A few weeks ago, I received a WhatsApp photo from a friend who, at 42, gave birth for the first time to twins as a result of IVF. The photo of her newborn boys was accompanied by a message in capital letters: “JOIN ME! HAVE A BABY! :)”
I’m a contentedly married woman in my forties with no desire to be a mother, and I attribute her somewhat juvenile text to hormones. But I must admit that, as more of my fortysomething friends suddenly decide they want babies after all, I’m feeling a little left out. At times, I am curious about what it might be like to “join them,” to enter the unknown and mysterious realm of “wise, nurturing, earth mother.”
Watching my peers undergo this mass conversion to motherhood has also left me wondering: Why is the calling so hard for many women to resist, especially as they enter the final stages of their reproductive cycles? Why are my friends, despite their prior lack of interest in having children, giving themselves over to the magnetic pull of motherhood? And am I missing out on a pivotal, spiritually enhancing, life-changing event?
As a non-mother, the “other side” can sometimes appear like a utopian version of Wonder Woman’s Amazonian island of Themyscira — a well-ordered, genteel, man-free society where sisters transform from flighty, self-centered girls into strong, self-sacrificing, heroic women. Where those who have crossed the magical threshold take their flat-bellied sisters’ palms and place them on their bulging bellies to transmit maternal powers; where they proudly whip out milk-engorged breasts at dinner parties in a celebration of womanliness and multitask with superhuman powers, juggling memos in power suits by day and reading to their little ones by night. And where, later in life, they all courageously hold in their tears and support each other as they bid farewell to their grown children who are leaving home for college, to get married, or for a stint in rehab or jail.
I know that it is not the child that I want. What I want is to know what it feels like to want a child.