I have a friend who had a baby, on her own, past the age of 40.
A professional woman I know got married, for the first time, at 40 and had a baby two years later.
My stepmother never had a child of her own but has been a wonderful mother to five stepchildren and their spouses as well as an amazing grandmother to their children.
A dear friend of mine was a teen mother.
I've never had a baby. I don't think I ever will.
I'm raising a dog named Birdie who is wild and funny and smelly and smart. I could not love her any more than I already do. I feel that my life is made more whole with her in it. She's not my child but she is enough for me.
I love my friends', stepsisters', and family's babies, children, and teens. I'm an auntie to many. That makes me super happy. I love buying books for children and picking out the hippest Christmas gifts for the hippest teens. Once, I crafted an entire flannel board dress up doll book for a friend's daughter. It was beautiful and I loved every minute of it.
I think quite a lot about the decision to have children (or not). It's in the news constantly. My friends discuss it frequently. My oldest and dearest friend, K, and her partner have decided they don't want children. They're in a committed relationship, they live together, they care for a cat and a dog. That's enough for them. Down the street, their friends (also two women in a committed relationship) are making plans to welcome children into their family soon. My friend, C, recently encountered a gynecologist who did not want to fit her with an IUD because she's never had a child. She doesn't want to have a child, to be clear, but this doctor felt he knew more about her future than she did. A person I knew in my past recently had a child with her husband, almost a decade after I'd taken her to terminate an unplanned pregnancy.
I once told my own gynecologist that I wasn't planning to have any children. I was probably about 30 at the time and had recently had to have surgery to remove one of my ovaries. She shook her head sympathetically and said, with a kind of weary certainty, "Well, we'll see what you say in a couple of years."
For three years, I worked as a Children's Librarian and presented regular weekly storytimes to babies and toddlers. A mother of one of my regulars was incredulous when I told her I wasn't a mother. "You're so good with little ones! Don't you want a baby?" I just shook my head. "I bet you'll change your mind," she said. "You'd be an amazing mother." She meant well, of course. She was a very kind person. However, she also presumed to know what I wanted simply based on what she herself had wanted...or, perhaps, even based on what women are expected to want.
All of the women I know have faced these kinds of questions, dilemmas, and choices. There are a million reasons why a woman decides or does not decide to have children. I, myself, have never been in a romantic relationship. I can’t imagine having a child outside of a committed, loving relationship. That’s my choice. Plenty of women are very happy raising children on their own. That’s their choice.
Discussing my choice not to have children isn’t something I really relish doing. It’s a private decision and I don’t want to go into the details of my decision. Shouldn’t I be allowed to make that decision, live with it, and go about my business? Why do I need to explain, even to my gynecologist, why I don’t want children? Why does she still feel she knows better than I about that particular subject? If I wanted to discuss it, I’d ask her about it. It feels like it should be my right to decide when and how that discussion will happen.
I know I’m not saying anything that all women don’t know. We’ve all faced dozens and dozens of situations where our private decisions about our bodies become subject to public discussion. Even my students sometimes ask me about when I’ll have children...for them, it is a foregone conclusion: what grown woman doesn’t have children? Even they have to be reminded that everyone gets the opportunity to decide for him or herself without having to explain that decision to others. It can be painful to have to discuss my choice publicly. I’m not ashamed of it but there are a lot of feelings associated with that choice. I’m working to be more open, but some things should be allowed to remain private: not secret, but personal.