How Do You Decide If You Want to Be a Mother?


“I don’t know what I want,” Muriel tells him. “What do you want? Do you want to do this?”

Nick says, “Yeah, let’s have a baby.”

“But it doesn’t feel intentionally enthusiastic,” Muriel says. “It’s wishy-washy. I’m pretty intentional when I want to make something happen. Right now, I’m more about, I like my apartment. I’m not going to move to Burbank.”

Because she feels so guilty about her uncertainty, she leans toward it meaning she shouldn’t have kids. If she doesn’t know by now if she wants them, she doesn’t deserve them and wouldn’t be a good mom anyway.

I wondered too: How could I know for sure that I wanted to raise a child?

I thought about how I was afraid having a child would slow down my career, and about how as a freelancer with unsteady earnings, I wasn’t sure I could afford childcare.

But I was also starting to feel a tug that I wanted to be a mom, that it would be nice to help guide a small person through life.

So, as I got older and closer to an age when I assumed I’d no longer be able to have a biological child, I accepted my uncertainty. I couldn’t know for sure how it would go, but I wanted to try to get pregnant. My fear was still there, but so was my instinct that having a child was something I wanted to do with my life.

I’d always told myself that I’d be comfortable being a single parent. I took care of my life myself. I should be able to do this on my own too.

But, when I knew I wanted to try to have a child, I also realized, after a string of sleepless nights, that I wanted to have a child with a partner.

I knew who I wanted that partner to be. That I missed my ex-boyfriend made sense. We dated for a long time when we were in our twenties, in a period that made us both better, and I felt so many ways about him: he was delightful, charming, magnetic, gorgeous, but also infuriating and crazy-​making.

He was comfortable one minute, unpredictable the next, and had a million other traits that made me both unable to get enough of him and terrified that his big personality might dominate mine.

Even though we weren’t in a romantic relationship, and lived in different cities, we had remained close, texting and visiting each other when we could. We had mutual friends we hung out with too. It was a complicated friendship, and one where I often cringed at how opinionated he was and how unwilling he was to try to make nice with everyone. But, just as often, it felt easy—I liked doing everything with him, even once marveling how much I enjoyed a trip we took to the store to stock the Airbnb I was staying at with toilet paper and laundry detergent. He let me use his Amazon Prime account; he encouraged me to set up an LLC for my freelance business. I called him when my pet fish died. He called me the morning he thought he was going to get laid off.

I thought he might want to come to New York. Maybe he’d be open to getting back together, to living with me, but I didn’t want him to if he wasn’t interested in also trying to have a child.

I decided to call him to ask him.

I was nervous beforehand. I was about to ask him if he wanted to move to New York and try to have a child with me. It was a lot to bring up on a phone call.


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