I have been told, second-hand, that my non-desire to have children means I have no idea what it’s like to have a family. The Old Man has been attacked for MY decision as if it’s his manhood that comes to bear. Others have been told that this quirk of my nature is unnatural and that they shouldn’t offer their own babies up to my arms because of it. Apparently, I’m an aberration of nature. What have I, the mutation of female, got to say for myself?
Get over it. Babies do not a woman define.
As I knock on the door of number 32, I find that I am smack in the middle of those hideously-named Child-Rearing Years. The girls around me are coming down with babies as if drinking in pregnancy from the water and I’m left surrounded by coo-ing mommies as I flounder desperately, compelled to explain clearly why I’ve chosen to let my uterus go unused. I’m that girl you know. The odd one, constantly fighting nature and what was “meant” to be.
I never wanted children. I knew too well the power of my temper. Knew intimately the genes from whence I came. The neuroses by which I was reared. My aversion took root there, determined to break a cycle of emotional abuse. It grew as I realized I never wanted to ruin my body; that the misery I’d heap upon myself would surely overflow, a deluge that would certainly transform a tiny, giggling mass into a mute and hollow-eyed ghost afraid to tip the scales of my moods.
The reasons grew with the years and became part of my identity. The idea of mountains of primary-colored toys and the death of social, adult interaction repulsed me. In my mid-twenties, as girlfriends began sharing “The News”, I remember staring aghast as if we were all still 16 and they were throwing their lives away. Other people’s children irritated me and I wondered if they were looking at the same child as I was when they pronounced him “so well-behaved.” Had they lost hearing, becoming immune to the fact that the little imp had been interrupting the conversation ad nauseam for the past 45 minutes?
And so I shout, plain and loud, over the din of braindead coo-ing: I do not want to know the sex of your soon-to-be-baby, nor do I wish to see 78 pictures of The-Cutest-Face-Ever! that he made whilst eating strained peaches. Further, I am wondering what percentage of your Facebook friends actually care that she is .2579 percentile points ahead of all other babies EVER in terms of development. You are not the first to get pregnant, it’s actually a pretty common occurrence. Just because it happened to YOU does not make you (or your child, for that matter) special.
What amazes me far more than this “miracle” that mommies are continually spouting off about, is that they’ve forgotten that they had an identity prior to shooting that alien-faced, skin-wrapped, bag of warm Jello out of their vaginas. So fond are they of vomiting out story after story about their child’s daily shit, they’ve lost all ability to carry on an adult conversation.
I’m tired of being judged by those on the Mommy Track as inferior or flawed for my decision to maintain control of my uterus. I’m sick of the sidelong glances and the outright disrespect, the fake smiles followed up by gossip-y whispers. I don’t need to breed a baseball team in order to craft an identity. My refusal to play host to parasitic embryos does not indicate that I don’t know what FAMILY is.
It would seem that my 30s have landed me smack back in a world eerily similar to junior high, where babies are the cool thing instead of HyperColor T-Shirts, and if you don’t have one, your inferiority is held aloft for all the world to see. For a split adult second, I saw my thirteen year old self in the mirror cringing while she silently prayed: “not again….please not again.”
But I woke up, and saw shocks of grey in my hair, and realized that I am a grown-ass woman. I am not defined by the fruit of my loins, but by my actions and the way I love. There is no law dictating reproduction as the ultimate in female fulfillment, no standard of womanhood to which I fall short. Those distended bellies are not badges of honor, the carseats not signifiers of femininity perfected. They are merely paths divergent of my own.
So I raise my wineglass to myself.
Because I can.