Let’s talk about The Question. You know The Question. Fired at you by well-meaning friends, drunk aunts, anxious parents, unprofessional bosses and nervous dates throughout your 20s, 30s and even 40s. The Question that makes you sit a little too long on the toilet, staring at the patch of wall above the loo roll holder, trying to arrange your face into something neutral. The Question that slipped into your unconscious aged 12 when you had a dream that you were pregnant in PE and when it came out, it was actually just a bucket of water you had to carry around all day and not spill. The Question that hovers over every birthday party, every hen do, every break up, every “catch up” until the menopause, perhaps beyond. The Question that still, in 2019, seems to define your life as a woman, whichever side you sit on. The Question you ask yourself and, when your guard is low, ask others: Are you going to have a baby?
Even now that I have a baby, I’m still asked it. Almost from the moment you heave out your placenta The Question starts to rise up before you like a tsunami: Are you going to have another? Could you do it again? Does your partner want more? Are you trying? Do you want a bigger family? Just this week, as I flew across the park to wrestle a full-size garden fork from the chubby fingers of my one-year-old son and return it to the man doing community service in one of the flower beds, a woman I’d met mere seconds earlier asked me if I was going to have another baby. Never mind that this is about as personal and probably as complex as, say, “How much money do you have in your bank right now?” “Do you use lube?” “Do you cry often?” “Did you have a happy childhood?” “Are you good at foreplay?” “Could you commit murder?” “Do you get neck hairs?” I don’t resent her for it either. I know how powerful that hunger for other people’s lives becomes, when your own seems so unknown, undefined and uncertain. How you long to snout through the twists and corners of other people’s thinking in order to make sense of your own contradictory feelings. How you hope that someone else’s answer might become your own.
It is also true that, despite what a few thousand years of evolution might like to tell us, we are still by nature social monkeys. We still exist in a group dynamic, nudged by other people’s actions, guided by other women’s example, provoked by other individuals’ behaviour. We are still fascinated by what’s going on in other people’s wombs. Why else would Google currently list 189,000 news results under the term “pregnancy rumours”? I will argue for days why nobody should be defined by their ability or choice to procreate, will defend to the hilt anybody opting to guard against pregnancy for whatever reason, will delight in the lifestyles of those with and without children. But catch me when my guard is down, when I feel awash with a certain combination or hormones, when I’ve had a good night’s sleep or have just taken a new batch of children’s clothes to the charity shop and, my friends, I may well do it. I might just pop The Question.
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