Read an extract from Otherhood on Newsroom


Read an extract from Hinemoana Baker's essay ‘Kingfisher’ from Otherhood: Essays on being childless, childfree and child-adjacent edited by Alie Benge, Lil O’Brien and Kathryn van Beek:

‘It’s 2011 and I am 43 years old.

My partner, Christine, and I got together when I was 36. We had been friends for about 10 years before that. One of the first things I asked Christine was whether she wanted to have kids.

I had just come out of a relationship with another woman who had desperately wanted children, but was newly and unreliably in recovery from drug and alcohol addiction, and therefore so was our relationship. We weren’t able to pay for inseminations so it would have to be a friend. She would say let’s do it, let’s just go for it, but then the minute we sat down to talk about a possible donor, she would find fault with all of them. Every guy we knew was unsuitable because, basically, he wasn’t her. She was also (legitimately) anxious about the legal situation for queer couples and her rights as a nonbiological parent. Every time we tried to talk about having children, we would end up having a hideous fight, and often I’d have to leave the house to get away from her anger.

That relationship eventually blew apart. This new one with Christine, precisely because it was so much healthier and safer and more fun, made me want to have children even more. It was becoming unlike any other feeling I’d ever had. Christine, for her part, was ambivalent, having no parental instincts whatsoever, except when it came to her phlegmatic yet undeniably handsome black-and-white tomcat, Maverick. The thought of being pregnant made her feel physically ill, terrified even. For me, having that big pregnant belly was all I wanted.

Yes, I was also scared — depression and PTSD told me I would be a terrible mother. My constant anxiety told me that I’d never be able to get pregnant and I would destroy myself in the process of trying. It told me I was too poor, too old, too unwell. But unlike Christine, my burning need to be a mum bypassed all of those blockades, arguably all rationality. It bypassed my love for Christine at times, though I so wanted her to come on the parenthood journey with me.

We fought about it a lot. She isn’t one to make a decision fast, and she prevaricated for months before finally telling me, after another awful screaming argument, that no, she really truly didn’t want to have children, and never would. Full stop. I was devastated. I knew enough of my own mental health that I was certain I couldn’t do this alone. Our relationship was still relatively new at this point, but I also knew I didn’t have it in me to break up with Chris, meet someone else and do this all again from scratch. So this was it for me: Chris was my only hope, and she was out.

Perhaps we should have left it there. But over the following year Christine kind of, well, sort of changed her mind. It was a combination of seeing my sadness, and being encouraged by her own family to see that parenting wasn’t the terrifying thing she thought it would be. She began to see that she could achieve her own dreams as well as have a child — that the two weren’t mutually exclusive. She connected with her brand-new baby niece in a different way, and her other niece and nephew, too. We started to see ourselves as a family: we didn’t have all our ducks in a row financially and we wouldn’t be like other, more conventional family constellations, but she began to see it was possible. That it could even be something magical, rewarding.

I don’t want to paint this as a smooth transition on her part. She was still unsure by the time we started trying. When early attempts failed month after month, she was the nearest target, and there was no end to my manipulations and anger. I told her she was trying to sabotage me. That she should go and find some 20-year-old who only wants to watch soccer games and do the door at her gigs. I am ashamed of some of the things I said to her. I am ashamed of how blinding my own desperation was. But as I’m sure many of you know, that’s how this thing rolls. And by ‘rolls’ I mean, of course, rolls through your life like a malevolent juggernaut.’

Read the rest of the extract here.