I have something to admit: I have raging baby fever. In the past year, several of my friends have had babies, which is probably contributing to my problem. Those little feet, the gummy smiles, and the smell. OH MY GOD THE SMELL. Sniffing a baby’s head is the kind of serotonin boost that is unmatched. Who needs therapy when babies exist? Just let Auntie Sai sniff all the babies and the world will right itself. See what I mean? Baby fever.
When my partner and I started dating, we talked about having more kids. She wanted the opportunity to raise a child from infancy, and I was open to the idea of another child. During my single days, I had decided I would be content with having my son unless I ended up in a relationship with someone who wanted a baby. My partner was a natural mother, and if she wanted a baby, I was happy to give it to her. She didn’t want to carry, so we decided reciprocal IVF would be the way forward. We were going to ask my older brother if he’d donate his sperm so the baby would look like both of us (my dad’s genes are strong; we all look alike). After we had been dating for a year, we made an appointment with a fertility doctor and she got a blood test and other tests.
Based on her age and a few other factors, the doctor said it might be hard to get viable eggs, but we weren’t deterred. It wasn’t impossible, and we would continue to explore all our options. I desperately wanted to give her a baby. I wanted us to be able to raise a kid together from the beginning; the sleepless nights, sore boobs, potty training, teething. Since I did all of that by myself the first time around, I was excited about having a partner.
We got a puppy that Christmas. One night, as he snoozed on the couch after destroying the Christmas tree for a while, I looked at her.
“I don’t want to have a baby,” I said, my whole body collapsing. It took her a minute before she replied.
“I don’t think I want one either.”
I cried as I told her I desperately wanted her to have that experience, but I was simply too tired to do it. A baby is a lot of work — the sleepless nights, the sore boobs, the potty training, the teething. She was already in her early forties, me approaching my late thirties. My son was closer to 10 than he was to 1. We would be starting from scratch, and as much as I wanted her to get to raise a child from birth, I was worn out. Physically, I could absolutely carry another baby, but I also knew the physical exhaustion would be 20 times worse this time around. I breastfed my son for almost four years, and I didn’t think I could handle my body being someone else’s again. We were already so tired. Could we really handle the level of tired that comes with a newborn?
She heard my concerns and understood them. Plus, there was the cost. I had a well paying job at the time and insurance that would cover fertility treatments to a degree. But it wasn’t going to be cheap, and was that really where we wanted all our money to go? Especially when we do have a kid already and want to do other things? Beyond that, kids cost money. We’re already stressing about how we’re going to put the kid that does exist through college. Did we want to have to think about two? After a very long and tearful conversation, we realized having a baby isn’t the smartest idea for our family. We realized we were content to pour all of that love into the kid we do have.
Just because I decided I didn’t want to have another baby doesn’t mean I lost all urges toward wanting another baby. Anytime I see a stroller, my uterus screams a little. But then my brain is like, “Aht aht! We already said no more of that!”
It’s hard sometimes, though, when I see a baby. A pair of baby feet? I am reduced to a puddle. Rolls of chonk that rival a can of Pillsbury biscuits? I want to nibble on every single one. The wrist creases of chubby baby hands? I am deceased. And like I said, there is nothing like the smell of a baby. I just want to sit and sniff them like they’re a candle. If everyone sniffed the head of a baby, the world would be a more peaceful place.
I can’t walk through a Target without finding myself wandering over to the baby clothes section. My hand skims over the tiny overalls and the little furry jackets and the giant hair bows for tiny heads, and there is an ache deep in my tummy. But again, my brain quickly reminds me of everything that comes with having a baby. The cuteness fades when you’re wiping up a blowout diaper and cleaning spit-up off your shirt. The cuddles during nursing sessions are sweet, but then you’re stuck under a sleeping baby because if you put them down they’ll wake up and scream. Tiny baby socks look a lot less cute when you can’t find the other one.
A couple months ago, I had lunch with my friend who had just had a baby. He is the sweetest cuddlebug, and I loved getting to spend some time with him. I cradled him in my arms, and he scrunched his little body up into my chest. I felt him relax into sleep as he found the sweet spot of my body to snooze. I sniffed his head, smoothing his soft baby hair and nuzzled his little face with my cheek. This is the stuff I miss, I thought to myself as we contentedly sat together in the sun. But then he stirred and started to cry, so I handed him off to his momma who nursed him with one hand while she tried to eat her lunch. The vision of her at that moment snapped me out of my baby-induced stupor and brought me back to reality. No thank you.
Knowing I don’t want a baby doesn’t stop the urges. My partner and I will sit on either side of our couch sending each other a million videos of tiny babies learning that they have hands or a compilation of newborns stretching. As we coo over the videos, I have to say it: “I don’t want a baby.” Whenever another friend sends me videos of her infant, I say it again. “I don’t want a baby.”
Some would say my constant need to tell myself I don’t want a baby means I do want a baby. I know I do. But I only want a baby in theory. That’s the thing. I want a baby I can hang out with and sniff and cuddle, but I don’t want the day-in-day-out responsibility of having a baby. I don’t want to have to clean up more poop or do more laundry than I already do. The thought of someone being wholly dependent on me makes my stomach hurt.
Look, my kid is 10 now. At this point, I’m counting down to the time when he will move out of my house. He asks me for a younger sibling until I remind him it wouldn’t be the fun he thinks it will be. We finally got to a point where he can fully shower without my assistance, and I don’t want to go back. I can sit at the playground and read a book or walk the dog and know he’ll be in the same place when I get back. He can pick out his own clothes, get his own breakfast, and clean up after himself. Why would I go back to wrestling a small person into pants, fetching snacks every hour, and constantly cleaning up spills? If we were all a few years younger when my partner and I met, things might be different.
For now, I’ll just be Auntie Sai and cuddle all the babies while I go home to my big kid, who will tell me how much he loves me. And when my uterus starts screaming, I’ll tell that bitch to shut up.
Queer Mom Chronicles is a column where I examine all of the many facets of queer parenthood through my tired mom eyes.