Sat here at the golden age of 34 just four months shy of my 35th birthday, I’m still undecided completely. If gun to my head, I had to make the decision today I still don’t think I’d be 100% comfortable with either. But for the most part, I think I just know- I never want to be a mother.
Ever since my late teens/early twenties, I’ve been pretty set on the idea that I didn’t want kids. My sister had her first baby at the age of 21 and whilst not exceptionally young, to me it felt like she’d voluntarily given up her life. Her freedom. Despite being happy for her and chuffed at the prospect of being an aunt, a more pressing feeling tugged at me. Disappointment.
I couldn’t understand why, but I felt almost disappointed in her for giving up on her life so easily. A pretty girl in her prime. Independent and made a good living. Now she would just be someone’s mum. I couldn’t understand why this feeling bugged me so much, but I tried to push it away and of course, after the birth of my beautiful niece nothing else mattered. But still- fine for her, but not me.
This didn’t stop the endless interest arising around me any time the subject popped up- at work, social events, with friends. Family, by far the worst for inappropriate questions, would ensure that each interaction ended in me feeling ashamed of my decision, and getting the distinct whiff of pity from the other party. Plenty of people brazenly decided for me that ‘You’ll change your mind!’, even if I had just met them. Once, two male colleagues both joined forces to make the pointed remark that I’d regret it and should have children as soon as possible. When I asked why my being a mother seemed so imperative, they just looked aghast ‘well it’s better than the alternative and dying alone!’ Ahhhh. That old chestnut. Heard that line once or twice over the years.
As time ticked by in my 20’s and in a serious relationship by this point, we both agreed on not having children pretty early on- I wanted an amazing career and life, with a lovely home, and holidays depending on our free and single sensibilities- scuba diving in Jamaica, hell yes! Skiing in France, pack le ski boots, and let’s go! Freedom, independence, excitement, joy. We wanted all of that. As it turns out life got in the way and the bohemian dreams never materialized, but we always stayed firm with our decision on no kids. Then, after a decade-long relationship and now well into my early 30’s, we broke up.
A slow and very painful breakup ensued. They do say it takes half the total time you dated someone to get over it, and even now years later I’m still not sure I’m over it. But the strangest thing happened after years of being sure that I didn’t want kids and now finding myself single- something started to creep in. I started feeling it.
The urgency. The invisible but deafening sound of my own biological clock, tick tick ticking away as my eggs one by one took a nosedive off a cliff, waving me a pitiful farewell. I’d spent over 30 years of my life not wanting children, never really feeling broody or that motherly instinct. And by no means did I feel those things now exactly, but suddenly I started reading articles.
Those that frequently popped up on my news feed but had little interest in and would happily scroll past before. Infertility articles. Egg freezing articles. Surrogacy. Motherhood in your forties.
Sperm donors. Women explaining why they simply had to have kids; the joys of motherhood, how hard it is but they ‘wouldn’t be without them’. The consensus seemed to be along the lines of- ok, you’ve dicked about with your ‘career’ long enough now ladies, time to find some sperm lest you end up with a one-way ticket to Spinsterville, where the looks are loaded with pity and you’re always the single one at the family party. There were, by contrast, far fewer articles of women expressing why they simply don’t want kids.
I found myself conflicted- on the one hand, I felt motherhood may not be my path and always had, but on the other (like everyone else I’m sure) I worried about the alternative- will I have nobody to come and visit me in the nursing home? Will I end up the crazy old lady that everyone avoids because she has half a dozen cardigan-sporting cats trained to change the channel? Because yeah I might not want kids, but let’s face it. No one wants to be that guy.
Then there came the more painful, but practical thoughts.