Room where something new can grow.”
Wonderfully you. And from the wiSdOm of your years you know to trust the voice inside.
Btw, I would (at least on the blog, as I know it’s been published) just say “told my…” in the opening (blip the told TO) but you might disagree. Go ahead and delete this part of comment. =)
Life can be heavy as it is. Why allow the pressure from — ? From —? Where is it coming from?
Thank you, Diana. Yes- that pressure- who knew it would be there despite knowing better. So much better to say no to that at least.
And also- thank you for pointing out the typo. For some reason, no matter how many times I proof, a typo always seems to appear IN THE FIRST LINE of my posts, of all places. It takes a good friend to point it out… just like when a friend is nice enough to tell you that you have food between your teeth or that there is toilet paper hanging out of the back of your pants. 🙂 So thank you for that, too.
Always the first line, eh?
The scrap betwe the teeth
Oh you can bank on me to let you know if I see the toilet paper.
Hey there. Here’s what I have to say: 1 – All the love songs I used to sing swooning over this boy or that are now strangely best suited for this little one; 2 – I didn’t know I could love like this; 3 – Take it from someone who really wanted to have a second one, but about some things, you can’t say it’s never too late. I wish I didn’t have to say “I wish I had…” because it’s for naught. If for nothing else, it would be almost your DUTY to keep the likes of you (and you hear this all the time, but you’re smart, witty, beautiful, really NICE, which is such a difficult combination to find!) going in this world. Which is why I had a Mini Me! Hahahaha!
You’re doing a great job here. I’m envious! I keep wanting to start one. I wish I had…
Gigi! Thank you. I love that.. all those Filipino love songs… a perfect fit for Mini you. And about our DUTY- LOL.
And you know, you still can start your own blog.. definitely not too late there. Take it from someone who spent 8 years ghost blogging for clients and started up five blog sites and wrote in them but kept the settings private so no one could read them–what will everyone think!?–I wish I had… sooner.
Great to read your voice.
It wouldn’t be fitting me advising a lady on this matter, but if I may, might I suggest that if you have a child do consider the possible consequences of naming her or him after you or the father. Speaking as one who’s done such. There are confusions that may well arise, even in this electronic age, when two of the same name, sometimes sharing the same address have. Such as traffic tickets, credit ratings, arrest warrants!, you know little things like that.
Peter, I think that’s the most unexpected advice I’ve received. And very wise, too, I must say. 🙂 🙂
Hello! You’re facing one of the most delicate decisions you’ll ever make, regardless your choice there will be a sacrifice beyond measure that will likely inform your creativity forever after. My prayers and thoughts are with you. Much love
Thank you, Sunday. I hadn’t even thought of that or at least in that way. But now that you say that I see exactly what you mean.
I think this will resonate with a lot of people, Diahann. I can’t say it any better than Audrey did, but I think it’s great that you are asking yourself the honest, difficult questions about this. I’m in my mid-thirties, and I’ve never wanted to have kids. I’ve also been fortunate that my family and friends haven’t pressured to me to find a man, settle down, and start a family. Some of my friends who choose not to be parents aren’t so lucky. There does seem to be a great deal of cultural pressure on women to become moms. I wonder how many people become parents simply because they feel it’s what they’re supposed to do, without asking themselves these questions or considering how it will change their lives.
Thank you, Miranda. It is interesting how there is still that sense of pressure to become a mother. I have been wondering how much that is really what has been at play-having internalized that conditioning despite knowing it shouldn’t be that way. My family has never pressured me either so I feel very lucky.
I think it’s wonderful that you are so sure.
This really moved me last night, and i feel as if this is part of a longer conversation between us IRL, but I absolutely understand your ambivalence because I felt/feel it, too. i remember being in kindergarten and watching a slideshow of my teacher and her husband on vacation somewhere in Africa. My teacher and her husband didn’t have children, and I remember thinking even then that I would be happy with that life. As a grown-up, when people told me that I should have children or think about having them soon, I knew in my heart that if I had the, I’d be happy but I also knew that I would be 100% happy – but in a different way — as my nieces and godchildren’s best aunt ever. Things have changed/will change in my life, but even at my age when I’m reading stuff about my age and reproductive health, i have never heard a clock, never had that urge to have kids. Thanks for writing this. I rarely read about this ambivalence. Love it, love it, and grateful for this post.
KP, I would love to have a longer conversation with you IRL too-about anything, really! Thanks for sharing your experience. I am really getting that ambivalence toward mothering is more common than we are led to believe – a third category, perhaps, along with the groups of women that know that they do or know that they don’t.
Also, I am really wondering if this clock even exists or- as in the words of one of the characters in the Book of Mormon, which I just saw last weekend, in reality, “It’s just a f*** metaphor!”
