Why do I suddenly want a child?
June 18, 2009 2:54 AM   Subscribe

I've always felt I didn't want/shouldn't have babies. Lately, (I'm 25) I've been having strong thoughts (and dreams) that I really want a child. It's scaring me a bit. Some friends have told me it might be normal at this age. Please help me understand or share your experiences.

I've always been the kind of girl who thought she might never want or have kids. I enjoy that I can be selfish, I like to sleep, I live my life how I want. I have a maternal instinct with friends and family, and they know it but I always thought I was too much of a control freak to raise a kid.
I don't have or really want a boyfriend, let alone a baby's daddy, but lately I have a really, really strong desire for a child. It seems to have come out of nowhere. I've never felt anything like this and I'm scared of these feelings/hormones/emotions. Could this just be a temporary hormonal thing? I thought the biological clock started ticking closer to late thirties- am I just fertile right now?

Any anecdotes, advice or understanding would be greatly appreciated as I don't understand what is happening to me.

One last note...The idea of being pregnant or giving birth is not appealing at all, but the mother idea is. I've had dreams about taking care of other people's kids and met a single dad recently who I found myself very attracted to. I thought that helping him raise his child would be really wonderful. This all feels foreign and scary, please help me understand!! Thanks!
posted by thankyouforyourconsideration to Human Relations (35 answers total) 11 users marked this as a favorite
I'm that same 'kind of girl', but I'm scared that this same urge will happen to me because I read this thread. It does seem to be hormones (I'm not sure how temporary though!), but it seems fairly normal.
posted by hellogoodbye at 3:10 AM on June 18, 2009

Best answer: I think it's normal. I never even really liked kids, yet alone wanted any, unitl very recently. Not long after I turned 28 it was like a switch had been thrown, and I kinda got baby fever. I totally felt "omg I want one NOW" when I saw a baby. It's been a couple of years of intermittent baby-wanting, and it's definitely not as strong a feeling as it initially was, but I've changed my no-way-not-ever thinking, and would welcome a kid some day. Also, the idea of being pregnant and giving birth has always horrified me, and I don't think that will change. It may be a slightly better way to go into the process, I figure it can't be much worse than I'm imagining it to be. I had a friend who'd dreamed of how wonderful pregnancy would be her whole life, and she was really disappointed with how reality turned out.

Anyway, it's totally normal, and the feelings will probably not last at this magnitude for long. It's not like you have to heed nature's prodding if you don't want to right now (or ever). And it's not terrible if you find yourself changing your long-held thoughts about kids, life sometimes happens to change the way we feel about these things. But these hormonal urges should get easier to ignore if you don't change the way you feel about it.
posted by banjo_and_the_pork at 3:20 AM on June 18, 2009

Best answer: A female friend of mine said that somewhere around her 25th, she would have "physically jumped random guys in order to reproduce". So I'm guessing it's somewhat normal. Data point: she has three kids now. Maybe you need time to get used to the idea of having kids. It's not so bad after all. Lots of people seem to do fine with kids.
posted by NekulturnY at 3:22 AM on June 18, 2009

Best answer: Another data point, this one earlier than the 28 the other thread points to as the magic age of OMG BABIES! My best friend from college swore up and down that she didn't want children- it wasn't going to happen- too much responsibility, etc. even though we all thought she would be the best mom in the world because she was so good at taking care of us (dorm mama). Fast forward three years post-grad...she has 3 kids at age 24 and she is IN LOVE with them and the best mommy ever. (Yes, on purpose, she was married for well over a year before the first.) It happens. You can't control it. Wanting children is a natural, biological drive. (Not that NOT wanting children is unnatural! Whatever choice you make is your right and will be the best one one for you!)
posted by alygator at 3:27 AM on June 18, 2009

Best answer: I was always that kind of girl too, until I got married at the age of 26. The analogy of a switch being thrown is a good one. It was like my body said, "Okay, time to get pregnant!"

I actually do have a son now, and life with him is wonderful. Yes, it's probably hormones and yes, it might fade, but that doesn't mean you should forget about ever having kids just because you didn't want them when you were in your early twenties. Volunteering with kids will either cure baby fever or show you that maybe you're ready for a kid of your own.
posted by christinetheslp at 3:32 AM on June 18, 2009

Best answer: I thought that helping him raise his child would be really wonderful.

