I wish I knew if I wanted kids

24 NOVEMBER 2011
I am 32 and in a very happy relationship with the man who I want to be the father of my children. There is only one problem, I don't know if I want the children.

Its a tough dilemma - looking at someone you love and imagining him lifting babies above his head in super slow motion montages that you edit together in your mind, when half way through your brain automatically swaps the baby for a cat, so you can cope with the thought of it and not pass out.

I love other people's children, and having recently become an aunty I know I am more than capable of loving a baby, which I genuinely didn't know until my nephew Bill - now 10 months - was born.

I have never been (although I have pretended to be many times) one of those women who just generically loves all babies. People put them on me at parties and I coo and ga-ga, but in most cases this isn't a positive experience for me.

Kids above the age of three I can do, but babies always made me feel a bit awkward. Well, that was until Bill, came along. A funny looking little bundle whose every move was hilarious and whose head smelt of heaven, and whose cheeks were a magnet for his aunties kisses.

I love him so much that a recent five week trip abroad had me feeling queazy from the fear that our connection would have gone by the time I got back, or that he would have sat up, or crawled, or done something else monumental that I had missed.

A day after arriving home to London I travelled to Bristol to see him. The butterflies in my stomach as I waited for my sister to pick me up from the station made it impossible for me to keep still. When I saw him I cried, when I smelt him I inhaled him like a puff of smoke. I love him so endlessly it takes over most of my being, but still, I don't have that urge to have one of my own.

During this visit my sister left me alone with him for four hours. I had insisted on it so she could have some time to herself. That four hours was a wake up call to motherhood that did nothing to help my predicament. As much as I loved getting to know him, working out what made him laugh and falling deeper in love with him, I was disgruntled by how boring his constant need for my attention became.

He is a good baby. I know this much as I have friends with not so good babies, and Bill is a good one. He only cries when he wants something and smiles most of the time. But I didn't realise how much his smiles depend on what I do.

I spent four hours dangling various objects in front of his face trying to make him laugh. I generally had around 15 minutes on each object before he got bored and I had to change it for something else. Whoever knew a wooden spoon could be so funny? The realisation that parents have to entertain, watch and be totally accountable for their babies for every single second that they are awake came as an ignorant blow. I got bored after just four hours. How could I ever be a mother?

I'm feeling a lot of pressure to have children at the moment - not immediately, but soon. I know it's coming. I think about having children all the time, but not in the sense that I want them, more in the sense that I am worried I might not and what the consequences of such a decision might mean.

For some women it seems so black and white. Most of my friends answer a definitive YES to the question "do you want kids?"

For me I blush when asked. I waffle around the subject. I get sweaty, my throat tightens and my voice gets high. I have even been known to struggle for breath when trying to explain how I feel about becoming a mother. I get myself into this mess because the honest answer to the question is that I just don't know, I don't think I have ever really known. And the further I creep into my thirties, the decade where you really should know, the more that worries me. I envy the women who know they don't want children (of which I know lots), as much as the ones who know they do. I feel like a fool for not knowing for sure.

I try to weigh up what my problem is. I do know that I like the idea of taking care of those I love. I've had a cat for eight years, and although I am not in anyway comparing having children to having a Siamese (although they sound the same), I am accountable for her, and I have to care of her.

A few years ago we got a dog. Suddenly I have someone I cant leave alone for more than five hours at one time. I am always making sure he is okay, looked after, walked, fed, healthy. I love it, I love my pets. The responsibility I have to keep them alive, keep them happy, thrills me.

I want more. I could have a farm to be honest. I love being there for my younger cousins and my friends, and taking care of animals and people comes very naturally to me. People who don't want kids often say it is because they are to selfish, and I might be many things, but selfish isn't one of them.

If I ever decided not to have children, would that make me selfish? That would seem harsh. I think selfish would be to have the children because you feel you should rather than because you want to? Maybe I would decide not to have kids so as not to be selfish towards them? To me the choice not to have them wouldn't be selfish at all, just honest. Maybe too many women do it because they feel they should, rather than because they really want to?