Not so long ago I was watching a documentary on Public Broadcasting about the number of Tigers in India. Their numbers were up in terms of the endangered species list, but their habitat had been diminished to the scale of a postage stamp, and this only bodes disaster for the species, as they need a large hunting range without each other as competition. The tiger is important in the family tree or the food chain as it balances the world ecosystem. To lose the tiger is too lose us all. I was thinking how I wouldn’t want to have a child grow up in a world that only knew about tigers from picture books or television. Forgive my bleakness, as children give us hope and encourage us to try and save the world… but humans aren’t taking care of the planet very well and so to have children actually seems selfish.
I am grateful for your candor and perspectives. They are often very refreshing and healing to me.
Thank you Katherine. And for sharing your perspective – very interesting and insightful.
I agree with you that we need to be more responsible and aware that the way we treat our planet also impacts n the ones who will inhabit it next and long after we are gone (and we may be endangering them as it stands).
I have been learning about eco feminism and how the way we are currently treating animals has parallels to the way women’s bodies are treated. Are you familiar?
Thank you for taking the time to respond. No I am not familiar with eco feminism, but that sounds fascinating and I can already imagine where some of those “parallels” make sense. I will have to investigate further. Thanks for sharing about it. Maybe sometime you write about this subject? I would definitely look forward to your article after you’ve finished researching the topic.
Katherine, here is a book that I’m about to start reading. 🙂
Thank you for the link to Carol Adams’ book. I understand the topic now! Years ago I took photographs of food and juxtaposed them with photographs of fashion-manequins which were eerily realistic to make a similar point about the treatment of women, although my slant wasn’t vegan or meat specific. How females are “consumed” and consuming (fashion, advertising, beauty, sex object, gender specific roles… etc.) is of particular interest to me, so I think Carol’s book will be very interesting too. Thanks again!
🙂 Would love to hear your thoughts on the book. Seeing the way Adams parallels both is very eye opening to me while simultaneously it was a huge DUH moment not in a “how dumb could I be not to know this” but that it was an intuitive-“oh, of course, makes sense!” I love that you intuitively hit on that too. Would love to see the pictures if u have them online.
Ps. Do u have a blog ? I tried clicking on your URL but says it was deleted. Not sure if that is an error.
I apologize that it took so long to get back to you! I haven’t had a chance to go on line lately as my current work has taken over, but in regards to your question, no I do not have a blog. At first, I was considering if and what kind of work I would exhibit and WordPress is my first real exposure navigating the benefits and drawbacks of blogging (I began reading WordPress blogs in January). The photographic work I referenced was produced in a limited edition of two hand bound artists books that I sold in Portland, Oregon in 2001. I hadn’t thought of reproducing the work online. Thank you for your interest! I am definitely going to embark on the book by Carol Adams, but I haven’t found the time to begin it yet. I will keep you posted and look forward to your future articles!
Sounds good, Katherine. Thanks for responding 🙂
I got pregnant one month after my honeymoon. I cried. That wasn’t supposed to happen. We were newlyweds. We were going to travel and do wonderful things before we started a family. We just weren’t ready, but nature had other plans. Having our daughter didn’t stop us from traveling and doing wonderful things. We took our daughter with us, and she enriched our lives in ways we never could have expected. She turns 18 this Saturday and is heading off to college. Looking back, I wouldn’t have changed a thing. 🙂
Thank you for sharing that. I admit that I do have the worry that the changes that will arise may not be the best fit for me. It sounds like you got to do what you both wanted to and also enjoy the experience of being parents to your daughter, which is inspiring.
My wife and I are unable to have children, and the adoption laws in our country are so backwards that that has not been a realistic option either. Although it has taken some years, we’ve come to terms with this. Of course, there are some rare days when it all gets a bit much for wifey (and even me, even though my desire to have children was not as great).
There are always possibilities that will never be. There are always what ifs. There are some things that we unfortunately have had to let slip from our hands if we were to have a hope of grasping other more doable dreams. It’s not always easy to let go.
All this to say that I appreciate your candour here. It’s refreshing to read someone honestly questioning their own reasons and motives, and not as a way of clouding the issue, but as a way of genuinely and carefully considering something so sensitive from every possible angle. It’s like you’re turning over every pebble and piece of debris on a beach to make sure you haven’t missed that one little sand dollar that might be the key to… well, who knows what? We don’t know until we find it.
Honestly, if you’re not feeling it, you’re not feeling it. There is no right or wrong about this. Just because the decision to have children was taken from some of us, it doesn’t require those who can to have babies to make everything right with the world. There is no biological clock. There is no societal imperative. These things are nonsense. There is only what is necessary for you. I trust that you will come to a decision that fits. Maybe you will come to it with 20/20 vision. Maybe you will stumble upon it. Maybe it will slip in under the radar and you’ll only become aware of it further down the road. It doesn’t matter how or when, only that it was the right thing for you.
Tony, I have to say your writing is just gorgeous. I loved reading your words as much as I did what you had to say. Thank you for your candour too. I’m glad that the two of you were able to arrive at some peace with where you are with this in your journey together.
