“You’ve been married for over a year now! Time to have some kids!” “You’re not getting any younger!” “When are you going to start a family?” “Oh! You got a dog? That should tide you over until some kids come along.”
There have been a few times in my life when I knew, beyond a shadow of a doubt, what I was supposed to do and what I wanted.
When I was deciding which college to attend, I prayed for certainty and I received an illogical, deep confidence that I was supposed to go to this specific college in this specific city at this specific time. And I did that and I came away from it with a degree that I have never used and a few friends that I would gladly spend dozens of thousands of dollars to meet again.
When my friend Ryan took a long lunch break and came to my house and told me he couldn’t wait one more minute—he had to tell me he loved me and asked me to be his partner in this life and I had so many questions and so many doubts and what-if’s swimming through my mind but my soul screamed louder inside of me, “This is something big for you. Take this and protect it!”
Everything else—I’ve just been winging it. I’ve never felt called to anything in my life.
Most of the women who might end up reading this (should it ever go public–I’m still deciding) know what I’m talking about when I talk about the yearning to be a mother. They know what it is to know in your heart, that’s what you want. To pine for a child. Many know what it is to ache when her cycle re-starts even though she felt, for sure, that this time was the time. Some of you know the sinking, sickening, horror of losing a baby before you had a chance to meet. Many people are well acquainted with at least one of these feelings. A lot of people have known them all.
I haven’t felt any of them.
For some people, the choice is so cut and dry and so uncomplicated. Yes, we want kids or no, we definitely do not. For some people there’s no choice at all. I’ve heard stories of the women who wanted kids so desperately and couldn’t or those women who didn’t want to have kids and went on to live full and happy lives (even a few that didn’t want kids but here they are). I’ve heard so many stories about motherhood and non-motherhood but I’ve never heard the story of the woman who didn’t know if she could have children and didn’t know if she wanted to have children. Likely because it’s a non-starter and a non-ender. Where do you go from there? That’s literally the whole story.
But it’s where I am. I’m the story of a woman who doesn’t know if she can have kids and doesn’t know if she wants them. There are a lot of questions inside of me.
There was a time when I described it to my doctor as “we’re trying to not not try?” And, during that season, every time that my cycle would start—indicating that a pregnancy would not be taking place this month, I would feel… something. I’d mourn to my girlfriends. The whole time feeling something for which I didn’t have any words. It was something like sadness. But the sadness didn’t point directly to “I want a baby and I don’t have one.” It didn’t feel like that was quite right. For the better part of a year I analyzed that feeling every time it came around. Each month.
In retrospect—I believe that I was feeling a little aimless in my life and I felt sure that if I had a baby, at least then I’d always know what I was supposed to be doing. Or if not that, I’d at least have a distraction from needing to figure out what I was doing. It would settle everything Right? Because babies fix things?
Once I recognized it, I figured that was a pretty reckless and selfish reason for me to bring a whole new life into this world and into my marriage. So now we’re back at ¯\_(ツ)_/¯.
A whole lot of “I don’t know.” A whole lot of conversations between my husband and I that never really lead anywhere except to check in, “are you still at ‘I dunno’? Me, too.”
But that’s not really what I wanted to tell you. It’s just the back-story.
What I want to tell you is what I do know.
At long last, I feel a confidence deep inside of my spirit. There’s something that I know for sure. There’s a calling on my life that I have never said out loud.
I love where I’m at in my life. I love being able to get together for dinner with my friends and snuggle their baby all evening long—undistracted from my own little ones at the table. I love it when someone texts me, “I’m in a pinch, would you mind watching my kids this afternoon?” and I can say “totally!” I love being the one who gets a phone call from that mom friend who just really needs a kid-free night and wants to hang out. I don’t have to figure out whether or not there will be someone to watch my kids. I love it when my nieces and nephews or friends’ kids come over and explore the weird things in our toy box. “Why is this toy made of wood?” I love getting on the floor and coloring with my buddies while their mom takes a break for a second.
I have never felt slighted.
I have never felt jealous.
I love watching my best friends go from single to dating to married to pregnant to motherhood (not always in that order—but it’s the process that is so amazing). One day, I’ll even get to see my friends and siblings become grandparents. To witness the transformation into motherhood is something that I hope to never take lightly. I love seeing these babies go from tiny, wiggly little potato sacks into full blown kids with a whole sense of wonder and learning and vocabulary and a personality that is all their own. It feels like a real honor to get to bear witness to this ever-evolving, sacred, messy, miracle in front of us all.
What I love more than anything is the way that no one that I love has ever made me feel like an other because I’m not a mother. I know people who have fallen out of touch with their mom-friends because they feel like they can’t relate to one another any more. But I feel overwhelmed with gratitude for the people in my life who have made me feel important in their kids’ lives.
So there’s this one thing that I feel certain about. One mission that I truly feel called to is to uphold the mothers in my life. Hold their babies. Color with their kids. Bring snacks. And try to commiserate over the insanity that is a three-year-old.
There is an honor and a sacredness to being a mother. There is also an honor and a sacredness to be a woman who is not a mother. I have a gift and a perspective that not everyone has and a gift that I feel so compelled to share with the parents in my life. The gift of my time. The gift of a patience that comes from never being able to imagine what it must be like to be a mom for 24 hours a day with no vacations.
My life, my marriage, my child-free-ness can be a blessing to me and to others as-is. It’s a story that isn’t often told but it’s mine and I’m so proud and excited about it. It’s one of my favorite things.