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.
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