There really are so many layers to this experience and it is different for each person, each couple. I really took in your wisdom here, so thank you:
“Maybe you will come to it with 20/20 vision. Maybe you will stumble upon it. Maybe it will slip in under the radar and you’ll only become aware of it further down the road. It doesn’t matter how or when, only that it was the right thing for you.”
Diahann, I really appreciate your honesty and openness on this big life choice. I can certainly empathise with your dilemma. I’m not sure if you still believe this anymore, but I do believe that if a soul wants to be born to you – they will be. Trust how you feel. ~ Cat
Thank you, Cat. I have definitely decided to go w/ the trust and feeling part. Staying in the being rather than the doing will reveal all I know, although the mind chatter can try to convince otherwise.
Reblogged this on Alpha Female Society. and commented:
Love this blog with all of my heart. So honored that this amazing lady is also following Alpha Female Society 🙂
Thank you, Kelly!!! I’m so honored to be part of of your blogging tribe and Filipina blog-ster. 🙂 You inspire me with your clear voice and wonderful work.
I had my first child at 19, and my fourth (and last) at 27. I always knew that I wanted children, but the reality was much different from my expectations, and how it happened was much different than I’d always thought it would be. I love my kids, but if I could do it over again, I think I would do it differently (i.e., I’d wait).
Of course, if I did that, I would likely not have any of them, but I do feel like I missed out on a lot of things I wanted to do in college that I never accomplished because I got pregnant and had to transfer to a different school. Even now, with four kids, I don’t know if I’m ready. Sometimes I think I’ll never know if I’m ready, or that maybe I shouldn’t have had them in the first place, but I also can’t imagine life without them.
I suppose this isn’t much help, but maybe you never know. Maybe you just have to live your life from minute to minute, from day to day, and see what drives you. If it’s maternal instinct, great, but if not, that’s great, too.
Thank you, Kay, for sharing your experience. It’s so interesting to see how for each woman it is such a different journey – the actuality of it and the subtext. And yes, your share is helpful. It’s enlightening to know that there is no right/ one true way.
I’m seeing more and more that it it might not be something to be worked out entirely with logic/practicality but to be felt into and that even then it might not be clear cut in terms of outcome and resolution!
There is so much truth to that! Some days I think I shouldn’t have any kids, even though I already do, and then there are other days whdre I wish I had more kids, even though I can’t have more (and we couldn’t afford more even if I COULD have them). I think it’s enough to just have people who will support you no matter what you decide to do or how you decide to do it. 🙂
Yes, absolutely!! Isn’t it funny how the most important things in life often don’t have a clearcut answer.
Sometimes it would be nice, though, if they did. 🙂
I agree, 100%
I really loved this post, Diahann. Refreshingly open and honest.
Thank you, Malena!!
I appreciate this story very much because being a teenage girl, society made me feel like ‘I should have children’ and its my ‘duty to have children’. one thing I find with having children is that feeling that this is where your life levels out, you settle down, put the child’s needs before your own, everything almost pauses and you stop being ‘you’ in a sense and become ‘mother’. Personally, the hard part about children is letting your own journey coming close to an end and paving the way for the person to carry on after you die. Its a hard thought
I definitely know that was a fear of mine in terms of why maybe not to have kids. I wasn’t sure I could do it without getting lost myself. I definitely think it is possible to continue with one’s personal path and be a mom- i think that is the ideal, really. But cultural conditioning can make us think it’s supposed to be the opposite way and there is no other choice. Thank you for reading and your thoughtful comments!
“Spaciousness, “room where something can grow….”–how wonderful, vibrant and full of possibility, Diahann! I have many responses after reading your forthright, thoughtful and sensitive piece, and the intriguing discussion above. You have obviously succeeded both in writing about an issue that many have dealt with/thrashed through/puzzled over and in gaining the trust of readers who offer to share their personal experiences with you. Brava!
However, after ruminating a bit, I am struck most by this vision of you, with a pulsating space for something to grow. With that focus, you can only draw more of same, in whatever form(s) that vital possibility may take, including the creative endeavor of your writing. Warmest wishes to you as you nurture the possibility. Shine on, xoxo
Thank you, Sirena for that beautiful visual. I do feel very pregnant with possibilities lately… and almost ready to give birth to all of them! So appreciating your presence here.
Me, again. After assiduously avoiding commenting on your very personal question about whether to have a baby, I’ve ruminated and feel I must restate the obvious. In case there were any doubt: there are all kinds of moms. Each mother I have observed or gotten to know offers her unique gifts–some are more involved and others not. I have yet to come across (or be) a mother who has not experienced ambivalence, self-questioning, CONSTANT attempts at balancing demands and priorities, ALONG WITH tremendous joy and love. Whatever you choose, Diahann, may abundant fulfillment and happiness slather your path, xo
Thank you, Sirena, for your wise words. I am beginning to think that this is one of those decisions in my life that really is not going to be a 100% yes or now however I choose to go. Kind of like jumping off a cliff with a water fall leading to paradise… I will however take your beautiful blessing, yes please, may I be slathered with goodness and yumminess! 🙂 xo