The Back Up Baby Daddy & My Geriatric UterusPosted: May 6, 2014
The little ghost pops up on my phone and I push the button to see what kind of a Snapchat he has sent.
My sisters convinced me to download the app so we can send photos of outfits to each other, but Snapchat is infamous as the app with which teenage boys share pictures of their penis. Photos which self-destruct within 10 seconds.
I touch the screen, and up pops an image of a smiling brown baby, a few months old, wearing gray organic knit pants over his diapers. The caption read “Big Booty Baby.”
Some girls get penis pictures from boys. I get baby pictures from my exes. This is my single life in my thirties.
We dated briefly in college, and maintained a close friendship over the past decade. I went to his wedding; he and his wife flew down for Mom’s funeral. I had met the baby a few weeks before when I visited them, baby gift in hand.
“Do you want to hold him?” his wife asked.
“Well, uh… I don’t know…”
It – I mean, he – looked small and wriggly. I was never the girl with the motherly instinct. I was the one that would hold babies at arm’s length, paranoid that I would drop them. She gently placed the baby in my lap. And the baby smiled, with his daddy’s lips and his mommy’s eyes. We made eye contact and the baby started gurgling joyfully. I held him tight, kissing the top of his head.
And I couldn’t help but wonder for a fleeting moment what this cute bundle of joy would have looked like had it been mine instead.
Thirty-Five. In two months, after my 35th birthday, I will be considered geriatric. If I were to get pregnant, that is. After this landmark age, the percentage of healthy fertile eggs I hold ready to be plowed into by sperm drops dramatically. My pregnancy would be considered high risk. If I can even get pregnant, because I will be ten years past my egg production peak. I will have a 1 in 365 chance of a baby with genetic abnormality and a 20% chance of miscarriage. My chances of getting pregnant within a year of trying will have dropped to 65 percent.
My sixteenth birthday was all about getting a driver’s license, my twenty-first birthday was all about legally enjoying Vegas, my twenty-fifth was when I could finally rent a car. And now here we are at the 35th birthday, and all I have to look forward is a decrease in fertility and no potential prospects of fertilizing.
Well, that’s not technically true. In a fit of panic around my last birthday, I asked a close friend of mine if he would be my back-up baby daddy if I wasn’t able to find someone to marry me by the time I was 38-years-old. I was relieved when he said he would. Even if becoming a sperm donor to an unmarried Muslim woman isn’t exactly halal, at least his sperm are Muslim.
The hysterical articles coming out of The Atlantic, Cosmo, and WebMD all suggest that women who have babies in their 30s and 40s waited to first advance their career or travel the world. And that these women should freeze their eggs at an early age. But what about those of us who simply didn’t have anyone that wanted to fertilize our eggs, but in spite of that, we developed ourselves into whole beings with passions, careers, and travel?
I didn’t prioritize my career ahead of having a baby. I just had a career while also looking for a man who would be worthy of being the father of my child. One of those things just hasn’t happened yet. And I chose a career that can barely pay my student loan debt, much less afford freezing my eggs at $10,000 a harvest, and $200 per month freezer rent.
Here we are – women who fought for the right to vote, the ability to work, seeking parity in every field – and yet in 2014 straight white women are still making an average of 77 cents to the dollar men are. The averages are much lower for women of color. So, basically, we’re not making as much money as men are, our fertility decreases at a far more rapid rate then theirs, and freezing our eggs is prohibitively costly.
I was never the girl that wanted a baby. Love I wanted, yes. A marriage by the time I was in my late 20s, definitely. A career in saving the world, absolutely. But the pressures of being the eldest daughter, the implied pressures and cultural contradictions wrapped up in putting education first and marriage later, made it hard to even think about wanting a baby. There were too many other things to be responsible for, without the responsibility of another human being.
I remember the exact moment when that changed.
It was Maghrib time, and the light in my bedroom was fading from the hot pink Oakland rays into the summertime evening grays. I felt everything in colors, and I could have sworn she had just tickled my ankle. I fell to the floor crying, devastated. My mother had just died. I had flown back to my empty apartment miles and miles away from home-home after the funeral. I was filled with such intense grief – my heart hurt, and my body was hollow.
At the same time I knew that the only reason I felt such intensity was because I held such incredible love for my mother. I loved her from the womb. She loved me before she even met me. She was the first person I ever loved and she was my first experience in life with love. There’s something so nascent about that kind of love – the love between a child and her mother. And I missed her so desperately.
I knew that I would never be able to receive my Ammu’s love again here in this world. But I knew that I could give that love if I had a child of my own. That’s what they say, right? Every new mother speaks of the undying love she has for her child. Losing your mother is the opposite of that.
That’s when I knew I wanted a baby. I wanted the chance to love like that again.
I’ve only dated one man with a kid. I realize that the older I get the more unavoidable it will be to date a man without a past. But what I didn’t expect was what an attractive quality I would find it. I was attracted to how he loved his child, how he fought to be in his kid’s life, how despite the way he was thrown prematurely into a life of young fatherhood, he stepped up in this most beautiful way. I wanted to be a part of that life, and I wanted a life like that.
I felt inklings of jealousy – not of the attention he was showering on his son, but a wish that I had a human of my own I could shower my love on, too. If he was able to love his kid like that, maybe he could love me close to that. Eventually though, the stress of being in a long-distance relationship paired with the challenges of fatherhood forced our relationship into a tailspin.
As someone who is notoriously attracted to the bad boy creative type, I was surprised at how attracted I was to dating men with children. They were responsible. They knew how to cook. They had jobs. And most importantly, they knew how to give that unconditional love. That kind of love you only learn when you have a deep connection to a human of your own.
On our first date, he was talking about how difficult it was to get his son out of bed and how his own mother had laughed and said that that was exactly how he had been at that age.
My eyes started welling, thinking about how I would never know what my mother would have said to me if I had a kid. He asked me what was wrong. I told him.
He paused. “Well, do you want kids?”
“Yeah. Eventually I do.”
“Well,” he responded matter-of-factly, “you’ll learn what those things are when you have a kid of your own.”
Inshallah, I thought to myself.
In the meantime, I’m going to keep my geriatric uterus as healthy as possible, and keep that back-up baby daddy close at hand.
To read more posts by Tanzila, click here.
Tanzila “Taz” Ahmed is an activist, storyteller, and politico based in Los Angeles currently working as the Voter Engagement Manager at Asian Americans Advancing Justice – Los Angeles. She was a long-time writer for Sepia Mutiny, and was recently published in the anthology Love, Inshallah: The Secret Love Lives of American Muslim Women and both zines from Totally Radical Muslims. Her personal projects include curating images for Mutinous Mind State and writing about Desi music at Mishthi Music where she just co-produced Beats for Bangladesh: A Benefit Album in Solidarity with the Garment Workers of Rana Plaza. Taz also organizes with Bay Area Solidarity Summer and South Asians for Justice – Los Angeles. You can find her rant at @tazzystar.