CMP72 asked what I thought about Baby Love, by Rebecca Walker (over to the right, in the extra-outdated category called “I’m reading,” which I created and then forgot all about.) It’s been a few months since I read it, but it’s still haunting me, so I’m glad she asked.
I like Rebecca Walker, and have for a long time. She was a sort of 3rd-wave feminist icon for me – someone only a few years older, with a famous feminist mom and knack for boiling down complicated issues into something a little simpler – but not over-simplified – and very much real in the day-to-day, rather than theoretical, sense.
Baby Love is about her experience in getting and being pregnant and becoming a mom. She has already experienced parenting in her previous relationship with a woman whose son was young (maybe 6?) when they got together. She played an active role in his life and has continued to do so even after her relationship with his mother ended. The mutual love and respect between Rebecca and her stepson is obvious.
But growing her own child is a different experience for her, and that takes up a lot of the focus of the book. She had me in her internal debates about how to be a feminist mom and how to be a feminist partner. She had me with her slow discovery that she was able to love another human so much more fiercely than she had ever known before – even before she actually met her baby.
Where she lost me was when she said (I’m paraphrasing): I don’t care what anyone tells you. You cannot love any child as much as you love the one you give birth to.
As an adoptive parent, I spit nails when I read this. I’ve never given birth to a baby, and I’ve never been a step-parent or a foster parent or anything similar. But like me, she’s only ever experienced parenting from one perspective. Despite this, Rebecca, who generally seems so careful not to presume that her experiences are shared by all, suddenly seemed empowered by her pregnancy to make an enormous sweeping statement about how is for all parents.
Remember that scene in the beginning of The Royal Tenenbaums, where they show the kids’ childhood? The dad insists on introducing his daughter as his “adopted daughter” every single time. I thought of that scene immediately when I read what Rebecca Walker had to say about this.
I could rant and rave about this in a way that probably would be absolutely scintillating for you to read, but instead I will only say this: I can’t believe when I look at my son that he didn’t come out of my own body. I mean no disrespect to his first family by this, and it’s not that I ever forget their presence or their role in his life. It’s just that for love or money I cannot imagine being any more bonded to this kid.
Parents of any stripe or parents-to-be: what do you think?