Tick, Tock: Fighting the Biological Clock

by Evette Dionne


I’ve developed a severe case of baby fever. It arrived without warning and has rooted itself noticeably on social networks, billboards, the radio and even the literature I escape into. I coo whenever I see photographs of Blue Ivy in her adorable Timberlands and smile as I package and send clothes and other spring essentials to my small nieces. I’m cringing on the inside as I imagine succumbing to the urges to ditch the birth control and fill my womb.

I’m not the only woman considering motherhood.

The New York Times found more than two-thirds of children are born to unwed mothers under 30 and indicates the statistics a “symbol of the transforming family and a hint of coming generational change.”

It’s a new phenomenon that’s stricken my 23-year-old ovaries. I’ve never bought into the patriarchal concept of the “biological clock.” In fact, I’ve regarded it as an emotional shackle used to reign in women’s ambition, but it’s beginning to tick louder and overshadow my feminist doubts of its existence.

Warren Miller, MD, a psychiatrist at the Transnational Family Research Institute in Aptos, California, who’s spent four decades researching the reasons women get pregnant, sees this as a normal phenomenon.

He told ELLE the childbearing urge is an element of the “nurturant bonding system” (i.e., caring for a more helpless creature). It’s an adaptive urge to raise, love, and care for a needier being than ourselves—”nature’s plan for ensuring that we take care of the children we produce,” he explained.

“The nurturant bonding system varies in strength from one woman to the next and is dependent upon factors including genetics, family history, and cultural influences. Those who are oriented strongly toward having children ‘channel themselves in that direction,’ because having a baby makes their brain feel like it’s getting a huge reward.”

Motherhood is calling and it’s quite the normal impulse. I’m witnessing close friends and relatives jumping the broom and popping out blessings via Facebook and other social networking sites.

Dr. Anna Rotkirch, director of the Population Research Institute at the Family Federation in Finland, has concluded baby fever is normal in post-adolescence.

In 2006, she solicited testimonies on “baby fever” through a column in a popular Finnish daily newspaper. She then analyzed the responses of 106 women (only two men wrote about their own longings) and in 2007 presented her findings in the Journal of Evolutionary Psychology. Of the respondents who experienced baby fever, 40 women said that it had come as a surprise in adulthood, sometime after adolescence. And many corroborated the stories I’ve heard from friends; one described a “physical, compelling, painful need to be pregnant…. If somebody had earlier tried to describe such a feeling to me, I would probably have rolled my eyes, encouraged her to climb out of the swamp of motherhood myth and get a life.” Others reported graphic dreams about cuddly newborns. They said baby lust was something the “womb demands,” something “biological” that goes against “common sense,” that could be triggered by age, falling in love, previous pregnancies, or peer pressure. According to these respondents, baby fever cannot be satisfied by caring for other people’s children or for pets. “When women say, ‘I want a baby so badly but I cannot have one now. Should I get a kitten?,’ others reply, ‘Pets don’t help, they just make it worse,’?” Rotkirch says. “That’s the core question: If it were just a general nurturing instinct, baby longing should more easily be substituted by partners, pets, friends.”

In other words, this sudden urge to pop out baby Zora is shared by dozens of women, but the research does nothing to quell the loud tick-tocking of the biological clock.

How do you fight the biological clock?

  • dbsm

    “having a baby makes their brain feel like it’s getting a huge reward.””

    I have often thought of those women who have repeat pregnancies with short intervals between children as getting high off the process….something that they really couldn’t help.

    And I’ll copy a part of my comment from a recent article: “In addition to the urge for sex, there is the urge to procreate, which may or may not be separate from the urge to have sex. Most women spent the greater half of their lives having the ability to reproduce. And for men, perhaps their entire lives. There are periods of time where women ovulate more than one time of month. The desire for sex is typically higher in and around ovulation.”

    Do you know if perhaps you are ovulating more than once per month?

    All I can say is what you feel is obviously very real and you have identified it. List the actions that you could choose to take. Make a plan A, B, and C. And then proceed. We all have things within us that we “fight.” Just make the best decision for yourself.

