I want a baby really badly!

I know I'm too young, but every time I look at one, I want one. How to delay my desire?

Published May 4, 2009 10:10AM (EDT)

Dear Cary,

I am 22, about to graduate from a great liberal arts college, and I've got the entire world in front of me for the taking. I'm thrilled about the prospect of getting a full-time job, an apartment and maybe even a cat. I've always felt (and acted) older than my age, so the idea of settling down a bit, with my boyfriend of almost four years, is really appealing. I want to find a career that I love and do work that I'm proud of, and also travel to new places and experience new things. Basically, I've got a lot of hopes and plans for the near future.

So what's the problem? I've got an intense case of "baby fever." It started a couple of years ago, when I would get a dull sort of aching sensation whenever I saw babies or pregnant women, and I assumed this would go away. Instead the yearning to have a child has only grown stronger.

I know intellectually that I do not want to have a child now, and that doing so would mess up a lot of my plans for the future (not to mention that I'm definitely not financially stable enough to support a kid). Coming from a low-income background, where many of my former classmates had kids in lieu of going to college, I was fortunate enough to have a mother and a family that pushed me in a different direction. Now I've got amazing options available to me, and I want to make sure that I use them. Furthermore, I'm not even sure I would want to make things with my boyfriend that permanent. But I think about getting pregnant all the time! How can I delay these baby desires?

Too Young for This

Dear Too Young,

I'm not sure how you can delay the desires, but if you use effective contraception, you can delay the baby. You can delay the baby, but still there is the age-old question: How do you manage day after day to do your job and plan your life and sleep with people and eat with people and pledge your love and make your money ... all the while walking in the eye of a hurricane of silent desire?

How do you manage it? How do you honor your desire for a child without actually having the child?

OK, not to equate the two, but just for example, take me and guitars. Sometimes I get a sudden feeling I need a new guitar. I think I will die if I don't get one. So I go to the guitar store. But I don't buy one right away. I maybe play some. I hang around with other lovers of guitars. I get a fix, which is cultural and behavioral and musical and all sorts of things. But I don't walk out with a guitar every time. If I did, I'd be in trouble.

Maybe it's that way with you and babies. You can go to the baby place and hang out with them. You don't have to take one home. You can coo at babies and hold babies and hang out with mothers and babies all you want. By being in the baby place and around babies, you may find that your actual desire to have a kid is lessened. It is lessened because you have met some of your needs. Although you feel right now that the only thing that will fix you is having a baby, that's not true. That is a perception. Most likely you are feeling many things, many desires. Some of these desires can be met without going through labor.

Maybe by hanging around the place where they keep the babies you will find a gradual path that leads to motherhood at the appropriate time. Maybe that way, in fact, you will be in the right arena for your happiness, and you will meet the right guy for raising a baby with -- for, as you say, you are not even sure that you would want to raise a child with the guy you are with.

Let me go out on a limb and propose this: Let this desire for a baby talk to you. Find out what it really wants. Just listen to it. It may say it wants just a baby, and that's that. But there may be much more. There may be things it wants that you don't know about.

This may sound kind of strange, but my own psychological explorations have led me to feel that, as a metaphor, the self has many archetypes, or avatars, who act almost as individuals who can speak for themselves. We can talk to them. So perhaps you have an avatar, or a self, who is a mother, and that mother wants to do her mother thing. But if she does her mother thing, that stops you from doing these other things, career things, finding the right relationship things, etc. So what happens is you feel this desire, but immediately sense that this desire, if indulged, will threaten your whole situation in major ways. So when it comes up, you feel fear about this desire. This desire could ruin everything. So let this desire talk a bit. Don't shut it down. Listen to it. I'm serious. Maybe you can find a therapist, or just do this with a friend. You two sit and your friend can help you talk to the mother. It may be saying many, many things. Generation, for instance, and procreation, and feeding and breathing, all these elemental life forces, these things can be metaphorical. Birth can be metaphorical. There may be something that wants to be born that is not really a baby.

Close your eyes and talk to the mother within you. What does the mother want?

OK, that's a bit far out. But I live in California. What can I say? I'm quite serious that we harbor multitudes within us, and the multitudes can converse.

So inquire what is wanted here. See how you can meet what is wanted here without having to go into labor.

There's another side to this, too, at the risk of prolonging this discussion: You cannot plan everything out. Things do happen. At a certain point you may decide, well, it's time, and I'm doing it, and here goes. And that is how life happens. We find in that way that there is a magical quality about this very moment, that there is not an endless succession of moments, but that instead this moment, right now, is irreplaceable, and what we do right here in this moment will echo throughout eternity. We may decide right in this moment that we are having a kid, and then for the next thousand years there may be a new line of humans stretching who knows how far, as that child begets and that child begets and that child begets. Thus we have altered the universe in some way by our choice.

There's that word "choice" again. My, my.

So we may have a baby or not have a baby, but we honor life itself! Life itself is embodied in a baby! That is the beauty of it: That we look at a baby, and all we see is the beauty of life itself and potential, the raw opening of a bud, the bright green seedling breaking through the earth and turning toward the sun; the baby is the pure potentiality and the pure vulnerability that we all carry with us but have lost or forgotten or do not know how to contact. So the baby can symbolize life itself, and an openness to this symbol can only be a good thing, can only indicate that you carry a consciousness of the beauty of this thing, this life itself thing, this most precious and most sacred of things to the human.

So you don't need to have a baby to celebrate babies. You don't need to have a baby to love babies or love pregnancy or love mothers. You don't need to act on your desire to honor your desire. Keep this spirit alive. But hold your horses. It is a beautiful thing.

Thinking about babies? Read pages 74, and 81, and 323, and ...

Makes a great gift. Can be personalized for the giftee of your choice. Signed first editions on sale now.

What? You want more advice?

By Cary Tennis

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