About (not) having babies

I was 26 when I first felt frowned upon when people found out that not only did I not have any kids, but I didn’t have a man either. But, back then, I was travelling through South America so their suspicious frowns were not doing more than amusing me. I was imagining what those people, whose culture only hastened them impetuously towards establishing a family, might think of me.

Either I was not into men, or I was that much into them that I couldn’t decide on one.

I am back home now and, not without a wrench, I note that an awful lot of babies have been born since I left –  and this doesn’t seem as funny as it once was. The times are gone when I was either smiling shyly or using feminist remarks as a shield against the rather unsubtle insinuations of my grandmother: When will you ask me to dance at your wedding?; When will you bless me with a grandchild? The sceptical glances and the well-worn comments are irritating me more and more, and I can’t even find enough detachment to take two mental steps back and reassure myself that these are just old-fashioned impositions.

I’ve stopped fooling myself – I perceive only too well the origin and the source of my irritation. The outside suspicion makes me doubt and asks myself whether there is something about my instalment that’s failing desperately, something that I’ve been oblivious about. But I come back to my senses quickly and I remember that there are countless reasons why people have or don’t have babies. In my case, things look pretty simple: because I have not been in a so-called “serious relationship” since I was 20. 

The pitfall of yearning for a baby before learning to love yourself

But if I take a closer look, with the inquisitive eye with which I pretend to examine myself, the situation looks slightly more complex. Only the slightest inkling that a baby would fill my life with something that it’s missing now terrifies me. I experienced with my own skin the consequences of synonymously equating one’s life with one’s child. What a perpetual feeling of satisfaction and lack of control, of a wild wish to possess and retain the other next to you, while the child’s shoulders bend under the responsibility of a happiness that is not even their own. Therefore… not! The possibility of such a scenario is excluded from the outset because, if there is something I have come to understand wholeheartedly by this age, it’s that happiness is by no means to be found outside oneself.

I don’t feel responsible in any way for the perpetuation of the species or the nation and I am fully convinced that the Earth will keep spinning with or without my genes spread through the generations.

The only plausible reason for raising a kid (steady: for raising not necessarily for having your own) seems to me that of bequeathing human qualities for posterity. Those values you have honed throughout your life through conscious effort so that the individual raised and educated by you becomes a grain of sand that will make this world a better place.

Please, don’t close the window pushed by the frustration of having to scroll till here only to come to such a monumental cliché! I hear you cry. I’ve tried, but I can’t find words that are less abused but please, let me take another stab at it.

Other reasons for yearning for babies

I truly believe we should have kids not only to educate them to become good doctors, good engineers or to bring us a cup of tea when we are old and decrepit.

I think that the desire to become parents should spring from the impetus to inspire into the offspring morals and principles that would make this world a more agreeable place. For humanity’s mischievousness to be less dark, we should educate our children in the spirit of solidarity, generosity and equality. We should teach them that the blind and greedy accumulation of wealth is not a value, that Nature and Body are not resources to be exploited at will and that, despite all appearances, essentially, we are all the same. These among others… This can be done by teaching them to look beneath the imaginary barriers between me and the others, to overcome the erroneous demarcation between my body and the outside world and even that between my body and myself, and to leave behind the conditionality imposed by so-called ”natural laws”, in order to discover that there is no essential difference between beings.

That said, it becomes obvious that the desire to become a parent can be easily replaced by that of being a teacher, a professor or a mentor…

So how could I, at this moment of my life, when I am barely hobbling through life trying to understand all of these things, and integrate them in a more or less respectful manner… me, who is failing miserably with every opportunity I have: how can I pretend I am capable of educating someone in such a wise manner?

And you can tell me that nobody teaches you to be a parent and you learn everything on the go by trial and error, but I get positively queasy at the thought that I already have inside me a child with millions of problems to be understood and embraced.

On the other hand, it would be arrogant and unfair of me to depict only this side of the coin which, despite all the flaws it has, claims a sort of heroism. It would be unjust not to take into consideration all the efforts and love of those women who, infinitely braver than me, dare to be mothers. I would feel mean-spirited beyond measure if my heart had not pushed me to reverence before the bondless power of sacrifice proven by all the women who, despite enjoying the limitless freedom of abortion, chose to put their plans on stand-by in favour of the privilege of having a child.

Of course, these are all facets of the same matter, and a single one cannot be honoured with the status of absolute Truth. And anyway, it would be too simple: stay on the side of one opinion, defend it tooth and claw, and you will surely manage to arm it with a plethora of supportive arguments. To have or not to have babies… that’s the question with no single answer. However: let’s try to regard ourselves and other women bearing our uniqueness in mind, along with our personal circumstances and unavoidable continuous changes. This is what I try to remember every time I feel like an outsider, like I’m one step behind like I’m in the wrong in any way. Because just as on a coin there are two faces, in a flexible mind there is space for two perspectives that are, apparently, at odds.

Written by Iulia Hau.
Iulia Hau is a Romanian translator and journalist, and an avid traveller. She prefers one-way plane tickets and travels that allow her to submerge into a new culture in order to understand its depths, rather than to fast check the main tourist landmarks.