Birthgap - That Feeling of Deferment


My previous post on the Birthgap focused on (potential) mothers, but these issues bother (potential) fathers as well. 

I think this post, "Invisible Hands: The Anxiety of the Childless," captures the conflict between the urge to wait until things are "stable" before having children, and the creeping anxiety that you could wait... until it's too late.

In the dark and heat of the present moment, all of this might seem obscure. But take a breath, and it becomes quite clear. To put it simply, for some years now, I believe I have been suffering from the anxiety that I might never have children.

Of course, this anxiety is not the brute, biological force of the female. Rather, it is the nervous and blithering practical rationalism of the male. Which for me, a nervous and blithering poetical songwriter, is often expressed in lyrical thoughts. If I were to put an image to this feeling, the first that comes to mind is apposite but crude: it is the image of a baby, strangling its father.

Look at those tiny hands clasping at the reddening neck. The child in the picture, of course, is my unborn son, and that neck is my neck.

The author also discusses the endless enticement and trap of "deferment." 

Ours is a new, unsettled reality that has not yet properly been described. It is like a newborn, in its first days of life, which has not yet been named. For me, it is a reality that is best characterised as possessing the quality of deferment (strange name for a child). Everything, in my formative years, has been deferred: the satisfying job — after the degree, which I dropped out of; the happy home — after the deposit has been saved, which is now barely possible; the wonderful wedding — after the home has been bought; and now crucially — the most deferred thing of all — the beautiful children. They will emerge, well, after what exactly? In a sense, my existence up until now has been a series of unconnected afterlives.

I felt this too, especially when I was in my twenties. The trap is that one can defer living one's life right up until one dies. 

YOLO is a philosophy usually invoked to excuse impulsive, self-gratification and a life style that is the opposite of settling down and having children. But perhaps it should rather be a reminder that life is so much shorter than we think, and we should focus on building the best of what brings real joy: a faithful and lasting partnership with a soulmate, the children who will be our best friends, the grandchildren who will give us something to live for when our own corporality betrays us.

One day, we will be walking down a desolate road lined with the skulls of the artists we loved as a child, of our parents and older friends, and soon, even the friends of our own age and younger... and I think all that can prevent one from despair on that road is if we walk holding a tiny hand, whom we know will carry our memory and love into the future.