So, you know, when the time comes, how do you think you’ll do it?” my mum asks me, peering over her cup of Lady Grey.
“I don’t know. Maybe I’ll baste myself. I just don’t know.”
“Hmm,” she says. “I think that might be your best option.”
A strange thing has happened. Gone are the days when I could look at a baby with an indifference similar to that I’d bestow upon a slightly stale ham sandwich. I don’t even like the word “broody”: it portrays women as milky, bovine life-givers; people whose sole purpose is to heave more nasty little humans out of their privates. Like it or not, though, I’m it.
Last year, I became an auntie. My niece, now approaching her first year as a member of society, quickly turned into one of my favourite people. When I first met her, my voice immediately went weird. It was very high pitched and when I tried to say proper words, things like “Wittle noo noo!” would come out. This is what infants do to me now. All of a sudden, I find them so brain-meltingly adorable that when I’m around anyone under the age of three, I lose the ability to speak English. Before one of them came out of my sister, the best I could hope for around babies, speech-wise, would be an awkward, monotonous, “Hello, small person thing.”
I’ve developed a new-found respect for babies. What I most love about them is their wild, uninhibited spontaneity. In her head, in whatever language she speaks to herself, my niece will say, “I’m going to go into a corner, bite a chair and do a wee.” Then she does it. As much as I’d like to, I just wouldn’t have the guts.
Before I started to find babies so disgustingly enchanting, I never gave much thought to how I’d go about having one. A part of me assumed that if the time came when I wanted to spawn, one of them would appear out of some mist and that would be that. Now, thoughts about procreation are contributing heavily to my budding lesbian frown lines.
It’s not that I’m in any position to start having babies immediately – far from it. But I find myself staring into pots of yoghurt and contemplating the pros and cons of anonymous sperm donors.
Gays aren’t the only people for whom baby-making is a conundrum. But it still frustrates me that another woman can’t just bloody well get me pregnant.
As a family, we all love to watch out for characteristics of both parents in the baby. “Look at that frown,” my mum says of my niece. “Exactly like her dad’s.” It’s likely that my mum would have to be a clairvoyant to say something like that about my potential kid.
In December, my sister and her husband, who live in New York, came over with the baby. One evening, I stubbed my toe. As hard as I tried to scream the pain away with a series of expletives, I was overwhelmed by it and ended up curled on the floor, clutching my foot and begging God (who I don’t even believe in under normal circumstances) for forgiveness. A little later, I limped into the living room.
“Ruth,” I said to my sister, who was attempting to pry the baby away from a bundle of electrical wires.
“You know when you stub your toe really, really hard? Is giving birth more painful than that?”
She laughed bitterly. Adoption it is, then.