I was 26 when my doctor sat across from me in her office and told me I would never have children. She explained carefully, in a quiet voice, the results of my fertility test – a test I had done when I had thought about selling my eggs to help pay for college, a test she said was just a formality, really, because of course I would be fertile at this age.
Instead, she said, it wasn’t going to happen. Having children would be extremely difficult for me. She seemed sorrowful, regretful, in every word she spoke. She knew the impact of her words. I went home that day surprised but detached. Donating eggs was one thing but I hadn’t really considered the thought of having my own children yet. Over the course of the next few months I would go on to have a second opinion but the result was the same – I would not be able to have children.
It’s a strange experience to have a choice taken away from you before you even got the chance to make your own decision. It was nearly four years ago when I learned about my fertility issues but the difference between then and now is that the conversation has changed.
In your mid-20s most people are still navigating the early part of their careers, changing cities/jobs/significant others, still discovering who they are and what they want. Some might have children but it’s not common yet. In your late 20s, though, everything becomes a bit more serious. People, especially women, start thinking about where kids fit into their life. They examine their relationships, their career, and what their plan is. Family members remind you time is ticking (a.k.a. you’re getting old) and they want to see you with a baby already.
When I tell people I don’t think I want children, followed by the fact I can’t have them, the response is almost always some form of denial. They tell you, “Oh, you’ll change your mind,” “Once you find the right guy you’ll want to have them,” or “Don’t worry. You can always adopt or try fertility treatments later.”
It’s like if you tell another woman who absolutely wants kids that you don’t think you want kids and yes, actually, you’re happy with your life, it makes her feel threatened – as if you’re taking some sort of stand against conventional female roles, when really you don’t care if other people have kids or not, you just don’t know if you want them. It’s like everyone’s a part of some club and they don’t like that you don’t want a membership.
Why is it so difficult for people to accept some women may simply not want children? Why is it hard to believe a woman can lead a happy, successful, fulfilled life without having a baby? And why is it when you explain why you don’t have children yet, either because you don’t want them or can’t have them, the response is always to make you feel as though your feelings aren’t valid or there’s a solution out there that will “fix” you? As if not having a child is one of the biggest mistakes a woman could possibly make with her life.
I’ll be 30 next year and as my friends all come down with baby fever it makes me think about my own life and plans. Even if I could have children, would I want them? I’m still not sure. I feel like that’s something I should have figured out by now.
I was hiking with my friend one day when we started talking about babies. A friend from college had just had a baby girl and we were all excited to finally meet her over the upcoming weekend. My friend talked to me about her relationship and how she could see having kids with her boyfriend eventually.
“But how do you know?” I asked her. “How do you know you want kids?” She laughed. “I don’t know how I know. I just do. I was born to be a mother.” She was so passionate, so certain in her response.
She’s aware of my fertility issue but I told her I didn’t know where I stood on the idea of having children in general. “Oh, Koty! You absolutely have to have a baby someday. You would be so good at being a mom. I can just tell.”
“Really?” I asked. I felt skeptical.
“Yeah! I can already see it – you either living out on a farm or in a cute bungalow on the beach making all your homemade cookie recipes for your kids and reading books to them, taking them to museums and stuff.” She looked at me and shrugged. “Plus, like…you’re already the mom of our friend group.”
While I had thought about the idea of children before I never really considered what I would be like as a mother. My friend, however, could already envision me in a life I hadn’t even thought of yet.
Maybe that’s the problem. Maybe I just can’t see myself in any of it.