"There's a bit of magic in everything, and some loss to even things out." -Lou Reed

Sunday, June 12, 2011

The Choice


From the time I could sit up and hold a baby doll, I wanted to be a mom. It was almost a fantasy for me, a place I would go to escape and dream about my husband, my home, my children…all seemingly a certainty for my future.

For that feeling of certainty, I blame all those Disney books and their princesses bound by destiny, staring at me with their perfect blue eyes from the pages of my nighttime storybooks. Even though I knew they were stories—fairytales and fantasy—during that time in the early 70’s, as a little girl, you were basically told that it would all happen. The only things that seemed like a fantasy or fiction were the ball gowns sparkling with stars from the nighttime sky, pieced together by singing mice and a fairy godmother’s magic. The rest seemed plausible and promised: there was one man out there just waiting to meet you. The only thing you didn’t know was the date and time. But, I was assured by my mother that it would happen before I reached the age of 20.
I banked on that. I was so afraid of not finding it, that I tried to turn every toad I kissed into a prince. I wanted the wait to be over. I wanted to start my fairytale. I wanted to be loved and to love someone forever.

It was hard as all my girlfriends got married, and I was literally the only one in my circle of friends who was single. I became godmother to some of my friends kids, a volunteer babysitter, and hopefully the cool, fun visiting friend who got down on the floor or in the sandbox and really played for hours, honoring all requests for silly songs and faces. I loved picking out birthday gifts and clothes in kids stores I would never otherwise get to frequent. As the years passed, I worried and stressed about my biological clock ticking away, and even looked into having a child on my own.

The reality was, during all those years I longed to be a mom, I was not ready at all. It wasn’t that I didn’t know how to raise a child (who does until you have one?) or that I wasn’t making enough money, or the other normal concerns. I was still struggling with the depression that had plagued me most of my adult life. Looking back, although I genuinely wanted to be a mom, I think a lot of the emptiness and worry I felt was more about wanting so badly to be loved unconditionally.

A few years ago, I gave up on the whole picture- the whole fantasy. I knew there would be no husband, no kids, no house with the picket fence. There were days I imagined myself as the crazy lady who lived on the corner shaking her broom at passersby on the street, with a hundred cats scattering underfoot. It didn’t seem like a big stretch from where I was at the time, and that in itself was frightening.
Instead, I did find my prince charming—although about 20 years later than I had planned. When I first met Shea, we had an immediate click that went beyond chemistry and attraction. In odd ways, we had gone down similar paths with our careers and life plans. We had both never been married, and we both were extremely close to a small group of friends, and were truly involved in their lives and the lives of their children. After a few dates, and watching Shea with some of those kids, I turned to mush. His obvious ease and love of these kids and the way he so effortlessly drew them to him was magnetic. I remember thinking—he is going to want to have children. Perfect, right?

Without talking to him, (it was still early in our relationship), I started thinking about a possible future with him. I knew he would want kids, and I suddenly found I wasn’t so sure that I did. It shocked me. When unexpectedly faced with the real prospect of being a mom- I had doubts. I think everyone does, but this time it was nagging and deeper than the general worries. I just didn’t feel that pull to do it. It wasn’t about not loving kids, or not seeing the amazing love and beauty they brought to my friend’s lives. I saw it, and at times, I envied it. I knew in my heart that if it was 10 years earlier, I would probably feel differently. I also knew that I worried about any part of my father’s parenting becoming part of mine. Even though I know better, it has always worried me that somewhere down the line as a mother, I would suddenly morph into my father. Or even 1/100th of my father. And I wouldn’t want to do that to anyone else, especially a child.
But, falling in love can also make you believe in the things the other person wants enough to want them yourself.

So as Shea and I got closer, and when we both seemed to know this was serious, we started talking about a future. During the time leading up to this conversation, I had readied myself for Shea to say he wanted children. And when he did, I was going to be ready to do that. I would not deny him his one chance to have children and a family, and I knew that he would be a wonderful father, and I would adore being a mom to his kids.

Then, a funny thing happened. Shea felt exactly the same way I did. Exactly. Neither one of us was unsure--we didn’t want kids. We both would sacrifice those feelings for the other if it was truly important, but we didn’t have to. That moment probably cemented things with both of us—there was a very real sense of us being right for each other- meant to be.
When I was younger, I always viewed people that said they didn’t want children as almost soulless. They had to be callous, selfish people to say that and believe it. Some people do make that choice because they truly don’t like kids, and that is hard for me to understand.

But now I know there is an in-between. Shea and I both love children-- adore them. We both reach out to kids when we are out and about and love watching them toddle on the beach or seeing teenagers at the local attractions, embarrassed by their parents. We love all of it. We just know that the timing isn’t good for us, and that age has definitely played a role in that decision. We look forward to living in a place that the kids we love can come and stay as they get older- and we can be a part of their lives. Maybe even the cool aunt and uncle that you can talk to about anything.
It’s hard sometimes as we are talking to friends and family and they all have automatically assumed we will be having kids. They are in shock when we share our decision, and everyone questions if we are sure—won’t we regret it? I understand that thinking because of who Shea and I are. But I hate almost feeling guilty about it. I don’t want anyone to judge us or think we are selfish for a decision we know is right for us and our life.

