'Baby Steps': Elisabeth Rohm grapples with her lust to be a parent
Actress Elisabeth Rohm talks candidly about her own struggles with infertility and her deep desire to become a parent in 'Baby Steps: Having the Child I Always Wanted (Just Not as I Expected)." Here's an excerpt.
The first lust I remember with clarity was the lust to have a baby. I was just a teenager, and I was obsessed with the idea that surely I could do a better job of parenting than my parents had done. The first problem with their method, of course, was that they were both involved in the first place, because that had only ended in disaster for everyone. Clearly, they didn’t know what they were doing.
I remember thinking very specifically, with teen hubris, I could be a single mother. I might even adopt a kid. Yep, that would be awesome, just me and my kid, rolling through life. It was one of those fantasies I had, and although I never became a teen parent, it stirred something in me—a kind of deep longing to fill a void. I lusted for it.
After a lifetime of lusts, I know something about the subject. In fact, it’s been one of my personal demons to battle: my lusty nature, which has sometimes served me well, and sometimes gotten me in trouble. I tend to err on the side of lust, and I lust for many things.
I’ve had lust for men, for acting roles, to win, to power through a workout, for a materially rich lifestyle, for normalcy, to distinguish myself. I’ve had lust for chocolate, for a good stiff drink, for attention, for life itself. As a teenager, I often lusted for solitude, especially while at boarding school, and then gradually I came to lust for connection. I began to want people. I often lusted for attention. I lusted for renown. I lusted for independence, for separation from my mother, for something that would set me apart. I lusted for beauty, and I lusted to be lusted after. I think this is something I share with other women, especially women who lust after a baby.
Because no lust compares to baby lust, and if you have it, you know exactly how powerful and all-consuming it can be. Baby lust can obliterate your personality. It can make you say things like “I would give up anything to have a baby” and really mean it. It is the pure, potent instinct to procreate.
Baby lust, at least for me, didn’t come out of nowhere. It arose out of a long and complex history of lusts woven together into a story that became my own. Over the years, I’ve come to understand lust as something both motivating and destructive, energizing and frustrating. Ultimately, I believe lust is born out of the urgency to fill a void. At least, it always has been for me. When you feel it, you believe that if you could only have that thing you lust for, you will be happy. Even though that’s not true at all. And that’s where lust gets tricky.
Whether you think your lust is for a possession—car, home, money—or for someone you can’t have—lover, lost friend, parent, child—I’ve learned that the fulfillment of lust is no ticket to happiness. That object of your desire, once you possess it, might actually coincide with happiness for a while, until you realize that you never actually possess anything. You don’t own that lover. You don’t own that child. You don’t even own that house. Not really. Everything changes and passes away, and then you wonder what you were lusting for, or how that lust could have driven you to the lengths it did, after you are left with nothing. What will you put yourself through in order to fulfill your lust? And what will you regret when you recognize that the temporary relief of lust is not the same as bliss? For me, lust has long engaged in a battle with the quest for non-attachment.
Not everyone has this particular lust. It’s not a requirement, it’s just a quality. When I hear a woman say, “I don’t want to be a mom, I’m content doing what I’m doing,” I feel such admiration. That person has done some deep digging if they realize motherhood isn’t for them. I feel the same way about people who say they don’t want to get married, or they’ve realized they need to end a difficult relationship. They’ve seen beyond or above lust—at least the lust to do what everyone expects. Just remember what lust really is: a force meant to fill a void. It isn’t a reason to do something. I would come to realize that fulfilling my baby lust was not about fulfilling my own needs. It was ultimately about sacrifice, and as it turns out, sacrifice is the opposite of lust.
I have this to say about lust: If you think you have it, dig deep. If you are on this journey with me, you probably know baby lust inside and out, and you probably know other lusts, too. I urge you to learn the emotional landscape of your lust and not to follow it blindly. People can get hurt. This is no time to lie to yourself or give up on who you really are. If you have baby lust, ask yourself:
Are you willing to give up part of yourself?
Are you willing to relinquish your freedom?
Are you willing to sacrifice your heart on the altar of motherhood?
Are you willing to change everything about your life?
If you can push past lust’s deceptive curtain to apprehend your true, genuine desire, and when you know that your deepest desire is to be a mother, despite the pain and worry and sacrifice and heartbreak you know that will entail, despite the fact that it might not happen the fairy-tale way you imagined, then that’s what you have to do. The natural way, the high-tech way, adoption, or through some other means that unfolds in your own life—whatever it is, you can make it yours. When you identify the true source of your lust, you won’t waste so much time buying into the illusion that you really want something else.
The objects of my lust, once I achieved them, never solved my problems because the voids they were meant to fill will not be filled by anything external. The objects of my lust never made me into someone perfect, but that’s okay. Perfect is boring. Lust is beautifully flawed, and given a choice, I’ll always choose beautifully flawed over boring. That’s why lust will always be with me. I’ve come to terms with that. Maybe someday I’ll have no more attachments to this life. Maybe someday I’ll be pure spirit. But until that day, I will live with my lusts and I will understand that in some ways, but not in every way, they define me.
You can’t exactly trust lust, but you can’t exactly live without it, either. It’s not easy. It’s not black and white. But it’s part of being a human being on this planet, so you might as well learn to deal with it. And I believe lust can ultimately be useful, if you let it guide you without letting it hijack your life. Lust tempered with a healthy dose of common sense might even push you to achieve your deepest desires, and even if those desires don’t “fix” you, they can certainly make your life richer.
Excerpted from BABY STEPSby ElisabethRohm with Eve Adamson.Copyright © 2013RohmaVictor. Excerpted by permission of DaCapo Press, a member of the Perseus Books Group. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher