By Shannon Frost Greenstein
I am 30 years old. Existentially, that's mind-blowing to me, because I was just 18 yesterday, I swear. Now, I am faced with a problem that is causing me increasing levels of stress as time passes. The problem is that I want to have a baby. The problem is that I'm getting older, relentlessly, and that raises a whole host of problems in achieving my goal. The problem is that, lacking the means to conjure an immediate embryo out of thin air, I'm not precisely sure how to proceed. All of the sudden, like a switch, evolutionary instincts have taken over, and I now have the urge to pass on my DNA while Darwin sings in the background like a Greek chorus.
So why, you must be asking, am I not procreating yet? Well, it's not for lack of sperm, I can tell you that. I'm happily married, as I have been for three years, with a spouse who has even expressed his desire for a mini-us running around, wreaking havoc and making everything sticky. The overwhelming reason, with which I'm sure you breeders can commiserate, is financial. I can barely afford to feed my dog. Sometimes, when it comes down to a choice between a protein at dinner or a bag of dog food, we eat plain pasta. Despite full-time jobs at which we work our metaphorical fingers to the bone, we are still living paycheck to paycheck in our thirties. The bills always get paid...and by always, I mean "usually"...but there is very little left at the end of the day. As I've heard it told, that is not the environment into which you should bring a dependent. As I've heard it told, that dependent will have cost you hundreds of thousands of dollars by the time it reaches legal personhood, and will then spend the next two decades asking you for money
I know what else you may be thinking, and I'm guessing it's some permutation of the phrase, "But you have plenty of time to have a baby! Thirty is still young!" Well, not so much. Surfing the internet one day with this omnipresent thought in the back of my mind, I learned that the pregnancy rate begins to decline for women in their early thirties; moreover, the number of eggs in a woman's body are present in much higher volume during young adulthood than after 30. (I know, I know, women's issues are super gross, but let's be mature about this, shall we? It's just science.) Perhaps most ominous, many pregnancies over the age of 35 are labeled "high-risk pregnancies", a phrase that brings to mind little fetuses engaged in all-out, Lord of the Rings style battle with the inside of Womankind's uterus.
There's another reason that I feel such angst over the situation, however, and that is pure, unbridled jealousy. With the advent of Facebook, we are now able to learn what our third-grade nemesis had for dinner...but, more importantly, we are able to learn when our contemporaries from high school and college have started breeding. We read the exuberant, "WE'RE EXPECTING!" status updates. We see stereotypical photos of couples standing together, boyfriend/husband/baby daddy with his hand possessively caressing her baby bump like he's already marking his territory in utero. We see posts from girlfriend/wife/baby mama kvetching about her swollen feet, her ankles, her nausea, blahdiddyblahblah.
Finally, the moment comes, and the internet is littered with pictures of mom, dad, sibling, aunt, uncle, and next-door neighbor holding the newborn. (I've left out the occasional photograph of the pregnancy test with a double pink line or plus sign. I mean, come on, lady, you peed on that thing.) The unadulterated joy just oozes across the computer screen, and it does nothing but remind me that I am behind the curve.
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So, what to do? Delayed satisfaction or immediate gratification? A burgeoning savings account, or a child? Never have I felt an urgency like I do when I think about reproduction, which is ironic in an age when women are having babies well into their forties. It might just be me, but I imagine this genuinely human instinct is present in everyone. After all, biology is the rule, and I am no more an exception than the breeders who seem to surround me in ever-increasing numbers. Until we're able, however, I'll continue to lavish maternal affection on my cat, sublimating that evolutionary urge to multiply, hoping that our socioeconomic status improves. Patience is a virtue, they say, and they also say parenthood is always worth the wait.
I hope they are right.