stroller lust

Marion Winik finds herself in a place she thought she'’d never be -— again.

Just a year ago, I was at my OB-GYN's office to get a Pap smear. Dear Dr. Diana, who has seen me through so much.

"You still have that IUD," she said, her head between my legs, no doubt staring the thing in its shiny eye.

"Yep," I replied, in the laconic way of one in stirrups. A speculum doesn't do much for conversation.

"And you turn 40 this year, right?"


"Well, if you've been thinking about having any more kids, you'd better get a move on."

"What?!" I squawked. "Are you crazy?" I was the single mother of two elementary-school-age boys. I had a boyfriend I had no intention of marrying. I was almost 40 years old. If it weren't physically impossible, I think my knees would have snapped together for emphasis.

"Well, I'm just mentioning it because you're coming to the end of the line. If you want another baby, you should be aware that things get more chancy after 42."

"Yeah, well, 42, here I come," I grumbled.

"Don't take it personally," she said. "I say this to all my patients your age. Just in case."

Just in case. Amazing how these far-fetched "cases" become as inevitable as rain on a Cub Scouts camping trip. Yes, indeed, let's fast-forward the tape one year, to yesterday. Driving home from a weekend at the Texas coast with my friend Jessica. We've got a couple of 8-year-olds

snoozing in the back; ahead of us in another car, her husband has the 11-year-olds and the dog.

"Maud without an e is nice," I speculate.

"Oh, yes. It's kind of like Nell," she agrees.

"Nell, that's beautiful. I used to love Sophie, but now it's gotten too popular."

Yes, believe your ears. Jessica and I, now fully 40, were discussing baby names. And why is that? Because I'm thinking of having a baby. My mother says I've lost my mind, my children are looking at me oddly, but my peers, the 40-something ladies, seem to know just what I'm talking about.

In the past year, I have been the subject of a transformation strangely reminiscent of one in my mid-20s, when I went from hardly noticing babies to snatching them from their Snuglis. From glazing over during discussions of diapers to trying to figure out whether I was a cloth person or a paper person. After developing this case of stroller lust, I soon found my 24-year-old self — surprise! — married, and then, a few years later, pregnant. But once my kids were walking and talking, babies went off my radar screen. I was back to jogging around carriages without even peering into them.

Well, I tell you, it's happened again. I can't keep my hands off the little pink-and-blue cuddlemuffins. And I went from a relationship that had nothing to do with having babies to meeting and getting engaged to a guy who practically makes my breasts ache with the desire to reproduce. (Weirdly, once you've breastfed, stroller lust expresses itself in this way.) Just like the first time around, except 15 years later, my life and heart seem to be rearranging themselves around the possibility of a wee bairn. This biological clock works like, well, clockwork.

Did finding my boyfriend make me want a baby, or did wanting a baby make me find him? Whether we remain married to the father of our older kids, are working on a second family or are still gamely trying to locate Mate

No. 1, women my age are turning into the people I saw waiting in the doctor's office when I was pregnant the first time around. I used to tell my husband that those aging preggos made me, at 30, feel like a teen mother. And now I tell myself to shut my fresh mouth.

Tomorrow, I'll be going in again for my annual Pap smear. Boy, won't Dr. Diana be surprised when I tell her what I want to do with this IUD.

Or maybe she won't be surprised at all.