Sophie B. Hawkins is a singer, songwriter, and activist with a catalogue that's five albums deep, though most people of a certain generation know her best from her 1992 chart-topping smash, "Damn I Wish I Was Your Lover." She's currently working on the follow-up to her bluesy 2012 album The Crossing, but lately she's been in the news for something entirely separate from her music: her decision to become pregnant for the second time at the age of 50.
Hawkins announced her pregnancy to Us Weekly in February. An advocate of embryo-freezing, the powerhouse singer has always been outspoken about feminist, environmental, and LGBTQ issues (including a funny, controversial turn as the liberal music talent at a CPAC party for conservative gay folks), Hawkins wanted to speak further about her decision. She is pregnant with her second child; she had her first, son Dashiell, at age 43. We spoke on the phone about career constraints, being cooler at 50, and the lifelong importance of having a strong support group.
Let's start at the basics: what prompted your decision to have a baby now, at the age you are?
Well, I think because I have a lot going on, I actually felt supported, strangely enough, by the amount of interest in my new music, and being back in New York. And especially in the air, there was a feeling that I really wanted to have a sibling for my son. He's six now, and he has gone through so much in the transition from leaving California to being in New York, especially emotionally. But now he's been in New York almost two years, and he's really got a good sense of his environment and he's got his new life, he's six years old, and really independent.
So I thought, now would be a perfect time. The debate that I had in my mind was, well, maybe I should wait until I'm with somebody, but that could be years, because I'm actually so happy single. I have this great group of friends, and I felt that maybe I can do it now. I knew the minute that I got an embryo—it was the same batch that Dashiell came from—I knew that I'd get pregnant the first time, because it was so easy with Dashiell.
I had a sense that this child was out there, wanting to come. That happened with Dashiell too. I froze my embryos when I was 31 years old. But it wasn't until I was 43 that I knew I heard Dashiell's voice speaking. And then it was time. It was the same thing with this one. I started to hear—I thought it was a girl, although I know that sounds crazy—when I sat down to listen, to meditate, she said really important things, so that made me say I really gotta do it now.
I want to talk about what you said about feeling supported now. It's such an important concept—was that support system something you felt before deciding to have Dashiell, too?
Yeah, having support is so important even just as a practical application. Because when I was in LA, even if I was in a relationship, I didn't have support. I had money, but I didn't have support. Which is totally different, and then by the time I got to New York, being back after 17 years, I felt suddenly really supported. I have a community of real friends, and we all have a common interest in supporting our community. It really does take a village, it takes the right place and. Dashiell's in a public school, which I think is important. In LA, he was in a private school, everybody had so much money, and it was really intense. Then I got to New York and my realness was really rewarded, because everyone is real.
So the whole idea of becoming pregnant at 50 is relatively uncommon, but increasingly we're getting to a point where it will be more common.
It isn't orthodox, but I have to tell you: I do feel really good. I want women to really know they have it as an option. Because the truth is, we are so busy. Women have to work so hard, all the time, especially in our 20s and 30s, and then it goes into our 40s. A lot of women don't even get a break until their 50s—when we start laughing more, enjoying life more. And you know what some people say to me? They say, "Well, you're so old!" And I say but maybe this is the right thing to do with my body now. When I was in my 20s, it was good to be industrious—you know, I'm young, I'm out there creating a career. Maybe the thing to do after I've achieved those goals is to have a child.
It actually makes an absurd amount of sense. How do people react to your decision? At the same time that there are people championing you, I assume there's probably also a lot of bullshit judgment.
You're right. The judgment comes a lot from people closest to you. I think a lot of people really close to me feel that they are mad that I said I am 50, in the press. They're really upset, they said "Nobody could tell you were 50, everybody thought you were in your 40s, why did you do that?" Isn't that funny? And those where the people I was most close to.
Wow. Is part of that being in the music industry, where there's so much pressure on women to stay young, to have what we call an "industry age," so to speak?
I don't know, these are people who are mostly in the California contingent to my life. Who are really concerned that I said my age. In the music industry, I haven't really heard anything bad with people I work with, at all.
Going back to the idea of building a career in your 20s and 30s: what's the difference? If you'd had a child at 24 or 34, do you feel it would have hindered to you?
I think I would have been a terrible mother. I was so messed up emotionally. I think when I was in my 20s, I wouldn't have had time for a kid. I wanted to be an artist so badly, and I would have been a selfish mother, and I wouldn't have noticed so much because I have always wanted to be a mother. But it's become clear to me that being older has done wonders for me as a human being. I didn't do it at 40—I did it at 43. And I was still wondering, is this right for me? So being emotionally ready is the hardest thing. Even with this second child, I thought, well I'm a great mother to one kid—but what am I gonna be like to a second kid? But I just think it's really hard for women, especially when we're younger.
There's so much talk in the media about this false dichotomy of women's choices—the "can women have it all" trope—that asks if we can succeed in having careers and kids, can we nurture our work goals as well as having families? Do you think having children at a later-than-average age is a solution to all that?
It could be, it could be! It's just evolution—this is just what's happening to our human race. We live longer. Of course women wanna stay young and do everything, but [they tell us] we can't, like, "You're gonna do your career and you're gonna go through your relationships but then you can't be a mother." If I could have made my partner be a fabulous partner for my child, I would have, believe me I tried. It's not like I wanted to come back to New York to be single and leave everything. But it happened to me, and I responded, and I responded in the most positive way possible. I think we're responding to changes in our universal psyche.
And that's why gay people, if you're thinking about having a child when you're older, you have to freeze your eggs. Because if you think it might be a possibility, then you have them when you need them. It's just not gonna go backwards. I think we're gonna have kids older and older, when we're just calmer, we're cooler, we're more collected. We know who we are.
Sophie B Hawkins is currently working on her sixth album. She'll play selections from that and her other works at the Mint in Los Angeles on April 10, and at Rockwood Music Hall in New York on April 30.