what i want you to know about wanting a baby

What I Want You to Know is a series of reader submissions. It is an attempt to allow people to tell their personal stories, in the hopes of bringing greater compassion to the unique issues each of us face. If you would like to submit a story to this series, click here. Today’s guest posts is by Rachel.


I’m confused. No, I’m downright exasperated.

I have all these feelings I’ve never had before. Feelings related to…babies.
Babies. There’s a word that’s never on my radar--a word I don’t think much about.

Even as a teenager, when babysitting was all the rage, I would decline the opportunity every single time. When I was newly married and in my early twenties, I was fastidious about preventing pregnancy; birth control was my best friend. Later on, I was a nanny for three short (but long) months to mostly well-behaved children, but I couldn’t wait to leave at the end of my five hour shift each day. Kids, babies—they’re just not my thing.

Even as everyone around me has babies, is pregnant or is actively trying to create their own mini me, I don’t like to give babies much thought. They’re so much work; they will impede my ability to travel at will; they might make my cats unhappy. Did I mention they are SO MUCH WORK?

But then my brother and his wife created the most beautiful child I’ve ever seen. A just married and young friend (I’m 14 years her senior) just announced her pregnancy. A young couple in my church had twins (a boy and a girl!). And countless friends are thinking about starting families or working on their second child.

So now, feeling a bit old and reaching the end of my prime child bearing years, I’m thinking about babies—because they are everywhere. One friend pointed out, “Everyone around you is getting pregnant. I hope I’m not next.” My instant thought was, “I hope I’M not next.”

But I do want to be next. That’s why I’m so confused and exasperated--my feelings are conflicted and my thoughts betray me daily.

My husband and I have not used birth control for about two years. We’ve had no results. Due to my age, I even gave a common fertility drug a try. Still nothing. My doctor’s diagnosis: “unexplained infertility.” Thanks, Doc, that explains everything.

I think it’s time I face the facts that I’m fighting tooth and nail against—I want to start a family. Even though it’s not something I ever thought I’d long for. Even though I don’t have “baby fever.” Even though the thought of being responsible for a tiny person scares the fire out of me (and makes me tired).

I just need to come clean—I want a baby.

But before I admit to that completely, there are a few things I want you to know.

A friend once asked me, “Are you jealous because I’m pregnant?” This question shocked me (for many, many reasons). Mainly, I was shocked because I had never related her pregnancy to my lack of pregnancy. Hormonal swings, swollen feet, and stretch marks do not induce envy in me.

So, I want you to know that I’m not jealous. When I hold your baby, I don’t wish she was mine. When I hear that you’re expecting, I don’t envy you. When I see an ultrasound picture of your little life form, I don’t wish that image was nestled in my own uterus.

I’d be lying if I said I don’t feel SOMETHING. But this indescribable “something” is more like a pang--a swift kick in the ribs by my nonexistent child—a reminder that it’s not so easy for me. This pang can be subtle like a fleeting, sad thought or powerful like a tidal wave of grief.

Which leads me to another thing I want you to know: Even though it’s not so easy for me to conceive, I don’t want you to feel sorry for me. If you have a family, are pregnant, or are particularly fertile, I’m actually happy for you. My inability to have a child is separate from your joy. I will even kiss your baby’s chubby cheeks and motorboat his belly to hear him laugh (but don’t ask me to change any diapers).

In fact, I’ll take it a step further. While you may have compassion on me due to my childless state, I don’t want you to try to empathize with me. Empathy means understanding my feelings. If you haven’t walked my path, you will never understand. So I’m taking the pressure off—you can’t possibly know what this feels like and I don’t judge you for that.

While I’m busy telling you the things you should know, my inner voice is shouting at me, telling me there are a few things I should know. These are the things I don’t want to admit.

I don’t want to admit that babies are on my radar, but I need to know that it’s okay if they are. It’s okay to have a particularly girly desire to decorate a nursery, sing lullabies, smell that sweet, newborn baby smell, or have tickle wars with a giggling toddler.

I don’t want to admit I have feelings about my infertility, but I need to know that it’s perfectly normal to feel this way. If I’m being honest, it feels a little like grief. No, it feels a lot like grief. A confounding kind of grief, because I’m mourning the loss of a person I never knew, a person that never even existed. I never counted his fingers and toes or gave him his first bath or wrapped him up in footie pajamas like a perfect little gift.

I admit it. I’m sad about the whole thing.

I want you to know that I’m sad. But I also want you to know that I’m not unhappy on this path. I know there are more doctors’ offices to visit, more ovulation tests to buy, and more options available. Adoption is an exciting prospect to me.

So while sometimes this path is difficult and veers suddenly on rocky ground, I can see a grassy field opening up ahead. My not-yet-assembled family is waiting there, so while my God makes a way for me, I’ll learn some lessons, mostly about patience, gratitude, and the importance of honesty and vulnerability.

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