I was talking recently with a friend who's struggling with the decision of whether or not to have children. We discussed the pros and cons, and then she said something that really resonated with me. "The problem," she said, "is that it's all so clinical. We've taken all of the magic out of childbearing."
I have to agree. For many women who want to build careers, we plan our lives so carefully that unexpected pregnancies are the exception and not the norm. And sex for the sole purpose of procreation—ruled by tight timelines and squeezing in a "quickie" during our most fertile days—is hardly the stuff of romance.
When we're lucky enough to get knocked up, we have tests that can tell us we're pregnant before our bodies give us any clues. And the pregnancy itself is strictly orchestrated, with blood tests, routine and efficient doctor's appointments (with my last baby, I was in and out in under 15 minutes) and occasional ultrasounds, which focus less on marveling at the baby's in utero acrobatics than on identifying potential health problems.
For those who have trouble conceiving, the clinical side can be very aggressive: drugs, injections, invasive and uncomfortable procedures, and a vast array of data and statistics that reduce the chances of a successful pregnancy to a dispassionate numbers game.
My friend is right: we've lost some of the magic of having babies. So where can we find it again?
The magic is in the fact that it's possible to conceive at all—that two very different people can come together to create a brand-new human being out of nothing.
It's in the fact that a woman's body can stretch and shift and change so dramatically to support and carry that being for nine months.
It's in the moment when, as a pregnant woman, you feel the first stirrings of life inside you and think, Wow—this is for real.
And it's in the birth itself, when you hear that high-pitched newborn wail and see your red, wrinkled—but to you, indescribably beautiful—baby for the first time.
It's in the way your breasts—previously used only for entertainment purposes or to look good in a tank top—suddenly swell with the milk you need to feed and comfort the baby you've just brought into the world.
It's in that amazing first year, as you watch your baby grow from a helpless, entirely dependent newborn to a walking, talking little person, with her own expressions and gestures, feelings and opinions.
It's in that indescribably fierce love that forever binds your children to you, and you to them.
It's the magic of life. And however cynical we've become, that's a magic that never, ever gets old.