I’ve never been a baby person. I do like little kids, especially little girls (pink, princesses, Barbies!), but babies never interested me. I didn’t go to college right after high school, so when I got my first real job at the age of 18, I noticed the celebration of mother and baby was like nothing I’d ever seen. Having a baby, it seemed, was the ultimate achievement in a woman’s life. I married far too young and divorced quickly, and when I went out into the world on my own at the age of 20, I was relieved to not have the burden of children. I spent most of my twenties partying, working way too hard just to (barely) scrape by, and dating around. I was heavily influenced by the “Carried Bradshaw” lifestyle, which centered around men, going out, shopping, and living on my own doing whatever I damn well pleased. I had a couple of meaningful relationships but none of them brought up the subject of a real future together, someone I wanted to be with until the end. Until last August, when I met the love of my life.
I’m 27 now (28 in August). I just began taking college classes about a month ago, and am working full time at a job I don’t really like. The company is decent, the setting relaxed, and the pay is decent for what it is, although I still struggle to get by. My boyfriend and I are poised to move in together within the next few weeks or months, and with that come a lot of change-driven issues (about which I could write a whole other post), one being to have children, or not to have children. On my first date with my boyfriend, I texted my best friend from the bathroom “he’s so amazing. I want to have 1,000 of his babies.” And I really thought I did. (Not right away, of course!) We fell in love pretty quickly, and like all the cliches would tell you, when you meet the right person, you “just know.” I couldn’t imagine ever loving a human being more. He’s my best friend, my partner, my lover, my teacher. It isn’t perfect and lord knows I’m not, but I know he’s the best one I’ll ever hope to find. If there was ever a person to share a life and start a family with, it would be him. Without a shadow of a doubt.
But I’m having doubts. Serious doubts. We discussed this, and it started in jest – I tend to poke fun at other people our age and younger who have children. They don’t have the level of freedom that we do, financial or otherwise. It’s so fucking typical. Can’t they contribute something more meaningful to the world than carbon copies of themselves? They have to deal with diapers and daycare, soccer practice and PTA meetings, or making sure their babies/children don’t somehow hurt themselves. This may seem odd to some, but I really haven’t the faintest clue what being a parent would be like. I only know what I see on TV and secondhand from coworkers; as I’m an only child with no hands-on experience with kids. Ever. I don’t really have the biological “itch” to reproduce. I guess every now and then I’ll see some episode of a show or a movie that is touching, but I don’t know if it’s me being compelled to reproduce, or me just reacting to what I’m seeing at face-value.
While I know it’s not at all fair or kind to ridicule someone else’s choice to have a family, I think it may stem from my own fear of reproducing. I am literally TERRIFIED of having children for a host of reasons. I was born into dysfunctional family. My mother was pregnant at age 35; my father was 39. Neither of them planned on being parents. When I got old enough, my mom told me she and my father had never discussed having children. My father was abusive towards my mother, and very controlling. (I believe I’ve inherited my father’s anger and control issues. Thanks, Dad.) For most of my childhood, my life was my mother. She was a stay-at-home mom, and she doted on me like you wouldn’t believe. My parents split when I was seven, and things got really weird then. Shuffling between parents, getting caught in their divorce – needless to say, it was bad. I’ve been estranged from my father since age 20. My mother and I remain close to this day.
Add to this the fact that I just began college at age 27, ten years after most people do. I’m so happy I’m finally on my way to getting my education, but the time investment makes me wonder. I’m going to be working on school and career goals at the time when my biological clock begins ticking the loudest. I think the “best time” for me to have children will be around 31-33. (When I was younger, I thought if i had kids, I would have had them by now…but I digress. Life happened.) Does having children mean I’ll forfeit my professional goals and my pursuit of a higher self? All of this also creates some resentment towards my boyfriend, who chose the so-called “right path” and did college right out of high school, got his teaching certification and is pursuing his career as an English teacher. Something I always saw myself doing (maybe), only I dicked off for too long to make that a reality.
I don’t know why I don’t think I want to have kids. It isn’t just one reason. I’m terrified of the damage it will do to my career, my home, my body (weight/stretch marks/c section scars, tearing/pregnancy pain/labor pain), my relationship, my sex life. I also don’t know if I even believe in reproduction just for reproduction’s sake. How could I ever, even for a fleeting second, consider bringing a sentient being into the world if I didn’t want it with all of my heart and soul? There are so many children in this world that aren’t wanted, or treated right, or even given a fighting chance. It’s such a huge ethical dilemma. Most people don’t consider the overpopulation of the planet and its dwindling resources when considering their family. I’m sure those John and Kate Plus 8 people didn’t. But I do. On many levels, I feel that having natural-born children is narcissistic and selfish, especially in today’s environmental and economic climate. However, I understand the biological urge to do so: To have something to call your own, to create something larger than yourself, a piece of yourself that will last longer than you do. (Narcissism again? Maybe…)
So my boyfriend, the absolute love of my life – he wants children someday. Not even in the next few years, but someday. And while he sees the benefits of not having children, he has that deep, innate, biological desire to be a father. I love him so much. I wish I hungered for it the same way he did. We’ve discussed this at heartbreaking length and have yet to draw any concrete conclusions. I can’t promise him a child, but I can’t necessarily rule it out. Maybe, as so many people have told me over the years, I will change my mind. But maybe I won’t. Sometimes I’ll read or see something that pulls at my heart. I try to compartmentalize. “Do I want this? Or do I just think it’s sweet?” The image that compels me most of all is almost always the same. It’s me with my love in a big soft bed, with a baby in between us. Sunlight is pouring in through the window. No one is talking. Everything is still and perfect.
And that’s what keeps me from saying “no, never.”