As a young woman, I never had much respect for second place. A win was a win and a loss was a loss. You didn’t almost win coming in second place. In my mind, you lost. Simple. But that changed in my late twenties. It all started with my boys.
Motherhood is a momentous and rewarding undertaking for most, so what makes a woman decide not to have children? I imagine there are several reasons - all are valid. Here’s mine.
From an early age, I knew I would never give birth to a child. When all of my friends and family spoke of their future children, I vividly remember saying, “There are a lot of children in the world. I think I will just get some that are already here." That was me at eight years old. In retrospect, it is a little odd that an eight-year-old would know her mission was not to help create life from within but to love the ones already created.
This was not a popular stance as you can imagine especially as my friends began to have children. I celebrated their happiness. In my twenties, it didn’t bother me that I was childless even though my friends came out of college and hit the floor running, one had twins right away. But I traveled and just enjoyed being a twenty-something.
When a woman enters her thirties, the questions of why a married woman has no children get more intense and downright rude. Once when my husband and I were visiting his family. his uncle blurted out - “When are you two going to have a baby”. I was astonished that someone could be so insensitive. What if I was infertile and couldn’t bear children or had suffered losses? No matter the reason, it wasn't the discussion to have in the middle of the family barbeque. This would be humiliating enough if he didn’t then give my husband tips on how to successfully impregnate me. I left the barbeque.
I had to navigate through one tone-deaf comment to the next. One of my favorites was from a female coworker who stated unequivocally that I didnt have children to save my figure. Ha! The jokes on her, I have the body of a middle-aged woman.
I spent a lot of time in my 30’s exiting stage left and leaving conversations that didn’t support my wellbeing whenever the topic of childbearing surfaced. But don’t get me wrong, I didn’t shrink away like a delicate little flower, I always left these people with some plucky retort. My favorite was maybe we haven’t figure how babies are made yet or something along those lines. In the end, I did resent their overbearing interest in the occupancy status of my uterus.
It’s odd that people feel that they have a right to discuss what has or hasn’t happened in my uterus. It’s akin to strangers touching a pregnant woman’s belly without an invitation. Society assumes that all women need to have children. I have actually had a woman say to me that “a woman is nothing if she doesn’t have a child”. At the time, I spoke 3 languages, my husband and I were traveling the world and I had a career that I enjoyed. But since I had no biological children somehow I was disqualified as a viable adult.
But my eight-year-old self didn’t let me down. My husband came into our marriage with twin boys. The boys and I have built a relationship through the years, I never tried to replace their biological mother as no one could nor should. Instead, I tried to create my own space in their lives. I hope I have succeeded. Years later, I was blessed again when my sister had her son. My three boys.
In my heart and mind, I have three sons. No, I did not give birth to them, but I love them dearly. With all my heart and soul I hope they know they are worthy of love. I hope watching me will help them be resilient. I hope they know the joy and understand the importance of compassion. I want them to know it’s ok to cry and acknowledge their pain and trauma. I hope their lives are full of laughter because it feeds the soul. Most of all I want them to know they are seen, heard, and that I am always willing to listen.
Being the first runner up seemed like a loss, but in my case, I won. My life was enriched by the time and experiences I share with my boys.
Happy Mother’s Day to all women who lovingly mother those in her life.