The Winding Conversation of a Straight Highway (Part 1 of 2)

Yesterday was one of those days. The kind of day where I feel like the biggest failure of a mom. The kind of day where it feels like my life long dream of having children was a huge, misguided mistake. The kind of day where I’m that person that all the people who don’t want to have kids look at and think, “that is why I don’t want to have kids.”

There was a moment at In n’ Out, after about six hours on the road, when I looked up from filling my hands with tears to see an older woman looking across three tables, straight into my face. Her expression was set into a mask that I couldn’t read. At first I thought it was disgust or pity but later I wondered if it was envy I saw etched there.

I was reminded once again that in many ways the perspective my struggles have given me is a gift. In that moment I was grateful for the reminder of how desperately I wanted this and how someone might actually envy my life despite the fact that right then I was miserable.

In the car I asked Mi.Vida if we should even have another kid. Things have been so hard lately and we’ve struggled so much to make ends meet, not just financially but professionally and personally. Most of the time it feels like we’re barely getting by.

We talked a lot then about siblings and how we wanted to give one to Isa. I mentioned that the first really difficult months would hopefully be an investment in later years when they could be friends and playmates and actually make our lives better for each other and for us. I think we both worry we wouldn’t survive the initial difficulties to reap the later rewards.

As the conversation continued I mentioned that I really believe that there is ingrained in some women, a biological imperative of sorts, compelling us to procreate. It’s much more complicated and involved than a simple forgetting about how painful childbirth is or how insane sleep deprivation can make you feel. This biological imperative compels you to have children even when your rational mind knows you can’t afford it financially or emotionally. Even when you suspect it might cause the dissolution of your marriage.

Mi.Vida isn’t so sure. He thinks it might be as much about the way I tend to want things compulsively than any biological imperative. And that may be true. We both agree that any feelings I have about being pregnant and having children is so wrapped up in my mother’s losses and my own fears that it’s hard to pin point exactly what is going on. Still, I’m sure there is something primal there, something that can’t be tempered by the logic of my rational mind.

What are your thoughts of my suspected biological imperative to procreate? Do you believe some women feel an almost primal urge to have children despite a rational understanding of how hard it will be?  Or is it just me?

14 responses

  1. I don’t know … I never felt a biological “urge.” It was more spiritual for me, for lack of a better word. And I don’t think I was baby-crazy before our second, either … the decision to try and have another child was more the result of long, thoughtful conversations about whether it would be right for us … sort of along the lines of what you and Mi.Vida have been having, I suspect. But I don’t think that means other women *don’t* have a biological “urge” … it certainly sounds possible given how people describe their feelings sometimes.

    • I don’t really feel baby crazy either, but there does seem to be this compulsion that moves against the current of all my common sense. That is the feeling I’m talking about here. Needless to say I’m much more scared to have another child then I thought I would be and it is tapering my the compulsion more than I thought it would, but not completely.

  2. It’s totally biology. If we didn’t feel this compulsion to procreate, the human race would die out.

    Orgasms are also biology – yes, in the purpose they serve, spitting out sperm and uterine contractions helping the little guys move toward the egg – but also the fact that they feel good. Orgasms feel good = we want more sex = more opportunities to procreate.

    Men are horny all the time because they are biologically programmed to sow their wild oats and have as many children as possible. Women’s sex drives ramp up during ovulation because this is when we are fertile.

    It’s all part of the master plan to further the human race, and I promise you’re not alone in thinking so. Science will back you up.

    • I have read a lot about how men and women’s actions have basises in biology and evolution and I must admit it makes sense. It’s true that if we really thought about only the logistics of having children, the sacrifices that have to be made, the effort that has to be expended, there would NOT be an overpopulation problem right now. It makes me feel less crazy for wanting to have a second kid even when I’m terrified to do so.

  3. Hi Esperanza, I’ve been following your blog for a little while, because you write about procrastination and I have a blog, But what makes me comment now is that I can empathize with your questions/uncertainty about having a second child–and with feeling very emotional right now. I had just one son, which was the best decision, but it was a real time of questioning for me, too. I ultimately left my husband and ended up in a much better situation. My son and I thrived and I’m still married to my second guy. But… son has always wanted a sibling, so he and his wife now have just had their third adorable boy. Sooo, I think there is no one right answer. Going very deep into your own self will give you the best answer for you.

