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.