Don’t you want kids? Like many other single women in their 20s and 30s, I’ve been asked this question so many times over the past 15 years. I doubt many men are asked this very often—maybe on dates? And for most of those years, my answer was either a hard “No” or a waffling, “Maybe? I don’t really think so.” Most women I know who have said, firmly, that they have no desire for children have stuck with that decision. These are women I know in their 20s through their 60s. But, there are a small subset of women, and probably men, too, who change their response.
Turns out, I am one of those people.
I recently discovered that I do, in fact, want a family. For the past 15 years, I’ve been loudly claiming the opposite—and, again, I think most women who say this are very secure in their desire not to be mothers. For me, though, this claim was largely, unconsciously, rooted in a belief that I could not have a family—that somehow this was forbidden to me, or that I didn’t deserve it. I didn’t grow up in a “traditional” nuclear family, my subconscious told me, so I didn’t deserve to ever be part of a close family unit. But, when those limiting beliefs fully surfaced, and I finally, fully believed that I didn’t have to follow the examples I’d had and I could choose a family unit that didn’t meet the “traditional” expectations, I realized that I do very much want a family of my own. Standing amongst the soft white and multicolor twinkle lights on my short street in the middle of December last year, I burst into tears at the sudden, shocking realization that I want the partner and the kids and the life that we could build together.
Fast forward to last week, at age 34, when I learned that biologically, kids are probably no longer an option.
I’m sitting with a lot of feelings on this. Hurt that my body seems like it’s betraying me. Anger toward all the small occurrences that added up to me pushing away romantic relationships for too long. Fear that this is the Universe telling me that no, I actually don’t deserve a family of my own and will never deserve to belong.
These feelings are heavy. Heavier still that I feel I carry them alone. My closest friends don’t seem to know what to say, and most of them don’t understand my seemingly sudden desire for children. Heavy, as I walk into a second date with a man who does actually seem to be a good potential match for me, knowing he very much wants children. Do I have that conversation now, while we’re still getting to know one another? Do I pretend I don’t know that I’m likely on the road to early menopause within the next 10 years?
How cruel is it that after doing The Work and fighting so hard to reclaim my Self and reclaim my loving nature that now, when I am ready and excited to start joining in on the things I have watched others so easily claim as their own, that I meet this seeming dead end? Have I not suffered enough? Have I not scaled every mountain placed before me?
My therapist believes that my experiences in early childhood led me to perceive that love and happiness could only come after some form of punishment and suffering. Yet, this is what I continued to experience throughout my adolescent and adult years. When I began to individuate and live on my own terms following my dreams? When I experienced severe acute medical trauma that led to more than a decade of pain and daily obstacles? When I put in the effort to heal my emotional wounds and find my way to wanting the most basic of human desires, a family to belong within? After surviving and thriving beyond it all, what is my reward? You’re on the verge of menopause.
These feelings are dramatic. Very dramatic, I know. That’s how feelings are sometimes. They’re dramatic and exaggerated, and that’s okay. It’s okay that I feel this pain and anger and frustration. It’s okay that I need to rail for a moment against all the obstacles I have crossed on the long and winding path of my life. Letting it out helps. And, I know I’m not truly alone, neither in these feelings nor in life. I know so many women, and others, have felt similarly. I find solace in all this.
I know that there are other paths to family. I know that I have already built a beautiful family of both blood relatives and chosen friends. My life partners so far are beautiful souls who uplift my life, and the children I call family are so very precious to me. I cherish them all. I cherish knowing that even at my worst, at my strangest, at my most isolated, I still belong with them. I still know that there is so much beauty and rejoicing for me on this life path. And, I am so grateful for it all.
For now, though, I need to grieve. We all need to vent and moan and grieve, sometimes.
And that’s okay.