I’ve always been baby-crazy, but around my 23rd birthday the craving reached a whole new level. For months every time I heard a baby cry, I started crying too. I’d be standing in the light bulb aisle at Target, contemplating 60 watts versus 40—or perhaps 100?—and some tiny creature nearby would mewl its pathetic, helpless little newborn mewl and suddenly I’d have to run to the kleenex aisle, tears streaming down my face like a person with a cat allergy visiting a thickly carpeted house of lesbians.
I’ve been a big fan of babies since I was one myself, carrying my favorite doll everywhere I went, my plastic infant bundled in a fuzzy white coat and named Baby Chicago after the city of her adoption. After Baby Chicago came a veritable orphanage of Cabbage Patch Kids, Cabbage Patch Preemies, and two Cabbage Patch knock-offs (from whom, incidentally, I learned the concept of the “safety recall”).
I purchased my first car with money I’d made babysitting. I aced a developmental psychology class without ever opening the textbook. Babies to me were common sense—and never far from my mind. If I’d been able to get a boy to have sex with me—which would have required getting a boy to go out with me—which would have required getting a boy to talk to me—which would have required getting a boy to look at me—I’d currently be the mother of a teenager.
When I was 23, I lived in a thickly carpeted apartment with my lesbian girlfriend and pet cat. My cat, though usually sweet, was a poor substitute for a human baby. Every time I saw a puppy, I was overwhelmed by the urge to bring it home and make a soft, fluffy bed and a play area filled with brightly colored educational balls and rings and squeaky things on which to chew. At the pet store buying cat food, I'd stop at the puppy cages and reach my fingers between the bars to stroke their soft, tiny little paws and beg “Pleeeeeeze?” to my girlfriend—or, if I was there alone, to myself.
But as soon as she—or I—would shrug and say Sure, why not? the desire abated. Logic took over, my mind explaining to my heart—or perhaps to my uterus—that no number of four-legged creatures would take away the craving for a two-legged one. If I adopted every cute critter I encountered, by the time I had a baby I’d also have a stinky, heavily shedding menagerie competing for chew toys and lap space and tasty snacks and all the best nicknames. My people are not “animal people.” A cat, a goldfish, fine. But nothing requiring the ownership of more than one sticky-roller-pet-hair-remover thingy at a time.
It drove me crazy that my girlfriend and I could not get “accidentally” pregnant. If she’d been a man, I'd now be the mother of a fifth grader. The extra hurdle of finding a sperm donor forced me to be more of a planner than I was naturally inclined to be. In the cold, rational state of purposefulness, I realized a number of things: 1) I wanted my child to know who his or her father was; 2) as much as I loved her, my girlfriend was not someone I wanted to raise a child with; and 3) I wanted to be my baby’s only mom. Also: I did not really want a dog. Numbers two and three led to the eventual demise of our relationship—along with the fact that I was attracted to nearly every man who crossed my path—old, young, smart, dumb, here, there, straight, gay. There’s nothing quite like wanting to have sex with every guy you meet to make you realize you probably shouldn’t spend the rest of your life with your girlfriend, no matter how much you may love her.
What I didn’t know at the time was that it would take me nearly a decade to find a suitable mate. I also had no idea that my involuntary spells of crying were a clear hormonal signal that my fertility was peaking, right there in the light bulb aisle of Target.
Here I am, a decade later, and can I just say? Tick, tock!
So I've developed guiding principle for all disagreements with my charmingly contrary fiancé. I ask myself Will this get us closer to forming a happy family? Will a power struggle over flatware bring us closer to having a baby? How about the conversation in which I reiterate how annoyed I am with one of his friends? In case I start to lose focus, I've stashed a pack of newborn-size onesies in a drawer in my office as a reminder of our cuddly little goal. Just a little something I picked up at Target the other day when the living room light burned out and we needed some 60 watt bulbs.