Emily Dickinson girl

Sometimes decisions come to you quickly, in waves of intuition that you know are correct and require no reconsideration. Sometimes they take years of occasionally-returning thoughts before a final realization is made. Sometimes they languish for years, waiting for an impetus, a catalyst.

One such catalyst came for me today.

Jeff doesn't always like it that I write a journal for an audience. I do try to respect his privacy, but I don't always manage it to the level that he would like. It's all too easy sometimes to forget that things that are important to me are important to him too—but may not be things that he wants to share with the world.One of the things we've talked about that falls into a gray area is our discussion about whether or not to have children. I know that I have much more strong feelings on the subject than Jeff does or ever will—partly because I'm the female in this relationship, and thus a lot of the burden would fall on me.

I've never really felt comfortable around children. Don't get me wrong, but I like the idea of children much better than the actual reality of them. After an hour or two around my nephew, I know that I love him and care about him, but I come away saying, "None for me, please."

It's hard, sometimes, not to get angry at people who say, "Oh, don't worry, you'll find your maternal instincts once you have a child." These are the people that I want to slap—for I know good and well that at least once in their lives that person has said, "S/He's just one of those people who shouldn't have had children."

A child, a human life, is worth too much to gamble on the possibility that maybe I'm wrong and that my absent maternal instincts would magically appear post-partum. Children are incredibly sensitive beings—they can pick up on the true feelings of adults, no matter how well the adults hide them. I can think of no greater wrong I could perpetuate than to birth a child, only to realize that I had been right all along and that I shouldn't have had children in the first place.

How painful, to know that you were unwanted.

Since I was sixteen I have been considering having my tubes tied. I have not been waiting to make up my mind, per se—I have been giving myself some years of time to ensure that my decision is not a hasty or rash one. As the years have gone on I have noticed the tenor of my questioning changing. Previously it was, "Do I want children, ever?" But in the past couple of years it has gradually moved towards, "I know I don't want children. But have I thought long enough about it to make sure this permanent choice is the right one?"

What I've been waiting for is the moment of clarity that would tell me that my decision was a rational, well-considered one. A moment that would at last give me some peace, and finally settle this question once and for all.

I think I had that moment yesterday. One of my co-workers told me that she is pregnant. I'm overjoyed—she loves her children, will welcome this third child, and will do a wonderful job raising this child. (I should make sure to say that to her.)

The topic of her pregnancy came up in a staff meeting we had yesterday. Another co-worker of mine, who is currently childless, said, "Well, we're planning to have our first child in 2002. But dammit, i'm ready NOW!"

What was it about the comment that struck me so? I'm not sure. Perhaps it was the excitement, the expectation, the sound in her voice that conveyed, "This is what I want. We have planned for this, and this is what we want to do with our lives."

Right then I realized that was what was missing. I tried to think ahead in my life to picture a time in which I'd be ready to have a child. I could see the gradual shifting of events…

Jeff graduates from grad school. I'm wanting to do some serious sightseeing in Europe after that. I know we won't be in Huntsville forever. I want to go back to school—probably for the arts degree I passed up on the first time around in college. Then perhaps a master's degree of my own. I've got new things I want to learn, and then I will want to do some more traveling…and then perhaps I'll finally be ready to settle down into the serious writing that I'm easing myself into now.

It hit me that nowhere in there was a slot for having and raising a child. That basically we've planned our lives around not having children. And that, despite what my family and friends (and probably everyone else who has ever met me) want, I think we made up our minds quite some time ago. It just took me a while to see it.

A friend said to me once that while most people choose to make their legacy a living, breathing, genealogical one, that some people find they have another calling in life. Afterward, I asked myself, over and over, if I honestly felt truth in that statement—if, without having children, that in the end my life would still have meaning and value to me.

Then I remembered that I've always been a fan of Emily Dickinson.

It took eight years to come to this conclusion.
I wonder if it's a final one.
I'm guessing Jeff and I have a lot to talk about tonight.

all tags: 


Good for you. It was so helpful to read your insightful entry. I feel the same way, although I haven't been able to articulate it. I don't have enough guts to say "I will never have children"--my parents would freak. I have to say "I don't plan on it, though I know I may feel differently later in life." Here's to us having meaningful, childfree lives!