I wont deny that when my sister and nephew stay with me I fantasise about us cooking yummy food while the kids, 'our kids' play around us. When my boyfriend and I are with all his nieces and nephews I do imagine us with our own kids and in that moment that does make me happy.

I often think how cute it would be if we had a son and they watched football together on the sofa while I heated up chicken wings and made blue cheese dip. But then I speak to my friends, or read an article about what motherhood is like the other 97% of the time and I find myself backing away again.

The career sacrifices, the financial hardship, the constant availability you have to have for something that needs you more than you need yourself. The lack of sleep, the lack of intimacy and sex and the strain on your relationship.

I spend most of my time alone at home working. I like being alone. Being alone is very important to me. I speak to my friends with babies and even though they are very happy, and I envy many things about their lives and families, most of the problems that they have I don't have, and wouldn't it be nice to keep it that way? To keep traveling without a sense of guilt, to continue to enjoy my writers life of unorganised working hours and sleepy mornings when I need them. To be able to live a life without routine, and to allow spontaneity to dictate my days.

When I think about having a baby my fear of dying increases by double. I lost my mum when I was six years old and the idea that I might abandon my kids in the same way makes me feel selfish (there's that word again) for even thinking about having them. When I have my nephew with me I feel so vulnerable. As the one who is protecting him my fear of being run over, being attacked, or becoming incapable of saving him all become amplified.

If I have children will I be a paranoid mess, unable to leave the house for fear of self combusting on a pavement leaving my child abandoned next to the heat of my burning flesh, WHAT THE HELL?

These thoughts are all so negative. I am not this negative about any thing else. I have a life and career based on taking risks. I am brave by nature. I don't do what feels safe because it bores me, so why doesn't parenthood excite like all of the other challenges I set myself?

I wake up most days hoping for an epiphany. The feeling of "YES, I know I want to have a baby", but it hasn't happened yet, and my worry is that it wont until it is too late.

Having just had a device inserted into me that will protect me against nappy changing for five years, I wonder if I will ever have the balls to have it removed. By then I might not be able to have a baby naturally, I may well have lost my relationship over it, and I might have to live the rest of my life riddled with regret that I said no for so long.

I once interviewed a journalist called Kate Mulvey about being childless. At the time she was in her early 40s and told me that not having a child caused her such emotional pain that she could be sick from it. Her words have never left me. I never want to feel the way she did. But I cant make myself ready, can I?

I asked my followers on Twitter how they felt about motherhood - if it was clear cut for them as to whether they wanted babies or not. I was so inundated with replies and emails that I realsied I am not the only women in my 30s genuinely worried the urge will never come. I hate to use the word 'normal' because as we all know, there is no such thing when it comes to most aspects of human existence.

But if the word normal was ever more appropriate it would be when used in the context that it is normal for women to have babies. That is what women normally do, and it is what is expected of us. To not do it, means you are not normal.

Hundreds of women emailed me expressing their concern of not being 'normal'. I replied to a few telling them not to give themselves such a hard time, and to feel confident that their body would tell them if and when it was right and if that never happened, so what. All the while knowing that I was being a hypocrite to suggest the uncertainty was easy. For the majority of them the biggest fear was that they will regret their decision not to have children while they can. This design fault of the female anatomy has never riled me more.

Having a womb is a responsibility in itself. Forget the pressure from society, knowing that you have an organ inside of you that makes you capable of creating human life is a hard thing to ignore. Especially when you have spent most of your adult life with monthly reminders that it is what you should be doing. And ignoring it would render all of those belly aches, pot bellies and mood swings a total waste of time.

The pressure to have a baby comes from within my own body as much as it does from the worry of people not thinking I am 'normal'. In fact I am not sure that bothers me at all. I am putting most of this onto myself, but maybe this is all just part of my process. Maybe I am adjusting. Maybe that epiphany is closer than I think.

Or maybe it isn't.

The montage in my mind needs an ending. When I imagine my boyfriend being the best father any child could wish for it warms me. I just need to stay focused on the child, because he has already said quite firmly, that I am not allowed another cat.