January, 05 2015
To Have or Not Have a Baby

Does she or does she not want to have a child? It's a question she has been struggling with in recent years.

by Hera Diani, Managing Editor
Issues
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When we got married a decade ago, nobody seemed to believe us when my husband and I said we didn’t want to have children. It was preposterous to family, friends and strangers alike.
 
“Who will take care of you two when you get old?” said our parents.
 
 “What’s the point of getting married if you guys don’t want to have kids?” said my sister in law.
 
“You’ll want one, just wait,” said countless relatives, some of whom disturbingly gave procreative sex tips.
 
Even my best friend thought it was a mere rebellious move against our parents and the society, as if we cared that much of what they would think.
 


My husband and I got married for a pragmatic reason: We love each other, we wanted to live together and getting married is practical and legally sensible since civil union is not recognized here.
 
The same simple logic applied to our decision to not have babies. There is no childhood or family trauma involved, and it was not based on a philosophical or humanitarian or environmental reason. We are just not that fond of children. Sure, we love our nieces and nephews and we care about the wellbeing of children in the world, but being parents was not a job that we wanted to sign up for.
 
I have six nieces and nephews and countless cousins, so I have always been surrounded by kids. I didn’t like kids when I was a kid – they’re rowdy, needy and could be really mean, and I experience it first hand what a hard job it is to bring up children (although I agree that it is not the hardest job in the world). I’d seen how difficult it had been for my sister to juggle work and home enough to know that it was not a life I envision for myself.
 
There is also the financial consideration. We’re doing all right, earning enough for both of us while supporting both sides of the families. But our calculation showed that another dependent would add a heavy burden on top of mortgage and other expenses that we would probably not be able to afford leisure – books, music, traveling, etc. Maybe we’d get better jobs with better payment, maybe we’d won the lottery, but we’re not the type of people who like to gamble.
 
Still people didn’t seem to buy our reasons. Some, even my closest friends (seriously, guys, don’t you know me at all?), see our refusal to procreate as a sad attempt to cover up the real truth, that we are infertile.
 
When I needed a recommendation of a new ob/gyn, a friend quickly asked, “Why, are you trying insemination/tube baby?”. My dermatologist is in the same building as a fertility clinic and every time I pass it, I’m always surprised how packed the place is. When I told this to another friend, she looked at me with such a sympathetic look and said, “Why don’t you try (visiting the clinic).”
 
The award for the “best” comment, however, should go to my husband’s college friend, who at one time turned to me and said, “Strange, cause you’re fat, you should’ve been fertile.” Needless to say, I’m not friend with that dude anymore, nor  do I bother to explain my uterus situation to people ever.
 
Anyway, after five, six years of married, our relatives have stopped asking about the baby question. Although the real reason, apparently, was that an aunt had announced to the rest of the relatives that I could not have kids ­–­­ something that my mother and my sister took as an insult to the fecundity of the females in our family.
 
Ticking Biological Clock?
 
I guess it started a few years ago after witnessing several instances where parents took their children for granted and not looking after them as they should. All of a sudden, something unfamiliar bloomed inside me, the urge to take care and protect a child. Something that brought an unprecedented thought that whispered, “I think I want one” whenever I saw a cute baby or toddler.
 
I shook it off, thinking it was just a temporary “insanity”, an Angelina Jolie’s Mother Earth phase that would go away. Except that it didn’t. So, I started to analyze it.
 
I asked myself why I wanted a baby. Is it a narcissistic impulse to have a mini-me? Is it a(nother) competitive side in me to see if I could rock motherhood? Is it a romantic notion to have the kind of relationship in Gilmore Girls?
 
I began to weigh the pros and cons and developed some fears. I’m afraid baby will ruin our marriage because I’ve seen couples drifting apart after having children. As I’ve been struggling with my weight all my life, pregnancy will certainly not make it easier. I would not be those cute pregnant women with bulging tummy, while the rest of their bodies stay slim. And how much bigger my D-cup boobs would be, I imagined with horror. And then, what if the baby has Down syndrome and other disabilities? What if s/he turned out to be an evil kid, like Kevin?
 
With all the warnings against women being pregnant after 35, I started to observe people who are pregnant during the “late age”. I cursed myself for not having this urge when I was 30, not a couple of years away from 40. Well, Nicole Kidman was having her first baby at 41, but obviously I’m not a Hollywood starlet with an army of top-notch doctors and babysitters. Or should I opt for adoption instead?
 
These jumble of thoughts occupied my mind for a long time that sometimes it gave me headache. At one point I cried, tired of overthinking things and wondering why the seemingly easy decision for many is a hard one for me. It’s just that I think having children is a huge responsibility, a decision that you can’t undo, and unlike a spouse, you can’t just divorce your child.
 
I discussed this issue with my husband and he opposed the idea of us having kid, pointing at how practical and comfortable our childless life has been. I don’t think it’s fair to ask him to do something he didn’t want to do so I didn’t push him. But then he thought it would not be fair for me, either, if it was something that I really wanted. He would support it, he said, but he wanted me to be really sure.
 
Earlier this year, after much consideration, we decided to go for it and throwing all contraceptive method to the wind. By that time, I was really busy juggling a couple of jobs and covering the elections, so timing could be better. But we were confident we would be successful with the aforementioned fecund DNA from both sides.
 
Months passed by and my period, which has always been regular, came like a clockwork and arrived on the very date the phone app predicted it would come. We started to question ourselves, thinking that maybe we were indeed infertile. But we didn’t go to the doctor because we had decided that we’d try having baby, and if it’s not meant to be, we wouldn’t push it.
 
Still we tried, particularly during the ovulation period as pointed by the app. Until the news broke. My 42 year-old sister is having a baby. Their fourth one. Fecundity does run in our families, but maybe not distributed equally.
 
The news brought our procreation effort to a halt. Somehow we just lost interest in it. It also made me realize once more how fertility, just like many other things in life, is so random. I thought of my close friends, a kind, loving and wealthy couple who really wishes to have children, but who has not succeeded to this day. Then I thought of  street children or people living in slums who easily pop babies.
 
We haven’t gone back to any contraception yet, but we don’t work that hard anymore to have a baby. Maybe we’ll try for another few months. Or maybe we’ll just be happy being doting aunt and uncle, as we have always been.
Hera Diani, like many Indonesians, has two names and she relishes the fact that Indonesian women do not have to take the surname of their fathers and husbands. Pop culture is her guru, but she is critical of the terrible aspects of it, such as the contents with messages of misoginy and rape culture, and The Kardashians.