I have a friend, about my age, who recently told me she's pregnant. She looked so happy on the morning she told me that I guessed - and when she got the words out I was almost shaking with glee. Tears sprang into my eyes for about a dozen reasons.
The emotion closest to the top was pure relief; she has never had a baby and I had assumed she had decided that motherhood was not for her...When she told me the happy news my first thought was,
"Thank God, you are not going to miss out".
Tears, relief, joy:
I feel boundlessly joyous for my friend and, as I said to her, I am already picturing myself holding her precious baby - and smelling that heavenly, sweet, so-addictive baby's head smell.
But amid all the joy and the relief ... I felt another wave of emotion. I didn't tell her, but it was a faint echo of grief. Grief that I will never again have that intoxicating happiness of seeing the blue lines on the pregnancy test, hearing the tiny baby's heartbeat on the monitor, feeling its first few kicks - whining about it kicking me up under the ribs in the last month or so - and bringing home a brand-new angel.
She misses deeply the experience of having a baby, despite the work involved:
I'm through the breast-feeding, sleep deprivation, the nappies, and the potties, the hours and hours of Gymbaroo, the toddler music classes, the get-in-the-water-with-them swimming lessons, the kinder years midnight carpet-vomits and snot festivals that spread to everyone around us, and the transitions into school...
But still I dream of babies. For the couple of years after our third was born - with help as I had turned 35 and become a fertility statistic - I hoped there may really be a fourth.
She was sensible to have begun having children earlier than many other middle-class women, as she was one of those women whose natural fertility ended at about age 35. Even so, she regrets that could not have a fourth child.
Wendy Tuohy finishes by acknowledging that she still has a case of baby lust:
I was reminded only last week, when changing the sheets on my 13 year-old's bed, that I'm still not over baby lust. "Where is your cot?" I found myself thinking, "and where's your stroller gone?"
I'm not a huge nostalgic - I like to live in the now - but that physical sensation of holding the tiny body in my arms is one thing that has stayed with me, and a memory that still stops me in my tracks (with gratitude).
I ride past the three kids' kinder every day on the way to work, and if I'm a bit tired or emotional, I do feel a tiny bit wistful when I hear the chirpy children behind the fence.
Perhaps we're just programmed to still look at babies and melt, right up until the time when nature intends for it to be physically impossible to have another. Though talking to my mother who is 70, it sounds like baby love is more often a lifelong thing. I will gratefully live with that.
It's refreshing in this last quote to read someone from the left expressing gratitude for the way her life has been blessed with children. It is strikingly unnihilistic.
But her column raises an important issue. If having children is so important for women, then why is it put so low down on the list of priorities? Why is it that the most important thing is left perilously till last?