Do this. Perhaps in my naivete I find harnessing one's "maternal/paternal instinct," to care for an existing child to be just a little better, just a little more logical and socially helpful, than to introduce one more child into this world.
posted by trotter at 3:35 AM on June 18, 2009 [3 favorites]

Response by poster: Thanks everyone so far. Couple quick notes. I'm ok with my change of heart, I would never prevent myself from an experience because I once didn't want something. This change is just particularly abrupt and unexpected so I'm startled. Also, I don't care so much about having my own child, but I like the idea of raising someone, and could more see myself with a toddler/ child. Trotter: I do love that idea, but we live on opposite sides of the country and I don't see either of us moving. However, meeting him may have been part of the initiation of these urges. Never thought I'd be interested in a dad, yet now...I kinda wish I could help him out a lot. like all the time. I am way more interested in adoption than birth...just for the record.
posted by thankyouforyourconsideration at 3:45 AM on June 18, 2009

Best answer: Where I live, foster care involves far, far less paperwork than adoption, and is also pretty much guaranteed to be addressing a more pressing need.
posted by flabdablet at 4:04 AM on June 18, 2009

Best answer: Normal. It happened to me around 23 or 24. Up to that point I figured I never wanted kids, ever. I wound up marrying, and immediately having three.
posted by St. Alia of the Bunnies at 4:21 AM on June 18, 2009

Normal. It happened to me a bit earlier (22/23) and has mostly passed (I'm now 28). By which I mean, where before I was No Kids Ever, then I was Want One Now, now I'm mostly Hmm, Someday, Maybe.

Now that many of my friends have kids, it seems like something I could do (I think my previous No Way! phase was partly a fear that I wouldn't be a good mom or of having someone depend on me). It also seems like something I'll probably do, just because it seems natural to me now. I'm comfortable waiting until I'm in a different place in my life, but I figure in five or six years I will probably have one/some.

I fully expect turning 30 to change all of these emotions up in some way I'm not totally prepared for, but there you go. Hormones.
posted by peanut_mcgillicuty at 5:27 AM on June 18, 2009

Totally normal. I swore up and down that I would never have kids. I told my mom she was never going to be a grandmother, she said fine, and then found herself a boyfriend with grandkids already.

And then sometime after I turned 30 my brain went BABY NOW. I told my brain to shut up. Sadly, my brain has not shut up and has actually gotten louder and louder. I've recently turned 32 and the baby desire is getting nearly overwhelming. And depressing. I had to leave my friend's daughter's first birthday party this weekend because there were too many happy families and small babies.

I'm single. No boyfriend, either. Can't really afford an adoption right now and medically I can't have a baby for another year or so.

I promised myself if I didn't have someone with whom to procreate by the age of 38 I'd go to the sperm bank. I may drop that to 36 if my career cooperates.
posted by elsietheeel at 5:28 AM on June 18, 2009

Best answer: I am like you. I had a sudden, deep longing for children some time after my 26th birthday. I had these strong visions of idyllic family life completely taking over my mind.

It turned out to be loneliness. During that period, I had drifted away from my friends somewhat and didn't have much company (except at work). I thought I hadn't wanted a boyfriend, but after (kind of unexpectedly) getting one, I didn't crave babies anymore. At all.

Just my 0.02$.
posted by gakiko at 5:29 AM on June 18, 2009 [4 favorites]

Best answer: Not only is this normal, it's probably pretty necessary. If this sort of thing didn't regularly happen to women in their 20s, one wonders exactly how the human species would have survived so long...
posted by valkyryn at 5:54 AM on June 18, 2009

I always wanted to be a mom, so my experience is different.

But I know that switch that goes off very well. I was, I think, 24 or 25 and almost overnight I started seeing babies and pregnant women and small children everywhere, whereas before I might notice or pay attention to one or two at random intervals. From there this seeing them everywhere progressed into, "Awww, wouldn't it be nice to have a baby?", which then progressed into, "OMG!!! BABEZ! MUST HAVE BABEZ!!!!!" I drove my husband nuts because I really would ask every time I saw a baby, "Can we have a baby?" "Oh, look! Let's steal that baby?" "I WANT A BABY!"

