When I was young - growing up and during my 20s - I just assumed that I was going to have children. Or rather, it was just a common expectation around me and many of my friends. I remember one friend from undergrad, however, saying she wanted to get her tubes tied because she knew she never wanted to have children. I was shocked. I didn’t know anyone to question this right of passage. The expectation that we would want to have children is so engrained that even the conventional medical community believed my friend would change her mind and they refused to do the procedure while in her 20s. But she never did... change her mind or have children.
Then I became that person. I questioned if and how I would have children. It started when I was in a long-term same-sex relationship and was faced with the possibility of not conceiving by natural means or not conceiving at all. These alternatives allowed me the space to really ask the question, “Do I want children?” And then to further consider: Do I want biological children? Can I adopt? Would I want to? Could I focus on being an amazing aunt instead and still feel fulfilled? Do I want to foster? Do I even want children or can I live a fulfilling life without having any of my own? All of these questions felt like a refreshing detachment from the conventional.
Later, after I ended the same-sex relationship, I continued to contemplate these questions, again, quite liberally. As a constant questioner myself, it struck me as odd that I hadn’t really questioned this before and had naively just adopted the belief system around me. But I guess, that was pretty normal for many of us women.
After all this contemplation, I fully believe that I could have a very fulfilling life without my own children (biological or adopted), either as an amazing aunt to my soul sister Lindsey’s kids, to my brother’s kids if they have them, and to my new brother- and sister-in-law’s kids, or maybe even as a foster parent or adoptive parent. Or as a pet parent. I also have many amazing people who I nurture, challenge, love, and help grow through my work as a life coach and teacher. I don’t think I need something to come from my own womb or to adopt a child. I have many ways in which my nurturing can manifest. I also have many ways in which my creativity manifests. I do think people want to feel fulfilled in a creative way. Maybe that's having a baby. Maybe that's building a company. Maybe that's producing something else.
But the idea of the mom still lingers. I grew quite confident that I would be a great mom. Mostly because I know I have the capacity to love and IMO that is fundamentally, the most important thing a child needs. A Life Coach, Marilyn MacDonald, asked me if I could imagine myself as a mom. I could. And I can. In fact, I have wonderful images of what having a child would be like, how I would nurture and challenge them, and how they would do the same for me. I am excited for the terrible twos and teenage years, but not-so excited for the horrifying first 3 months! I want to start a homeschooling network and among similarly-minded people. I want my child to be part of my life and me to be part of theirs. I have put a GREAT deal of thought into the practically of having children. And when I was younger I spent a significant part of my life getting through my tough times by believing that I was learning valuable lessons that I could pass on to my child. I would even be excited about giving birth.
But, do I want to have children?
I don’t want to be one of those mom’s whose identity is consumed by getting pregnant. That’s not me. Some of those women are quite inspiring but it is just not me. I do not want to be a parent who is consumed by the identify of being a mom either. The feeling is reminiscent of being called a bride. I did not identity with the title bride and I don’t identity with many woman who are trying to get pregnant.
I am quite happy and set in my ways. I am selfish. I like my own time and space. I like to be in charge my schedule - I run my own business. I haven’t had a boss since.... undergrad? I don’t need some child coming into my life and take over. For some women, stress in their lives prevents them from conceiving. For others, the stress of not conceiving prevents them from conceiving - so many people know of those women who start the adoption process and all of sudden wind up pregnant. For others the fear of not being a good mom gets in the way. For others, it’s “not a good time”. For me, and many others, it is a fear of losing one’s identity and independence that gets in the way.
This is mental infertility. And I had it.
My best friend and I run a non-profit organization called Body Monologues, where we bring a set of curated people on stage to share their various stories about experiences with and in their bodies. In 2014 I shared a piece entitled "Are you trying" where I go into the feelings that question invokes in me. Below is that performance.