  4. My favorite class in college was Evolutionary Biology, which Marie just summed up quite nicely. Reproduction is at the root cause of a lot of decisions we make, so goes the theory, like why men cheat and women want to be with one person. At the time I was dating a real jerk and the theory made complete sense.

    I think this reproduction instinct is at play for a lot of patterns of behavior, but I do think there are other factors at play, too. Some women really don’t want to have kids and some men don’t either.

    For me it was both a strong biological urge to have kids, plus an emotional desire to be a mother and nurture children. I still have the urge to have more kids but not the will to put my body through the hell it would require to get pregnant (with low, low chances for success).

    Great questions.

    • I always thought my drive was more an emotional desire to be a mother but now I’m thinking there is a good bout of “biological imperative” in there too. It’s interesting and kind of alarming to feel that something so primitive is at play in my mind, especially since Mi.Vida doesn’t seem at all affected by it.

  5. I’m casting another vote for biology. If everyone were to truly apply logic to the question of whether or not to have a child, there wouldn’t be any humans left (or, according to natural selection, there would only be humans who happened to be incapable of logical thought). Nothing makes “sense” about this decision. It’s immensely costly both in biological and financial terms.
    Of course, I don’t think anything is just that simple. I think there are also a lot of social factors that come into play. Being fresh of the boat, it occurs to me that there are very few only children around here. 2 children is without a doubt a kind of standard. In Italy, however, where the country has been contracting for a long time, singletons abound.

    • I hadn’t thought about the social factors but they are definitely a big part of it too. I always see posts on my mom’s group message board asking for other mothers-of-singletons-by-choice looking for other mothers-of-singletons-by-choice because they feel so alienated by mothers who want to have more than one child. I never would have thought of that but I guess it makes sense. It’s an entirely different way of wanting to live your life, which demonstrates a different set of desires and priorities. As humans we’re always looking for people we can have the deepest connections with, and it’s easier to make deeper connections with similar people.

  6. Some women? I’d make that most women. I was never too crazy about other people’s babies, yet always knew I wanted to have one of my own.

    Why are ‘spinsters’ almost universally pitied? Why are ‘childfree by choice’ couples still a small minority, one that is always asked to defend their decision? Young women who say they won’t ever want children are rarely believed.

    If it hadn’t been an urge, I would have made the rational decision to give up treatment much, much sooner.

    • I think it’s kind of interesting that “spinsters” and “childfree by choice” individuals and couples are pitied/not believed because parenthood is so hard. Before I had kids I didn’t really understand it (being childfree by choice) but now that I have a daughter I totally get it. If you didn’t really want this life, it would really, really difficult. I mean, it’s really, really difficult when you want it, so yeah, having it forced on your by other people’s expectations or unwanted circumstances? That would be insufferable.

  7. I absoultely believe biology has a part in our desire, as women, to reproduce, but I think that’s only a part of it. There are also emotional, spiritual (sometimes religious), and societal reasons too. I know I want more than 2 kids because I’m one of 5 and my siblings and I are very close. For me, a big family is a wonderful, desired thing. For my husband (although I know you are really talking about women here), being a father in part is a chance to be something that he missed out on having as a child.

    Biology is strong though. I still miss the physical state of being pregnant, and really, really want to experience childbirth again. I find it absolutely incredible what our bodies are capable of as women.

    Great post and I’m so happy you are posting!

    • I think our own childhoods are a huge part of why we want to have the number of kids we want to have. I used to really want three kids but I thought that because I was part of a pair and so was Mi.Vida that we couldn’t because we weren’t familiar with how it would work logistically. Now it doesn’t really matter if I do want three because we could never afford it, but I think having one is just as foreign of a concept for me because my sister was such a huge part of my own life. It’s definitely part of the reason why I want to have another kid, to give Isa the opportunity to have a similarly rich relationship with a sibling.

  8. I totally think it’s biology. But for me, it was also tied to the moment I met Tim. Before I met him, I didn’t even think I wanted children. The second I met him, my uterus quivered and from that moment on, I couldn’t get the thought of my body. I almost feel like that makes it even more primal, you know? It took until I met my partner to awaken that part in me.

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