I knew when I was doing it that I had no business being there. But a few weeks ago, when I was sliding into church real cool-like but noticeably past the 11:00 start time, I settled on a pew smack dab in the unofficial infants and toddlers section. (For some reason, parents with small children tend to congregate on the right side of the sanctuary. Maybe it makes for a better escape route when they need to scurry out for tissues, potty runs and butt whoopings.) So in between drooly smiles from chubby babies slung over their mama’s shoulders and little ones toddling up to me with two-tooth grins and snotty noses, my body started to react to all of the overwhelming adorableness hitting me from every angle. I guess it was pretty noticeable to the people around me, too.

My friend (confused, looking around):

What’s that noise? Girl, you hear that? It sounds like something tickin’.

Me (blushing): Oh, pardon me. I think that’s my biological clock, chile.

Prior to defying my own better judgment and copping a squat in the middle of Romper Room, I had put myself on grade A, level 1 baby restriction. Everyone between the ages of zero and four was off limits—no playing spontaneous games of peek-a-boo, no chit chatting in jibberish and absolutely no sniffing their hair or touching their insanely soft, irresistibly cute little feet or hands. I tried to train myself to resist their charms, keep it nice and unaffectedly stoic like Joan Crawford in, well, just about every movie she starred in. But for the past six months or so in particular, I’ve been walking around danger zones like church and family functions avoiding eye contact with any individual who looked young enough to say or do something that would make my vulnerable heart melt—and still feeling that urge swell up inside of my gut in the space where a fetus should be.

I want another baby, dang it. Post haste. Most of my close friends are restless to be with child, too, regardless to whether they’re first-timers or repeat customers. My cousin, who turned 37 last August, admitted that she’s so anxious to replace what she calls her kangaroo pocket with a baby bump, she has secretly been creating a stash of maternity wear. And then there’s me, hovering around the infant and toddler department in Target, smelling fresh packs of Pampers and awww-ing over every teeny tiny sock, shoe or onesie they put out onto the sales floor. I think when most women reach a certain age, our reaction to babies shifts from passing admiration to full-out coveting. It’s like some kind of maternal alarm clock goes screeching off the day after our 25th, maybe 27th birthdays, cutting the ribbon on the marriage and procreation segments of our lives. And since I’ve passed that 30-year mark, my gears are grinding and that alarm’s been ringing on full blast loud enough for outsiders and passersby to hear. My apologies, y’all.

Now I should say that though this desire to dive into 3 am feedings, a gatrillion poopy diapers a day and trying to translate 50 different types of cries does run deep, I would never sign myself up to be a second round baby mama just for the sake of bearing another bundle of joy. I love the stuffing out of my daughter, the original mini-me who is now 11 and one inch shorter than I am. (Read: not anything close to a baby any more.) But the tumultuousness of becoming a mother while I was still a teenager fumbling my way through my second year of college, suffering my first heartbreak after her father and I split and raising her solo on a writer/editor’s not-so-glamorous salary hasn’t been nearly as entertaining to live as it is to read, I’m sure. So next time around, I want a husband. No, I will have a husband. I’m gonna have someone to nudge in bed when infant holla breaks the silence of our house in the wee hours of the morning. He’ll share diaper duty and the excitement of potty training, babysitting responsibility and the joys of being freshly dressed only to have a bodily fluid or perhaps, if he’s lucky, some pudding or a gooey cookie, mushed all over his dapperness. He’ll be loving and nurturing and interactive with my—excuse me, our—little sweet pea. Yeah, I’m determined to become a mommy again, but I’m holding out for a chance to do it the right way.

With no prospect for a relationship in sight, some of my girls are threatening to check a dude for diseases, shake his family tree down for any sign of unbearable craziness and make the procreation process into something like a business deal. (Shoot, catch me on a wrong day and I’ll say the same thing.) Nothing says romance like adding a calendar appointment to your iPhone so that you and a stranger can use your ovulation period to get the baby making poppin’. I understand where they’re coming from because at every turn in the media, in conversation, even in houses of worship, we’re reminded how hard dating and—if you can get that far—mating is for Black women. Even as I struggle to keep my own reproduction organs from becoming the boss of me, I’m encouraging my fellow sistas with boomin’ biological clocks to honor what we said back on the playground: Janelle and Idris sittin’ in the tree—oh wait, not that part. I meant this: first comes love, then comes marriage, then comes the long-awaited baby carriage. Until then, tick, tick, tick…

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