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?