Well, now I'm 27 and I do have a baby, and while I do see pregnant women and babies everywhere still, that's more the product of my particular life phase as a woman with an infant.

I think this is a perfectly normal thing that many women go through to some degree. It may turn out that you don't want to be pregnant or to give birth, but that you would like to adopt or become a foster parent someday (and those are great ways of becoming a parent!). It may be that someday you will want to be pregnant and give birth.

I wouldn't let this worry you or let it cause you to feel weird. But when it happens so abruptly like that, it can be startling --- it was for me, and I always wanted children!
posted by zizzle at 6:03 AM on June 18, 2009

Best answer: People change...
Don't be surprised that you are changing as you grow and mature.
posted by FergieBelle at 6:05 AM on June 18, 2009

That started for me around the age of 29. I had been so sure for so long that I didn't want children that I just assumed it was hormones or some weird culturally-induced "biological clock" anxiety that meant nothing. Took me almost six years to admit I really did want a baby. Now I'm 43 and have 3 kids: 8, 5, and 2, and I love it.

Of course, you've seen in previous answers that for some people it passes.
posted by not that girl at 6:05 AM on June 18, 2009

I thought the biological clock started ticking closer to late thirties

Start sticking in late thirties? Ohh, no, our bodies are ready to get pregnant waaaay earlier than that. Many of us just distract ourselves with some of the other hormonal side effects until ready to actually settle down and have a kid.
posted by desuetude at 6:29 AM on June 18, 2009

Similar experience here. I never ever wanted kids before. It wasn't that I disliked them or had specific reasons for not wanting them -- it was more the absence of wanting them, if that makes sense. But around the time I turned 30 (when I had already been married for more than five years), suddenly something changed and I REALLY wanted to have a baby. Temporarily that feeling was, "OK, I really don't want to get pregnant and give birth myself, so let's look into adoption," but somehow that eventually changed to, "Nope, gotta have it myself!!" And when I see a baby now, I get that "awwww" feeling rather than my reaction before, which was "OK, so there's a baby. Whatever. OOH, but look over there at that cute puppy!!!"
posted by trillian at 6:30 AM on June 18, 2009

I've never felt that need and I'm 32. Are you separating the need of actually wanting to clean dirty nappies and spit up and spend all night awake from the fantasy of being the cute young mother strollering her adorable baby around? Do you feel bored or in a rut and long for something definite to happen?

My purpose in asking is because I think when I was 25, I wished I knew who I was and where my life was going and I desperately wanted that to take shape. I remember wanting to just get married and be done with it. I went to grad school instead.

I don't feel like I want to have a kid, but I do find myself wishing I were independently rich though...
posted by anniecat at 6:44 AM on June 18, 2009

Oh, I'm 27, and I've been listening to my body want babies for two or three years now. It screams "GIVE ME BABY!" in an irrational voice all the time.

I'm in a short-term relationship right now (by necessity: I'm moving), and my body says all sorts of crazy things. "OH GOD MAYBE I'LL GET PREGNANT AND THEN WE CAN HAVE EIGHT BABIES AND LIVE IN A COTTAGE AND......" Sheesh.

This craving, however, is usually easy for me to separate from my rational mind, which knows that getting pregnant right now would be all sorts of disruptive and that there's a very good chance that I'll never experience motherhood firsthand.

I guess if I have any advice, it's to be sure that you separate yourself from your hormones as much as possible, which it actually sounds like you're already doing.
posted by nosila at 6:55 AM on June 18, 2009

29 here, and yup, hormones. Kids aren't an option for us, so I have to turn it off all the time, but look forward to being the cool aunt to my brother and sister's kids.
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 7:01 AM on June 18, 2009

26 here. I have always said that I wanted kids, but it always seemed like a distant reality, and not some present need. Until about a year ago. And, yeah, it was all "BAAAABEEEEEEEEZ!!!!". Although it's weird, because taking care of other people's babies (as a nanny) kind of freaks me out. And kids of other ages are starting to annoy me more and more than they used to. So, unlike everyone else, my head wants kids less than before, but my body is sending conflicting messages.
posted by greta simone at 7:03 AM on June 18, 2009

To inject a somewhat different perspective: men and women want children because if they didn't the species wouldn't survive. So that's why you have the urge to have or at least care for a child.

