We encounter choices all day every day. Some decisions are easy; others are hard. But we like choices (or at least the illusion of them). It makes us feel like we have control over our lives. Until something happens that leaves you choiceless. I’ve made lots of choices in my life; some good, others less than good. But there is a choice I never got to make: becoming a mom.
Look, I will be perfectly honest. I don’t really know much about motherhood. I’ve certainly witnessed a lot of it. It’s hard work; not for the squeamish. But it comes with big rewards. Being a parent means you are responsible for this human being and that child must become your priority.
On the other side of motherhood, I can tell you that’s how my mom made me feel. I knew I was the most important thing to her. But we all know not everyone has that experience.
My mother and most of the mothers I know made a choice. The choice was to be a mom. Some got there easier than others. But it was a driving want in their lives.
I’m not sure I ever had that. I never heard any ticking from my biological clock, and I’m more likely to be maternal toward animals. And I’m not alone. I have many friends who have made the choice to not have children.
Because we do get a choice now. This probably wasn’t the case 50 years ago. You got married and had babies. That was the story. There weren’t many alternatives unless you were wealthy. And if you could not have children then you were damaged and unfit.
My road to my choice started as a child. I preferred Barbies to baby dolls. Barbies dressed up and went to work. Babies did nothing. I was not impressed.
Babies were not on my mind during my teenage years, but by chance somehow I ended up as a nanny in college. I spent a lot of time helping raise other people’s kids. I enjoyed it. Most of the kids I worked with were good kids. I tried to be fun, but I’ll admit I was strict. Good manners were expected. During the summers, I took them to museums, parks, the pool and on adventures. This was probably the first time in my life that I thought I want to do this for real some day.
Not long after graduating from college, I became serious with the man I would eventually marry. We talked about kids. He was less enthusiastic than me, but we were really young. We had plenty of time to figure it out.
Of course that’s not the way life works; things happen. I had less choices and time. Because at 23 I was diagnosed with ovarian cancer. It was major. I lost an ovary, but the doctor said I was young. I’d be fine. It wouldn’t come back.
But it did. And I had another surgery. There was still a slim chance I could get pregnant. My oncologist was saying that he couldn’t guarantee me any more time. If I wanted a baby I had to make the choice now. I considered freezing my eggs. I even made an appointment.
I still felt unsure. And I knew that having a child would not fix me or my marriage. Even though I thought a lot about having a little girl sitting in front of me looking like me, my mom and grandmother, we never tried.
Then I became choiceless. Because shortly after turning 30, my cancer was back. And this time, the doctor had to take everything.
So there I was: 30 years old in menopause going through a divorce. The physical pain was bad, but no matter how old you are, knowing that you are barren changes you.
It informed my thoughts about myself and my choices. How could I date again? The scars were bad enough but what was underneath was worse: nothing.
So my choice was not to say I can’t have kids but to say I don’t want kids. It wasn’t a lie. That’s probably the decision I would have made. I just never got the chance to decide. That’s what kills me the most; having no choice. Don’t wish for something you can’t have kind of logic.
Infertility isn’t a first or second date subject. But then I began a relationship with a man who knew of my health because he was a friend. Even though he was over 10 years older than me, I began to think that maybe we’d get married and want to have a family. He didn’t have any children. I thought we could adopt. There were options. But that was a delusional fairytale. He and I were not meant to be. There was a lot of hurt probably none more than the day he said, “I want to have children with someone who can have children.”
To hear this from a man you love is soul crushing. I forgave him. But everything changed for me after that. I stopped believing in our happily ever after.
So I made a choice to be on my own. And why did I want a baby anyway? No sleep, stretch marks, baby brain. No thank you. I was free to make so many choices and do what I wanted.
Then I found real love. And I knew all the baggage I had about babies could be discarded. His kids were grown. He wasn’t interested in anymore. He knew my situation and had no qualms. He only cares about if I’m healthy.
I still occasionally think about what choice I would have made. I think I would have been a good mom. But motherhood isn’t for everyone. And it isn’t fair either. I’m at peace with knowing I’ll never be a mom. I’ve grieved it and accepted it. Sometimes I linger on it, wishing I could have the experiences my friends have as a mom or longing to have someone call me mommy. I’m not sure if that will ever go away, but I don’t live a life of regret. This was not the hand I was dealt. I’m meant to do other things. And my heart and empathy go out to every woman out there who has experienced any type of infertility.
Having your choices stripped away, regardless of the situation, is hard to move forward from. But I can’t be stuck in the past. I can’t change what happened. What I have the power to do is make great choices every day about how I live my life. And my choice is to share my story so that anyone who reads this might find some solace.