Last summer, I had my first panic attack, and it was induced by children.
By the way, I don’t have any kids.
During an office baby shower, a female colleague about 15 years my senior reminded me that I was next, since I was married, 27, and only had an estimated 12 percent of my eggs left. Highly inappropriate? Hells to the yes. And effective. It freaked me out.
Four months later, I was having a particularly rough morning at work. I couldn’t stop getting interrupted and my to-do list kept getting longer. I suddenly felt massively overwhelmed. My brain went into a crazy-spiral: If I can’t get my work done today, I can’t get home and write the screenplay of the century, and it’ll take me forever to become the Nora Ephron of my generation, and I will be letting down every woman and brown person in America by not unleashing my voice to the masses, and I won’t be able to have a baby until there’s at least some small sign that I could accomplish that, because I’m not trying to be some resentful, broke mom with “dreams.”
I blacked out at my desk for a minute, popped an Advil and sat in a nearby park for an hour inhaling an economy-sized bag of popcorn.
That’s what you’re supposed to do, right?
The first time I had heard that dreaded term “biological clock” was as a toddler, watching “Look Who’s Talking.” I didn’t quite understand what it meant. Was it a clock in your belly? What does biological mean? Wait, where do babies come from? Whatevs, that Mikey kid who sounds like Bruce Willis sure is relatable and hilarious.
Now I’m 28. And I sure as hell know what the term means now. My career is sort of starting to kind of maybe take off a little bit. But somehow R. Kelly was channeling my ovaries in his seminal (gross) hit, “Bump N’ Grind:” My mind is telling me no, but my body, my body’s telling me yeeessssss!
I’ve always wanted to have kids, even when I was in college and my reaction to pregnancy and raising children was: “I’m not contributing to the Earth’s overpopulation. It’s totally irresponsible to add to the environmental demand on the planet, and I’m not bringing a child into this patriarchal, consumer-driven, racist oligarchy. Blah, blah, blah more words I learned in Women’s Studies 470: Feminist Theory.”
Deep down inside, though, I kind of did want one—no, let’s be real, let’s make that two. But I was 20, and uh, in the words of my internet idol Sweet Brown, “Ain’t Nobody Got Time Fa’ That!” I had a degree to obtain, and serious adult-being to get to. Besides, I was raised by a feminist mom, and a secretly feminist dad, who liked to remind me that A) having children is a maaaaajor time-suck (thanks parents) and B) you’d better not be a disappointment to your family, brown women of the world.
So I started paying my dues and ladder-climbing, all while wondering how the hell women who work in creative industries raise children.
At 25, I married my college sweetheart. Before you think that’s too cutesy, we met doing what some may call improv comedy, so that may help you swallow down the vomit curdling in your guts upon reading the words “college—gurgle—sweetheart.” Nineteen seconds after our friend—who was ordained for the day to legally marry us at our non-denominational, sneaker-wearing wedding—said, “You may now high-five the bride,” people were asking when my husband was going to throw some sperm up into my uterus. Obviously, we balked.
But here we are, three years later, with a very strict baby-having plan, because my baby-wanting juices are apparently contagious to people who sleep four inches from me:
1. Save lots of money.
2. Cliché ourselves across Europe.
3. Move into a two-bedroom apartment that accepts dogs located in a decent school district.
4. Get a dog.
5. Get pregnant; meanwhile, the dog picks up on my high-fructose voodoo pregnancy hormones emitted into the air, thus perking up his or her parental instincts.
6. Have the baby thing.
7. Train dog how to nanny the baby while I’m at work either compiling a Pulitzer-prize worthy slideshow of “36 Hilarious Photos of Crazy-Cute Turtles,” because that’s what journalism will be in the year 2015, or trying to squeeze in as many dick jokes as possible on one page for optimal box office hilarity.
8. Repeat steps 5-7. Eventually.
Now, my ancestors would have slapped me across the mouth after hearing all that.
We were dragged here on a slave ship, and you’re worried about writing dick jokes versus having a baby? Seriously?
You can vote and own property? Why are you complaining? Just have the babies and then work endlessly for little respect or parity, just like us.
You live in an apartment? With electricity and toilets? And rent control? With a white guy!?
My great-grandmother Edith was already taking her sons to football practice at my age. My grandma Essie Mae had a Buick’s backseat full of children at 28. At my age, my mom was pushing me in a stroller with her ’80s career lady-hair, a sensible business suit, and Reebok sneakers.
They all figured it out. So what is wrong with me?
Wrestling with the obnoxious, stupid, shrieking biological clock nestled somewhere around my fallopian tubes is a frequent struggle. That ticking time bomb makes me worry constantly that I’m aimlessly floundering in what has become my career, scared that I’m never going to be “ready” to have Conrad Isaac Langston Hughes Kwame Garcia-Campbell-Schmitt, or whatever the hell we’re going to name that thing.
My brain knows that I’m healthy-ish enough to probably have a baby as late as 40. Hell, I’m sure many of the commenters on this essay will tell me that, because we’ve all telling ourselves that, and it is increasingly true (by the way, here’s looking at you, science, because that baby-ceiling age used to be 35). But my ovaries are literally shouting at me a la Stewie Griffin: “Mom! Mom! Mom! Mommy! Mommy! Mommy! Mama! Mama! Mama! Ma! Ma! Ma! Ma! Mum! Mum! Mum! Mum! Mummy!”
And just like my mom, when I would be shouting for her to pay attention to me, I’ll just have to ignore it briefly, and dream as efficiently as possible.
Michelle Garcia is the commentary editor for The Advocate magazine, and a nobody-screenwriter. She lives in Los Angeles with her husband. Follow her on Twitter.
[Woman holding clock photo from Shutterstock]