  • London

    I know the trend is to wait and have a baby in one’s thirties or even forties, and focus on climbing the career ladder in one’s twenties. But I think it really depends on how you and your significant other plan or see your two personal and professional lives playing out over the course next thirty years (or more).

    Me, personally, I like the idea of a baby under the age of thirty (but late twenties), and then skating through my career in my thirties and forties. I decided to start trying with my hubby when I was 26. I had a miscarriage a year later. That event made me try even harder to have a successful pregnancy because I was afraid that “if I couldn’t have a baby at age 27, what makes me think that at any later age I can have a successful pregnancy.” A year later I had a healthy baby girl and I couldn’t be any happier with my decision.

    To each her own, but I want my thirties and forties to be filled with shopping at the mall with my daughter, going out on movie dates with my fam, traveling, and vacationing without having to worry about diaper changes (DISNEY CRUISES HERE I COME). I can’t see changing diapers and waking up every two hours at age 35. I want to be done with that stage by then.

  • Kenzy

    you have time hell im 30 and want kids but dont see it happening these eggs started drying up 2 years ago(that what they say anyway that at 28 you start to go down) and no prospects i wish i was 23 again with some nice healthy fertile eggs and prospects, but you have time, just quell your baby fever you have at least another 5 years youll appreciate it

  • London

    “Make a plan A, B, and C. And then proceed. We all have things within us that we “fight.” Just make the best decision for yourself.”

    I don’t know why you got a thumbs down, but I just wanted to say I agree. Family planning is essential. And a topic that should be discussed more within the black community and between couples.

  • ….

    Wow.Im 19 now and have always said that I don’t want kids till I’m 29 or 30.

  • au napptural

    Wow. Perhaps my clock is late but I just turned 24 and it’s not ticking a bit. I do want children but at the same time I could probably be cool with never having any. And I want to be wayyyy more established when I do have them. It’s like I always say to my mother- women with these overwhelming cravings for kids must not have much younger siblings. That’s the best birth control there is.

    My parents had my youngest sib. when I was already 14. I feel almost like I went through teenage motherhood. I woke at 3 am- not to care for the baby, but b/c if there’s a baby crying chances are you won’t get much sleep either. I changed diapers, rocked her to sleep, missed things babysitting. So I guess I tend not to romanticize it.

    Plus, people only think about cuddly babies. I’ve seen my sibs grow and I can testify they will be yours for a hell of a long time. Hell my mom is still “raising” me and my twin brother in a way. We are both grown and support ourselves, but who do you always run to for advice? Who is your emergency contact, if you aren’t married? And my parents had us at 23. I’m in no rush b/c once you have the baby it is yours for the next 20-something years, including college. There’s plenty of time.

  • mluv

    omg I thought I was alone! Im in between having a quarter life crisis and baby fever. I just graduated college and I teach early childhood. Post graduation I’ve really been thinking A LOT about my future; In my mind constantly I just want to hurry up, meet the man of my dreams, get married and have a BABY. I see all my peers getting engaged, getting married and I say to myself “when will it be my turn ?” But I try to be patient and work in God’s plan for me. There is no need to rush but some how I feel the need to rush! lol

  • Wong Chia Chi

    I’m seriously ambivalent about children.Time will tell but I don’t see my feelings changing.

  • Job

    Healthy conversation here. I hate seeing women shamed for wanting children. It’s natural. The biological drive or clock is programmed into our DNA. It’s not a “patriarchal concept.” Women only have a limited opportunity to bear children. That’s a reality.

  • Miss A

    I am in my 40′s and engaged to marry a man with adult/teenaged kids. I was on the verge of being depressed because I never had kids and eventhough we were trying, I couldn’t get pregnant. So, we decided to take care of his 3 month old granddaughter while his daughter goes to school. First, this is the most adorable and cutest little girl ever! BUT….NOW I realize how much work kids are and I cannot imagine having to care for a child 24/7 at this stage of my life – hell, even when I was younger!!! I don’t see how single Moms do it! The diaper changing, feeding, waking up at night, constant watching her so she won’t fall out the bed, fevers and runny noses, etc. My fiancee is an exceptional grand father and does most of the work…lol….and with my limited duties, I am beat at night! So…I am fine being a step-mom/step-grandmom without having to put in all the work!!!

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