My Thoughts on Motherhood…
Most people consider it a perfectly logical progression—you get married, you have children. It’s just the way of the world. But what if you’re a maverick like me, and the thought of creating another life for which you will be forever responsible scares the living daylights out of you? To tell you the truth, I find it hard to believe I’m in the minority, but I am.
As a woman who has struggled with commitment issues in the past, I can’t say decision-making is my strong suit. So I could never make what I consider to be the ultimate commitment—having a baby—very easily. This is a territory from which there is no return. Let’s face it, you can’t divorce a child. You can’t pack a bag for them, say “sorry it didn’t work out,” and buy them a one-way ticket back to the womb.
But I watch other women and men jump, head first, into baby-making as if the result was going to be as fun, easy and carefree as the process. They don’t seem to agonize over the losses involved—like freedom for example. The freedom to go anywhere, do anything—sleep anytime. They don’t worry much about losing focus of their own dreams and pursuits because now those of their little one will come first. They don’t even panic about news stories that warn parents about pre-adolescent sex and drug use in schools and neighborhoods—not to mention guns and violence. Why is that? These are questions that have baffled me, even more than my ambivalence about having children has baffled those around me.
I must admit, I am not typical. I knew when I married my husband I could have had a child with him if my body allowed, but the thought still terrified me. The pressure was on. I was forty and the odds were stacked against me. But unlike many other women, my biological clock still hadn’t begun ticking. In fact, I think someone forgot to plug it in.
Now don’t get me wrong. It’s not that I don’t like kids, I do—some. Just like I like some adults. But I’m not one of those women who automatically coos at the sight of a baby—any baby—and longs to hold and fuss over one. That seems to be the dream of so many women I know, but it was never mine. Some people who meet me are startled to hear that I’ve never yearned for a child. They see a warm, nurturing, protective and loving person and cannot understand what could possibly be “wrong” with me that I chose not to become a mother. Some chalk it up to rather insulting stereotypical explanations. It’s a sign of immaturity, of selfishness, of eccentricity. I’m considered “less than” the ideal model of a self-sacrificing, life-giving woman. But there’s a lot they do not understand.
I don’t feel the need to see a little version of myself running around in order to feel I’ve made my mark on the world. I give birth every time I write something close to my heart. I give life by adopting and sponsoring animals, a calling of mine. More important to me, is to love the souls that are already here on earth and who are in need of nurturing. There’s no narcissism at work there, only a deep need and desire to stop their pain and loneliness and bring happiness and love into their lives—hardly a selfish or immature endeavor.
My maternal instinct is alive and well, even if it is being channeled in a slightly unconventional way. Never was it more intact than the day I went to adopt my cat, Nikki. The moment I saw that tiny, helpless, furry face peering up at me, there were no questions to be answered. Love and motherhood took over and we were instantly a team. You couldn’t have pried that kitten out of my arms with a crowbar (and you wouldn’t have wanted to try!)
From the books and articles I’ve read and the people I’ve questioned, I’ve come to understand that this is very close to the feelings a woman has after giving birth. It isn’t all in the hormones! When you have a heart that is ready, willing and able to love—you have a mother. I’m told that I can’t understand it since I’ve never experienced it, and I accept that that may be true. Like any momentous life event, living through it is the best lesson. But although it’s clearly not my destiny to have a human child of my own, that doesn’t stop me from feeling complete as a person or a woman—and I hope I’ll always be treated with the same understanding and acceptance I afford to women who choose the road more travelled.
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