I can’t deny that in those fantasies of mine as I grew up are a little sad to let go of. I always imagined that moment in the hospital delivery room, my husband holding my hand as we brought a life we created into the world. I don’t think there is anything more magic than that moment; and I have mourned a little knowing we won’t have it. But, realistically, I know that the moments and years after that aren’t what we want.
There are fairytales that come true without magic wands, glass slippers, and certain pathways. For me, it has definitely been an “off the beaten path” kind of story. More like Cinderella leaving her bad situation—then backpacking through the countryside, finding odd jobs and then really finding herself along the way. Then, at age 40, she finds her perfect soulmate and settles down near the beach, nowhere near a castle. More like home.
Dear Disney- that’s a happy ending too.

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10 comments:

Leximou June 12, 2011 at 9:17 PM  

Make no excuses for your choices! At 67, all my 3 girls are in their 40's and I love them dearly - however, if the freedom of what young women have available to them now were as easily available, I too would have chosen your road.

Enjoy your happy ending without doubts, regrets or excuses.

SG June 12, 2011 at 10:20 PM  

I can understand what you are saying. Often, when the dreams we had as teenagers or young adults do not materialize at the expected timeline, we tend to hang on to them. For years, we keep hanging on to them. And then eventually, when the time comes for the dream actually to be a possibility, we realize that at this point, we don't really want that anymore. Well, that is life and that is self discovery.

Eva Gallant June 12, 2011 at 11:21 PM  

What a beautiful post. I'm so happy for you that you have the happy ending you were hoping for. Don't feel guilty for a second about not having kids. It's a personal choice you have a right to make. As long as you are both in agreement, that's all that counts.

Jewels June 13, 2011 at 12:46 AM  

You have no idea how much I relate to this. I have done several posts on my not wanting children and the tension that causes in my family and amongst my friends. I am single and soon to be 31 and even if I was with somebody I know that I do not want children. I am selfish with my sleeping in, my me time, and do not want to have a 24/7 job of parenting.

Don't think I don't love children though...I do. I have always working with kids, as a preschool teacher then the director of a daycare and now as nanny. I have been with the same family for over 3 year caring for their 4 kids and I love them so much. My niece...forget about it...spoiled and smothered in my love. People seem to think because I love kids and am good with them that it's some kind of crime if I don't have them. I have a hard time explaining it but I just know it isn't for me.

It is thrilling to hear other women with the same feelings towards children...it makes me feel like less of a "souless" person. So glad that you and your husband didn't have to sacrifice your own desires.

lydia eve June 13, 2011 at 10:03 AM  

It always pisses me off when people think those who choose not to have children are being selfish or dumb or something's wrong with them or they are "missing out." Some people just aren't meant to have kids. So what? I wish a lot more people would stop and really THINK about if they are meant to be parents or not, rather than bringing children into the world they don't care for properly, or resent, or neglect.

So, kudos to you for really making a choice about something incredibly important and huge. There are plenty of other ways for you to love little people and still honor the life you're best suited to live!

Pat June 13, 2011 at 8:18 PM  

How refreshing to read this honest post. It isn't a bad thing to not want children. It's just a different choice. You shouldn't have to defend it. I'm happy you found your soul mate and you both agree on this.

MamaDoo June 13, 2011 at 9:01 PM  

I think it shows you and Shea's great love to have nothing but contentment with each other, not needing children to feel like your family is complete. I also love the Cinderella hiking cross country. PS: Walt was full of crap if you ask me - all the characters have also had tragic loses of their mothers...Bambi, Dumbo, Cinderella, Ariel, Belle, etc.

Deedee June 14, 2011 at 7:22 PM  

A very thoughtful and wise set of considerations. My children brought me much love and joy, and an equal amount of pain, anger and sorrow. Then the cruelest trick of all- they leave you. The point at which you discover they don't have much use for you anymore after you have built your enire lfe around them is truly devastating. No one told me to expect that agony when they were selling me the fairy tales. I still have one baby - my little dog. She will be a child forever and I will never worry about her out driving alone at night or have to pay for her college.

Michelle June 21, 2011 at 9:08 AM  

i remember being a teenager... 13-14 and talking with my girls friends about having kids... they all wanted them... they all had that pull... and i always said "no way!" lol... i did not want to have kids ever!

but i was young eh... and when i was 15... i got knocked up.

sometimes things dont go as planned... life pushes you in an unexpected direction... what can you do?

we have to make whatever happens work for us... i love my son... and hes a great kid! most folks would say im a pretty good mom too.... i think... {i hope}.... :) it happened for a reason.

your decision with shea not to have kids is just that... YOURS! youre not being selfish... youre making the hand you were dealt a winner for YOU.

all the best ;-) it sounds like you two already know how to make it work.

Walter Vieira October 16, 2011 at 3:42 PM  
This comment has been removed by the author.

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