Day after Mother’s Day and I’m reflecting on my childless state. Not a mother. Not planning to be. Not even remotely interested in the possibility at present, despite spending six days with my nephew Cai and his mother Anna. I am surprised by this. And a little bit frightened too.
Those of you who read here will know that this was a question of some conflict for me a couple of years ago. After a lifetime of surety about not having children, I entered a brief period (about four months) of wanting nothing but. From zero to ninety, the desire to carry, birth and raise a child surged in me at that time – uncontrollable, mystical, ego-shaking – and I was *certain* that I could not go on without getting pregnant. Circumstances at that time were not amenable to such a plan – my friends having just been arrested and my own psychological state somewhat precarious – I decided to wait until a better moment.
But then it passed like a flu will, slowly leaving the body one ache at a time until one day you wake up and can barely remember you were sick at all. I no longer wanted to have a child. I no longer could remember exactly why it had felt so important. As the rest of my life flowed back into my fingertips, and I came out of that difficult winter, I turned once again to the things in me that made the most sense – work, union, lovers, writing, friends – and away from what might or what could.
It’s been two years since that period of time and the feeling has not come back. I wonder then if there is something wrong with me? Or is it just that my identity has never included mother and so it’s difficult for me to fathom it except in the depths of the deepest hormonal craziness?
I was not a child who played with dolls. I couldn’t figure out what you were supposed to do with them, and playing house seemed like a secondary pleasure to building tree forts or reading books. I can not remember a time in my life where I though I would grow up to be a mom. Quite frankly, in the home I grew up in, being a mom looked like a pretty miserable thing that involved long spells of depression and disappointment. Our mom clearly loved us, but she wasn’t a happy woman, and my father resented having small children with a violence that left dishes smashed and holes in walls. (And now I’m remember that the few times I did play with dolls I made them fight with each other….).
As I grew older and moved out of the house, independence became my hallmark. To be able to do, drink, fuck, travel, write, work, talk, shoot, fight, resist, earn, educate, love – through my twenties having a child never entered my mind as something I might want to do. This is despite the fact that I have been pregnant three times in my life (19, 20, 30) – only one of those times did I even feel the slightest glint of desire to carry through with it. That is, three times I have very consciously chosen not to have a child offered to me, and finally had an IUD implanted five years ago so I would never have to make that decision again.
So what’s the problem with that right? Lots of people don’t have kids, I’ve got enough going on in my life to occupy me, my partner already has a child and doesn’t want more, and I’ve got lots of wonderful children who will continuously be a part of my life long into the future. On one level I’m not sure why I even consider this a conflict. But for that four-month period in 2006 – the moment of doubt about my choices up to that point – I would be without question on this subject (particularly as I just spent six days with Cai and didn’t feel one shred of baby-wanting despite the fact I love him dearly and am thrilled with every aspect of him).
I suppose that like everyone I am afraid of making the wrong decision though – and at 35 there isn’t much time left to really think it through (yes I know, into your early forties… etc.) – what if I choose not to do this thing and come to regret it at 50? What if it is the only thing that really keeps couples together after all? What if my mother is right and it really does expose the fact that I’m too selfish a person?
I think though that I’m torn because the desire to have a child is not in me, has been fleeting – and I worry that it does mark some deficiency. But the truth is when I envision my future from here, it is without a child, even as it saddens me to say it. I envision a life of being an adult, on my own terms, of travel of writing of dancing of making love and making art. And when I think of my future with Brian? It’s more of the same with some responsible real estate purchases along the way. I love him, you see, and that doesn’t make me want to bear his children – quite the opposite in fact – because I want to preserve *us* without snotty noses and dirty diapers getting in the way. His daughter, fortunately, is well past that state and on her own road to independence over the next few years.
It seems funny to me that I am finally in the “right place” to have children – stable income, stable life, amazing partner, etc. etc. – and I’m less interested than ever in the prospect of doing so. Which doesn’t mean I never will because I know that feelings on this can change dramatically and that four-month moment will likely come back in much stronger form around the age of 38 or 39. But in the meantime, a life without a child of my own actually seems pretty exciting to me. Selfish? Emotionally crippled? Or just doing things on my own terms?
i honestly wish more people put this amount of thought into bringing another person into the world.
kids keep couples together? i think kids do more on the testing boundaries within a relationship than solidify anything. though i guess they can give you something to talk about if your relationship is otherwise lacking a common thread…
thanks for sharing.
Thanks for the comment Christine. One thing I didn’t note (because the post was already getting overly long) is that I am mostly torn when I see the joy and focus that kids bring to the lives of my friends. I get why people want this connection, these little miracles of conception and rearing – and the way that it exposes the capacity of love that exists within most of us.
It’s the well-adjusted moms among you that make me think – hm – this mightn’t be so bad…. And then on the other hand I witness parenting around the neighbourhood and in my family that just makes me cringe…. I think you’re right though, whatever decision we make we really need to think it through!