The Decision

IMG_1842If there’s a question I used to dread more than most it was this:  Are you going to have a baby?  

Now that I’m turning 50, nobody asks that question anymore.  But there’s a replacement, often leaned into and more under-the-breath:  So, why didn’t you have a baby?

These questions are often followed by offers of sympathy: “I’m so sorry,” or “I’m so sad for you,” as though someone has died.  These questions have been followed by indignation: “You’ll be sorry when you’re old and alone,” or “Who will take care of you?”  These questions have been poised with cruel and narcisistic assumptions: “I guess you’d rather travel and see the world!”  And of course these questions have sometimes been asked with the utmost kindness and generosity of spirit, though this has admittedly been more rare.

I usually give the quick answer, “I never really wanted to have kids,” because it’s easy and I don’t know what else to say and how do you even begin to explain a decision like this in 10 words or less over drinks in a loud bar, or in a group of women who have all given birth?  How do you begin when you don’t know where the beginning, or even the middle, is?

That said, I’ve often wondered what would happen if I asked, “Why did you decide to have a baby?”  And that maybe those answers, if given the space, would be just as complex and fraught with anxiety and ultimately as unexplainable as my own.

Last night I read this essay by MG Lord about her decision, and it might well be one of the few times in my 50 years that I’ve ever felt like another woman on the planet both understood and told the story that I am still not completely capable of telling.  Rounds of applause, MG.

From “You’d Be Such a Good Mother, If Only You Weren’t You”

Many women who lost their mothers as children go on to flourish as mothers themselves. Some claim to have healed their grief through parenting. I wanted to be one of those women. When the prospect of a baby loomed on my horizon, I felt pure horror. But I thought I could white-knuckle my way through this and become a different person, a better person. – See more at: http://damemagazine.com/2015/04/01/youd-be-such-good-mother-if-only-you-werent-you#sthash.JQP6VPLE.dpuf

 

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8 thoughts on “The Decision

  1. independentclause

    Totally intrusive bullshit question. And yet I always want to know because the stories are always so good. (I have just enough filter, surprisingly enough, not to ask.) I look forward to reading this article.

    1. Teri Post author

      And the ever-popular “your dogs are your kids.”

      No, I might be baby-less by I promise I understand the difference. I adore them to infinity and back, but my dogs are dogs, and they like being dogs.

      And the big irony, I’ve always thought, is that I love babies. Infants, to be exact. I grew up as one of the oldest of 20 cousins and there was always a baby in a crib or on my hip. There’s nothing quite like a brand new baby in the house.

  2. Bonnie Middlebrooks

    Wow! People never cease to amaze me. Personal questions are no longer considered “personal”. Everything is up for examination and judgement. Good old Dear Abby had the best of answers…..”Why do you ask?”
    My daughter had just experienced a very difficult birth and not 48 hours later her mother-in-law was asking when she/they would have another baby. Obviously, one is not enough for some people. No child should be an only child.
    Don’t answer these questions, EVER! It’s personal. Have them look up the definition.
    People never cease to amaze me.

  3. rdeysher

    My husband and I were married for 7 years before we decided we were ready to have a baby. We got questioned all the time about when we were having one and it was really annoying because for along time we weren’t sure that we wanted to have one at all. We were happy by ourselves. We did finally decide to have one and we are happy with our decision but the point is, it was our decision to make! Kids are hard work and I don’t feel that you will “miss out” or “be alone” if you don’t have one. Now that I have my daughter I can’t imagine life with out her but I think I would have been just fine if I had decided not to have a kid too. Now that she is a little over 2 years old the quesitons of when will she be getting a brother or sister are starting. It never ends! One kid is enough for me and again, it is no ones decision but mine whether I have another one or not! People need to mind their own business!

  4. Pingback: Book Review; Selfish, Shallow, and Self-absorbed: Sixteen Writers on the Decision Not to Have Kids | Ye Shall Be Judged

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