They say that your life completely changes when you have a baby. That this overwhelming sense of love makes you forget all of the sleepless nights and dirty diapers, the temper tantrums and crayon marks on the freshly-painted walls. Many new mothers declare that this is what they were meant to do: bring another life into this world. I suppose this is how I feel, too — except that I’m not a mom yet.
Ever since I was a little girl, I’ve always known that I wanted to be a mother. I used to create elaborate scenarios with my dolls as my “babies” where I was their doting mother. When I was around 14, I began babysitting for one of the local church’s childcare centers a few Sundays a month; I’d spend a couple of hours watching after babies and toddlers while their parents attended services. I bounced smiling babies on my knees, fed them bottles as they looked up at me with their big eyes, and patted their backs and sang to them as they cried. In college I made extra money by nannying for a family during the summer. I’d travel with them and their three small children, taking care of them practically 24/7. At night I was regularly woken up because of the two-year-old’s nightmares. My alarm clock was the baby wailing for his first morning bottle. But even though they weren’t my kids, I felt that emotional tug deep inside my chest. Children make me feel a peaceful happiness — like you’re living in a world where everything is pure and beautiful.
Today, I’m 25-years-old and my desire to become a mother is stronger than ever before. I feel like my body’s been screaming to get pregnant for years. Some might say hormones are messing with my head; they probably are. Most fertility experts say that a woman’s fertility peaks between around age 23 and 30, with a decline usually beginning in your late 20s. After all, having several babies by the age of 25 was the norm for most women — and still is in some parts of the world — for thousands of years. My pulsing hormones are why I almost come to tears whenever I hold a newborn and why I’m overcome with emotion even when I see a baby being casually pushed down a sidewalk in a stroller.
But I realize those are not feelings young professional women my age all share and that when I do have a child, among my peers, I’ll be considered a relatively young mom. In some ways, wanting to have a baby in your 20s is more taboo than having one in your 40s, especially in New York City where I live. Just last week, MSNBC host Melissa Harris-Perry became a mother through in vitro fertilization and a surrogate; women CEOs and high-powered execs à la Sheryl Sandberg and Marissa Mayer seemingly manage to do it all as mothers of small children in their 40s. Mothers with gray hair and wrinkles perhaps outnumber those without in some places. But despite the fact my choice has been carefully thought out, I have a good job and a loving spouse who wants a baby just as much as I do, whenever I casually bring up the topic with a woman who’s a bit older than me, the response is more often than not overwhelmingly negative. You should really wait until you’re both making well into the triple figures. Don’t you want to be able to pay for private school? Don’t you want to give your kid everything you possibly can?
My answer is always that I want to be the best mother possible and I strongly believe that if I have my baby before I’m 30 that I’ll be able to do that. Right now, my salary is modest and I know that my wife and I will never be rich (I work in publishing; she’s in graphic design/art direction). We might not have a Maclaren stroller or send our child to overpriced afterschool programs. But at least I’ll have the energy of someone in her 20s while raising my baby. I also believe that the transition into motherhood will be easier for me as a younger woman because I’m not as entrenched in my single life or in my career as a 39-year-old would be, for example.
My wife and I are planning to begin our journey to motherhood in about a year. To be honest, I’m a bit scared, but not of anything that will prevent me from going through with it. There will of course be many sleepless nights and difficult moments. I’ll probably feel a bit awkward as one of the few mothers under 30 picking my child up from daycare, and being one of the few under 40 attending school meetings. But in the end, that stuff really doesn’t matter.
Whenever I’m bored or procrastinating, I look at other people’s Facebook pages and get “life envy.” I look at photos of their luxurious vacations in Tahiti and read their statuses describing their fabulous night out. Recently I looked at the Facebook page of a girl I went to school with who’s happily married. She recently gave birth to a baby boy and I stumbled across an image of her holding him shortly after giving birth. He was swaddled in white cloths and sleeping, while she looked down at him with the most blissful smile I’ve ever seen. I felt “life envy,” I also knew deep down inside that I’ll have that moment too one day. I can’t wait.
Victorine Lamothe is an editor, writer, and translator based in New York.