It took my husband and I seven years of cohabitation to decide to get married, and another year to decide that we wanted to have a baby. In her newest Kindle Single, “Baby Steps,” author and comedienne Mara Altman attempts to make the same life-changing decision. She interviews experts, crashes a prenatal yoga class, inflicts a practice baby doll on herself and her husband, and wears a pregnancy belly as she hilariously and candidly explores the innards of her biological clock. I appreciate her candor and humor and was thrilled that she agreed to be interviewed for Kveller!
Having done this investigation, do you view parenting differently?
When I was in Colombia there was this little turtle that was in a hotel and I just wanted to keep feeding this turtle fruit. Is that my mothering instinct? Because I’m really enjoying watching this turtle follow this strawberry, does that mean I’d be a good mom?
I remember talking about babies two years ago and all I could think about was the moment when you see a toddler in the grocery store just flipping out, just putting one hand on some cereal boxes knocking them over, little demon children having crying fits. I think a lot of people try to fixate on the cute parts and then they’re surprised when it’s not all roses and baby powder.
I also fixated on all the things that can go wrong with a baby. I did a lot of interviewing (that didn’t make it into the piece) with moms that had a child that had some premature birth defects like blindness and a delay in learning, and then I also met a mother who lost her child to cystic fibrosis and talked to them about was it worth it, how do you deal with that. They rise to the occasion. It taught them so much. It’s kind of cliché, but it gave me some kind of solace that I needed. It’s a big fear but the more I biologically want to have a kid the more I let go of those fears.
What’s something you learned from your hands-on research–the pregnancy belly you wore, Chucky the practice baby?
The Chucky part was really interesting for me because it seems so obvious that if it’s not a human it’s not going to give you the right experience to know what it’s like to have a kid. It’s a Catch 22: to know what it’s like to have a kid you have to have a kid and once you have a kid you can’t get rid of a kid. I realized how much you have to trust your body and your chemistry and hopefully you want to have the kid and have the desire but you can trust your body/mind some to enjoy, appreciate, love the experience and to become a good parent. I hated Chucky so much and Chucky was everything bad you could deal with in a baby–it cried, it kept me up. It was just a horrible experience, but my friend was like, “He’s not smiling,” and that part is a key, is that it is human.
What’s more intriguing or frightening to you, becoming pregnant or becoming a mother?
I’m more fascinated by the being pregnant process and what happens to your body and how you feel with this gigantic thing in you that’s moving and has a mind of its own, and more terrified by the after part about having a kid and the responsibility you’ll have for the rest of your life. I’m trying to just trust it that something kicks in inside of you that you’ve never felt before.
What’s the most intriguing thing about being pregnant?
One is just getting gigantic, the belly part would be crazy to see your body transform. How it would change my relationship with my husband; would he become more doting, would he get annoyed with me, would I become a venomous bitch, what would happen mood wise, but also the nesting, the planning, the riffing on who this person will be. I’m terrified about the birthing part but then it kind of sounds like there’s a competition factor to it. Can I do it? How many hours would I do it in? Can I push that thing out? It’s really interesting how much we don’t find out about until our friends have kids, like, oh my god, your vagina tears apart? Why don’t they make them the right size to just poop them out?
Since publishing Baby Steps has anything become clearer to you about if and when you want to have a baby?
My husband Dave and I have talked about it more and it seems like something that will happen someday if it can happen. I’m doing things right now that I wouldn’t be able to do when I have a kid, like eat a lot of raw fish, drink a lot, nap, go to Colombia with a close girlfriend.
I think that a very hard decision is when are you ready to move on to the next phase and say bye to this freedom. Am I just waiting in this ultra-late adolescence and delaying it as long as possible? But man, it feels good to just go out for a glass of wine whenever we want.
Mara Altman is a freelance journalist and author who lives in New York City. Her first book, “Thanks for Coming,” has been optioned by HBO. She is also the author of several Kindle Singles, including “Sparkle,” a 2011 Top Ten Kindle Single, “Bearded Lady” and most recently Baby Steps. She contributed to “The Jewish Daughter Diaries,” which comes out on May 6 from Sourcebooks.