Don’t know the exact day when baby fever first reached me, but I remember the day I knew I was helpless about it: it was a weekday night; I’d just come home after a day of meetings and activities and strict deadlines, and to relax, I wanted to flip open my laptop and watch some YouTube videos. But instead of unwinding in a makeup tutorial or a vegan cooking show, I find myself tying on a compilation of new mothers and their kids. In reality, I was deep-seated in mommy vlogs, aka videos of women in their 20s and 30s walking their audiences through their everyday lives as new parents. Whitney Port has a mommy YouTube channel where she’s talking about everything from her maternity clothes to her pumping challenges that I’ve been marathoning for hours. There were a handful of teen mom networks that I found myself utterly stuck to, too.
When I found myself watching my third lesson about how to get a baby to correctly latch on your nipple to breastfeed, I realised I was out of my mind. I’m not even close to having a kid. I’m 26, incredibly career-focused, and I’m still a new single with no realistic mating partner in mind. I didn’t want to have baby fever, mind you. In reality, I’ve been so ashamed for months that I didn’t tell someone, out of insecurity, to criticise me for turning into a mushy-gushy stereo that valued her uterus above her aspirations. I basically wiped my browsing history every night so that no one will ever see how many breast-feeding videos I’ve been viewing secretly. (Trust me, it’s as surreal for me to write as it may be for you to read.
And still, this mysterious, uncontrollable desire in the pit of my stomach that told me, “You WANT TO WANT A BABY” raged on. I had to ask why this baby’s fever was going on with me?
What Causes Baby Fever?
What’s a little reassuring is that according to science, baby fever is a true phenomenon, it’s not just women who feel it, and it doesn’t mean you’re brainwashed or mad. A 2012 research from the Journal Emotion finds that the need to have a baby is not merely a result of society’s desires or a need to get together—instead, “there’s something distinct that’s going on that people want to have children actually,” says Gary Brase, author of the study and professor of psychology at Kansas State University.
Then what’s behind the baby fever? Brase and his team have discovered that it’s always a mixture of A) being around kids and B) making the conditions of your life lining up so that raising a child would really make sense. In my case, all of these variables have been applied in some way. One of my best friends was pregnant at the height of my mother-in-law fascination, and I was much more financially secure than I’d ever been.
Brase and company studied over 500 tweets hash tagged #babyfever and found that people typically took Twitter to express their sudden desire to procreate right after they were around a (happy, not crying) baby. For eg, “Last night, I finally got to see the cutest little angel and her sweet mom… #babyfever.” Positive emotions mostly come from people in intimate relationships, while more pessimistic tweets expressed feelings like jealousy or loneliness (e.g “I just want a kid to cuddle with, is that too much to ask for? #babyfever #single issues “) normally came from a single woman. (That’s a positive thing I don’t tweet about.)
I often thought that my age may have had anything to do with my baby fever—I read a very frightening report once saying that 25 was the safest age to have a baby (though the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists claims that the fertility premium for women—those whose bodies are already childbearing—extends to 32.2 years of age). And still, researchers agree the age could have nothing to do with baby fever. Shannon Clark, associate professor at the Division of Maternal-Fetal Medicine at the University of Texas Medical Branch in Galveston, told USNews.com that “there is no single biochemical or physiological mechanism responsible for baby fever.” Some women may feel it when they’re 20, some may not feel it until they’re 40, and some may never feel it at all. It’s just completely natural. “If you don’t have it, that’s all right,” Clark said to U.S. News. “Not every woman wants a boy. Not every woman believes like this is her purpose in life, or that she has any inherent ambition.
What to Do if I have a baby fever?
So what’s a person to do if they have unreasonable bouts of baby fever? Unfortunately, there is no real recovery option here, but that’s just because at the end of the day, baby fever is not even an epidemic that needs to be treated. “It’s a natural aspect of human psychology, and it doesn’t mean that you should definitely act on it or not,” Brase says. “You should take a look at the circumstances, and think what will be the right thing to consider your other priorities in life.”
Interestingly, Brase and his researchers found that women usually indicated having less baby fever after they had children,1 which to me is a persuasive point against making any rash decisions. As for me, if I find myself going down to one of those feverish mommy-vlogger binges, I’m just just going to sit down with the feeling, tell myself that there’s no hurry, that I’m not mad, and keep going. And in the meantime, I promise not to blame you for watching hundreds of breast-feeding videos if you promise not to judge me.