A better question, I think, is whether it's actually a good idea to give into this urge. At best, parents and non-parents are equally happy, and there is some evidence that parents are less happy. Not only that, they are less happy during both the dependent phase of their children's lives and after they leave the home. See this NYT blog entry for an overview of the research.

Now, you might say that parenthood is an unselfish act, and what should be considered is not the net happiness of the parents alone but the net happiness of the parents and children. But if the potential parents refrain from having children at all, then they're statistically at least as happy as parents, whereas if they have a child then there are two possibly unhappy parents and a presumably average child (in terms of happiness). Thus, having a child, statistically speaking, can only maintain or decrease the net happiness in the world, not increase it.

That said, people do things for short-term or fleeting pleasure all the time, knowing full well that it's bad for them in the long run. But please don't have any illusions that children will necessarily bring joy into your life or give you some deep sense of satisfaction. Individual parents don't want to admit it when asked directly, but on average having children has made them no more happy and possibly less happy than they would be otherwise.
posted by jedicus at 7:07 AM on June 18, 2009

In my experience, it's totally normal. I've never NOT wanted kids, but I've never been like OMG BABIES until shortly after I turned 25.

But that doesn't mean I'm going to poke holes in condoms or go off my birth control. Recognizing that it's a biological urge makes it easier to say, "not yet." It helps to focus on those really annoying kids in the supermarket and their tired, overworked mother, instead of on the cute baby giving off new baby smell.
posted by muddgirl at 7:14 AM on June 18, 2009

Happened to me too, very urgently, in my late 20s. It was not realistic for me to have a baby at that point, however, and in retrospect I'm really glad I didn't, because my sister-in-law had a baby around that time, I of course put in for the chance to babysit, aaaaand -- it only took a couple of weeks of THAT for me to conclude "What the hell was I THINKING??"

The takeaway: I cannot urge you strongly enough to spend some significant amounts of time alone with actual babies, preferably ones who are going through colic/teething/ear infections, and gauge your reactions. Then visualize the same situation 24/7/52, while chronically sleep-deprived. And *then*, if feasible, repeat the experience, this time with adolescents.

The baby-yearning went away after a couple of years. The sense that refraining from procreation was the right choice for me never has. YMMV, of course, but do make an informed decision here.
posted by Kat Allison at 7:15 AM on June 18, 2009

People's feelings about this change over a lifetime, and for many they never quite settle, whether they do or don't have kids. Allow yourself to experience your feelings and be open to the possibility of change. I'm awfully glad I haven't lived by rules I set for myself at the age of 20.

There's really no 'right' answer to the question 'should I have children.' All kinds of people do it and don't do it. There's only what you decide to do.
posted by Miko at 7:19 AM on June 18, 2009

Completely normal AND it doesn't mean that you really want to have kids, or that you ever will.

I have never wanted kids, but I had a couple of years in my mid-twenties when my body was all "OH BABIES BABIES LET'S HAVE SOME BABIES" in exactly the same way it gets all "OH SEX SEX LET'S HAVE SOME SEX." It freaked me out for a bit, and then I realized it was just my hormones doing their thing.

Now I'm 44 and still don't have any kids* and think that was an awesome decision on my part.

*I do have biological descendants, but the process of their dads having them involved test tubes and what-not, so I'm sure that wasn't what my body was talking about back then.
posted by Sidhedevil at 7:23 AM on June 18, 2009 [1 favorite]

I'm like you and never wanted kids. I never wanted kids so much that I managed to get my tubes tied at 21. So years later, around 28 or so, the baby want would kick in and I'd think about adopting or wonder about reversing the process. Usually, when I sobered up I realized how perfect my life was without kids and it passed. But I still, from time to time, fondly think of the idea of passing on some knowledge to a kid.

I did volunteer as a mentor to foster kids for a while, before I went back to school and ran out of free time. And that was a perfect mix. I could hang out with a kid, provide her with some emotional and mental support that she wasn't getting in her home environment but the responsibility, the discipline and the sleepless nights weren't on my head.

That's when I decided that I make a far better "Aunt" than a mom.
posted by teleri025 at 7:35 AM on June 18, 2009

Not only is this normal, it's probably pretty necessary. If this sort of thing didn't regularly happen to women in their 20s, one wonders exactly how the human species would have survived so long...

