When the White Picket Fence Only Comes With the Dog and Spouse, Zero Kids
Everyone I know is pregnant.
Okay — that’s a mild exaggeration.
Just about everyone I know is pregnant.
The rest have either just had a baby, are actively trying to have a baby as I type this, or are hoping to become pregnant within the next six months.
In fact, I’m getting married this winter, and just about everyone in my bridal party or who will be in attendance falls into one of the above categories. Newborns, everywhere you turn.
Let me say loud and clear right here, right now, before you read any further down, to avoid ambiguity: I love babies, and I love that people in my inner circle are expanding their lives and their families and beginning these new chapters. I love that Target now sends me targeted emails asking if I would like to order diapers, purely because I’ve purchased that many baby-related items in the last 9 months. It’s wonderful, and I’m very excited to become the favorite aunt.
But me? I never thought very much about becoming a mom.
I mean, yes, babies are cute, and I always really liked kids, but having my own never took up much real estate in my mind.
I’ve had a chronic health condition since birth, and one of its “side effects” for women, for lack of a better description, is an extraordinary level of difficulty to become pregnant. In other words, infertility. It’s not guaranteed to be impossible, but I have been told by every doctor I’ve ever had that having children on my own someday would be extremely tough, and that the window to become pregnant was most likely going to be very small, if it ever even opened. And that if I did, by some miracle, become pregnant, that pregnancy would likely not be a breeze by any stretch of the imagination, and would be considered high-risk right from the get-go, no matter what the surrounding circumstances were or my age.
So, I let it go. The notion of becoming pregnant and having biological children the old fashioned way went into a little drawer in a file cabinet in the very back of my brain. I just about wrote it off completely, going so far as to be sure I told anyone I was dating seriously that me being their baby mama was probably not a real possibility without adoption, just in case that was a deal breaker. (For some people, it is.)
And that was fine, when I was younger. The locked file cabinet drawer — it was fine. I couldn’t imagine anything past landing my dream job, and just catching the subway and finding time to wash my hair was challenging enough in day-to-day life, so children seemed like an insane proposition regardless of my health.
I’m now 31, and about 20 days shy of turning 32.
In this last year, that drawer has just about exploded.
Between everyone and their mother becoming pregnant — people I know and people I just sort of “know” (like coworkers or the cashier in the grocery store, or strangers on the internet) — the motherhood message has been, quite literally, inescapable. This isn’t the worst thing, since babies are darn cute, and for all of the reasons I mentioned at the start of this essay, but it’s also led to swallowing some uncomfortable feelings that I (usually) avoid talking about. With social media, that “new mom/expecting mom/motherhood goals/moms are stronger than everyone else” narrative is everywhere, at least on my feeds. Maybe it’s a sign I should be following more Insta-famous dogs, but nevertheless. Sure makes it tough to avoid unpacking that “but why won’t this ever be me” feeling.
To be quite honest, I’m not even sure I want kids, regardless of whether or not I can conceive one, and my fiancé and I are extremely open to adoption (not to mention, the joys of dog parenting). But the flooding of conversations about becoming pregnant and child birth everywhere I look has been an emotional experience this last year.
I’ve genuinely loved chatting with friends about what their personal pregnancy experiences have been like, and learning what it really feels like to come home with a brand new human that is in your hands to raise into a good person. That’s important stuff right there, and if I can’t do it, I’m sure as heck glad people I treasure and trust most in this universe are. That’s not why I’m sitting writing about this, though. It’s the other voices — the louder voices. At least from where I’m sitting, it seems there’s a soundtrack humming in the background on repeat for women in their late 20s to mid 30s, emphasizing motherhood as one of the- if not THE, capital letters — most important jobs and roles a woman has (and will ever have) in her life. While I do not necessarily disagree with that, it certainly gives a middle finger to the rest of us out here — the childless. The ones who biologically cannot have children, or who have struggled to conceive. The ones who do not have the financial or economic means to bring a child into this world, or who straight up just do not want to raise a child, for whatever reason.
This notion that social media is perpetuating that you’re not complete as a woman if you’re not a mom, or, more specifically, if you haven’t personally brought a human into the world that was carried in your own body, is unfair, and it’s sort of shocking to me that that expectation even still exists in 2018. It’s right up there with the argument about whether you’re less-than for choosing to not breastfeed your baby (which is your prerogative, and not a sin), and all the mom guilt plastering Instagram. Such narrow points of view, which don’t give way for that extraordinary grey area that fills most of our lives.
I, for one, have always been of the mindset of to each their own; it’s never been tough for me to be happy for other people or to share in the goodness happening in their lives, regardless of where I’ve been at in my own life at that moment in time. I firmly believe we each have our own view of what is special or important and worth shouting from the rooftops, and you don’t have to dim your light or hold your tongue regarding your happiness because it makes someone else uncomfortable.
This is purely about a mutual respect, and realizing everyone’s life path is different. There is no one way, no certain direction that elevates you to a higher ground or puts you on a pedestal. We are all struggling and celebrating, every day of our lives, and we should all just be trying to do the very best we can to soak up as much love and joy out of this life as possible — whatever and however makes sense for us. Maybe that’s a home full of babies, or maybe it’s a home full of puppies. Maybe it’s In-N-Out fries, puppy snuggles, working 50 hours a week, running marathons — whatever.
Now, I long ago came to terms with my health situation and the cards I’ve been dealt, and I’m very content with this life of mine, but that’s just me. I know there are others out there, in a similar boat, and they may not appreciate when a store’s digital marketing efforts confuse them for being pregnant, or who might have a more visceral reaction to the #bumpday updates across social media. If that’s you, please know I see you. I see you and despite what the Explore page on Instagram may lead you to believe, you’re not alone. There’s space for all of us.