FARAI CHIDEYA, host:
I'm Farai Chideya, and this is NEWS & NOTES.
Rebecca Walker has written two memoirs about her life and she is only in her thirties. Her new book is "Baby Love: Choosing Motherhood After a Lifetime of Ambivalence." Rebecca told me that her mother, novelist Alice Walker, wasn't thrilled when Rebecca first broke the news.
Ms. REBECCA WALKER ("Baby Love: Choosing Motherhood After a Lifetime of Ambivalence"): Let's just say she wasn't, you know, jumping up and down with joy like so many other mothers do when they hear they're going to be grandmothers. And I tracked the evolution of our relationship during my pregnancy in the book. It was a very difficult journey that we took, and at the end of the book we end up estranged.
And I really struggled with whether or not I should include that in the book. And ultimately, you know, I decided that because so many women have difficult relationships with their mothers that it would be an important contribution to the discussion about that relationship, to be honest about the wounding, to kind of shine a light on the fact that many parents of the '60s and '70s decided to, instead of being strong parental figures, they decided to be more like friends or sisters with their kids. And I wanted the book to talk about the need to kind of correct some of that and move back toward a mother-daughter archetype that is healthy.
CHIDEYA: What did it feel like being newly pregnant, being in a relationship that had not lasted as long as some of your previous relationships that you were relatively new in, that you're still in now, dealing with your mom and just putting yourself under the microscope?
Ms. WALKER: Well, you know, I think it was easier writing this book in some ways than "Black, White and Jewish" because I was in this very positive relationship and I had wanted a child for, you know, as I write in the book, for 15 years. And though I had been ambivalent, I was so happy when my partner, when I told him I wanted to be pregnant, just immediately was decisive about me making that choice and wanting to be a part of it with me. So there was a real positive kind of momentum that came out of that that made the writing of "Baby Love" easier than the other book.
CHIDEYA: So why do you think that so many women who are - people who are in their thirties, and presumably people who are coming up who are younger, say when is the right time so obsessively that they may miss the right time.
Ms. WALKER: You know, there are a lot of different reasons. I think we are the first generation to come out of a kind of divorce culture. I know I was ambivalent about having a child because I was afraid that I wouldn't be able to maintain a stable, intact, loving relationship in which to bring that child up. I was ambivalent, and I think a lot of us are ambivalent because we grew up as children of the women's movement and we had a very appropriate critique of motherhood as something that could be limiting for us, something that could stunt our potential growth. And I think we were raised to think about fulfilling our professional aspirations.
CHIDEYA: You have created some controversy with this book. You wrote about believing that being a biological parent is fundamentally different from being an adoptive parent. And some people in the blogosphere and in the book-reviewing world have taken you to the woodshed for this. Do you regret saying that? And what do you really mean by that? Because you were and are the stepparent to your former partner's child.
Ms. WALKER: You know, I wrote what I wrote because I really, deeply felt it. When I began to co-parent with the person I call my first son with my ex-partner, I dove into his life with such force and I basically claimed a position in his life as a biological parent. And I told everyone who questioned me that they were just, you know, wrong and how dare they even question my bond.
And so when I became pregnant and I started to feel this kind of fierce attachment and protectiveness about this child growing inside my body, I was surprised that the feelings were so different because I hadn't - it snuck up on me. So I maintain that the experiences are different. I think it's very important that, you know, in this moment of so many different family configurations that we not burden the children with the pressure to say that all of the different feelings they have for the different people in their lives are the same, because they're not going to be, you know, the same. You know, adoptive kids have written to me saying, I'm so glad you brought this up and this is an important thing to talk about. I think the most upset community has been the adoptive parents who have just been vicious in their anger and rage and disgust at some of the things that I have been talking about.
CHIDEYA: You had such a wrenching birth experience, and again you detail it very honestly. That's got to have been one of the most scary times in your life.
Ms. WALKER: Oh, absolutely. I mean, again, you know, I wrote about how I had a real fantasy of the birth. I thought, you know, oh, I'm going to have the baby in a hot tub and all my friends are going to be there and they're going be rubbing lavender essential oils into my scalp, and the reality was that when those contractions started, the idea of a natural birth for me just seemed impossible. And the pain was so tremendous and I ultimately was really glad that I decided to have the baby in the hospital because, as I write, he had complications at birth and I don't know what would have happened if we have had him at home. I don't know that he would have made it.
CHIDEYA: What do you wanna leave us with as not just people who are in their 30s, not just people who are women, but society looks at this whole idea of delaying motherhood and when is the right moment, what do you want to leave us with?
Ms. WALKER: One, I think the whole question of ambivalence has pervaded our culture, you know. All of my friends are ambivalent, not just about whether they should have a child but about so many different things. And I also think that I want people to leave the book with a sense that it's OK to have fears about doing major things but that it's important to go forward, especially if it's something that you're longing for.
CHIDEYA: Well, I really appreciate you taking some time. Thanks, Rebecca.
Ms. WALKER: Oh, you're welcome, Farai. Thank you.
CHIDEYA: Rebecca Walker's memoir is called "Baby Love: Choosing Motherhood After a Lifetime of Ambivalence."