The fact that humans love sex so damn much, and the unavailability of contraception for most of our existence probably would have had a little more to do with it.
posted by grouse at 7:35 AM on June 18, 2009 [1 favorite]

It is just science and biology. All humans (or any species) is built for it to reproduce the next generation. And our bodies are going to push for that heavily, especially by giving us feelings and thoughts that go in that direction. That's why we find babies cute, that is why we have sexual desire, that is why we have a mom instinct. It's all DNA. And yes, you can satisfy a lot of those neurons in your head by adopting, caretaking, fostering, just being part of the 'village' that it takes to raise a child. (which I do think is most noble, BTW)
posted by Vaike at 9:40 AM on June 18, 2009 [1 favorite]

never wanted to be a mom, but experienced a strong desire to get preggers at around age 30 with a likely suspect. i could tell it was a hormonal/age thing, and withstood it somewhat humorously as if i was having a long bout of flu.

logically, i understood it for what it was, and logically, i *knew* my body was messing with my head.

now i'm 42, and i'm really really glad i didn't listen to my hormones. (though i still have occasional pangs of "maybe i should have..." they really don't last, and i'm quite happy.)
posted by RedEmma at 10:42 AM on June 18, 2009

nthing all the comments above saying that this is completely normal. When I was younger, I always figured in a vague way that I'd have kids someday, but I was certainly not in a rush, and any late periods always caused extreme angst and fervent OMG Please God Don't Let Me Be Pregnant requests.

Then, when I was 27, my period was late and I almost fell out of my chair (well, off the toilet anyway) when I realized that I was actually hoping I was pregnant. From that moment on, for the next 2 years, I was absolutely desperate for a child. UNTIL I asked myself why I wanted a child so badly - and realized it was because I wasn't getting or giving the love I wanted in my relationship. I ended the relationship and the crazy need went away and became more of a 'someday in the next few years I want to be a mama' feeling.

It is absolutely amazing how hormones can completely overtake an otherwise perfectly rational mind. (And for further proof of this, wait till you're actually pregnant and on a completely uncontrollable hormone rollercoaster ride!)
posted by widdershins at 11:16 AM on June 18, 2009 [1 favorite]

men and women want children because if they didn't the species wouldn't survive. So that's why you have the urge to have or at least care for a child.

Not that isn't in many ways a no-brainer, but is this where we are at in thinking about life these days? Is this like a Selfish Gene thing?

In any case, I started thinking babies were cute when I was about 26. I started being unable not to smile at babies when I was 28. I never, ever thought I wanted a kid; now I do. I do not think it is all hormonal...except that all my feelings and wants may be.

And that doesn't mean everyone who is female and/or deals with these urges "comes around."

By the way, what about males and their urges to keep the species alive? Is the story that in ladies it exhibits itself in wanting babies and in dudes it exhibits itself in wanting sex? Well, that's a very nice little story. It seems to be completely based in biology, not cultural norms.
posted by theefixedstars at 12:14 PM on June 18, 2009

(and darnit -- sorry jedicus, I didn't mean to attack you. I meant to mention that in my post, esp. since you were not referring to anything gender-specific.)
posted by theefixedstars at 12:16 PM on June 18, 2009

Yep. Me too. I'll be 28 in a few days and used to swear I'd never birth anything. Ever. Since about 26 a little voice has been getting louder telling me to procreate but it seems to come in waves. I can keep the voice in check but it does make me question things. Sometimes I think, "How friggin' cool would it be if I had a mini me? A little kid running around saying the cutest shit all the time....sigh." Then I turn on an old episode of Jon and Kate (not the new ones, they're too...sad) and I ponder motherhood for a bit. Reality eventually sets in and I remember that I need to meet my future baby's daddy first. Then I think about how babies turn into emotional balls of teendom. And I (in all seriousness) picture a tiny person throwing up on me or peeing on me while I try to change them. This balances out my urge to procreate quite nicely. Feel free to steal my technique.

The good news is that the idea no longer terrifies me like it once did. I think this is called maturity? I will embrace that and until the voice gets ridiculously strong, I'm not spawning. And really, maybe not even then.
posted by smeater44 at 11:24 PM on June 18, 2009

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