Wish for a Baby

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The wish for a baby is one of the fantasies of childhood, part of the set of significant motifs transmitted to the child unbeknownst to its parents along with the biological "breath of life" (Bydlowski, 1978), and that evolves in conjunction with individual libidinal development. It is marked by the Oedipus complex, by kinship relationships, by family experiences of death and mourning. In Freud's account, the woman's "wish to possess a penis is normally transformed into a wish for a baby" (1933a [1932], p. 101). The wish for a baby is superimposed, repressed, or revived in different forms at different times of life.

From the oral stage, the wish for a baby inherits the urge to destroy the mother's body entirely, including her belly and everything in it. From the anal stageinclined to control and revengecomes the theme of the stolen baby, used to try and compensate for the loneliness of the child confronted by the parental couple. Both the little girl and the little boy long for the power, at once marvelous and uncanny, to have a child: an imaginary child, manipulable at first anally, then mentally (Soulé, 1982). The boy must in due course renounce this wish, whether by means of displacement or sublimation, of repression, or of reaction-formations ranging from the ritual of couvade to the disavowal of paternity, or even beyond, to delusion and paranoia (Soulé, 1982).

The wish for a child is also relevant to narcissism. An ideal child, issuing from an ideal mother, is the equivalent of the penis for the mother whom it fulfils. With no third person to come between mother and baby, there is no corresponding denial of the anal, aggressive function of the imaginary child. On the oedipal level, for the girl, the child is a product of incest, obtained from the father without the mother's knowledge and in rivalry with her.

Maria Torok (1968) relates the wish for a child in its narcissistic dimension to death and mourning: "The wish for a child can be understood as a denial of the loss of a part of oneself."

Christine Petit

See also: Pregnancy, fantasy of; Female sexuality; Penis envy.


Bydlowski, Monique. (1978). Les Enfants du désir, le désir d'enfant dans sa relationà l'Inconscient. Psychanalyseà Université, 4 (13), 59-92.

David, Didier. (1996). Le désir d'enfant." In D. David and S. Gosme-Sèguret (Eds.). Le Diagnostic prénatal. Paris: E.S.F.

Freud, Sigmund. (1933a [1932]). New introductory lectures on psycho-analysis. SE, 22: 1-182.

Soulé, Michel. (1982). L'enfant imaginaire: Fantasme d'enfant, le désir d'enfant, le désir de grossesse. In La Dynamique du nourrisson. Paris: E.S.F.

Torok, Maria. (1968). Maladie du deuil et fantasme du cadavre exquis. Revue française psychanalyse, 32 (4).