I am possibly the most annoying kind of childless woman because there’s little reason to judge me negatively or find argument with my choice. I’ve simply never experienced a biological urge to bear and raise a child.
I am not making a statement in protest about a planet bursting at the seams, I’m not infertile to the best of my knowledge, I’m not so engrossed in a career that I delayed having a baby and Mr Right did come along. While most women know deep down that they want to raise families, I possess the same kind of calm certainty that I will never be a mother.
Sometimes I forget that years of knowing my own truth can be difficult for others to understand and accept. The most hurtful jibe was being called selfish during a conversation with another woman at work. I asked her to elaborate and was told it was my responsibility as a woman to have children. I walked away from the argument when she couldn’t elaborate on the basis of this responsibility but several years later her words still sting. When we shared a ride home occasionally I admired how her two young sons and husband greeted her affectionately and I respected the loving environment created for her children; perhaps her uncompromising view towards other women could have been softened and it wasn’t every woman’s responsibility to reproduce, but every woman who reproduced had a responsibility to be as committed as she was.
More recently, visits to the doctor’s office to discuss my irregular periods have concluded with advice regarding the start of premature menopause. My fertility clock is slowing but my reproductive clock is still jammed; there are times I fear that the urge to have a baby will strike while knowing the likelihood lessens each month I ignore my increasingly erratic cycle. I ask myself doomsday-like questions such as how I might react if my reproductive clock finally started ticking or what would happen if my partner decides he wants to have a child and I don’t. I can sit smugly at the keyboard today and say, “I’m a pragmatic type and will deal with the situation if it changes,” yet I know from other women’s experiences that ambivalence towards motherhood can turn into snarling desperation in a short period of time.
A friend’s urge to reproduce hit after the age of 40 with such force that she was more surprised than anyone. She booked herself for pre-pregnancy health checks and hormone tests to prepare for a child that wasn’t part of her or her partner’s plans only months earlier. After three years of trying naturally before facing her own perimenopause, they opted not to proceed with fertility treatment. Now, at the age of 47 and with the opportunity to bear a child long gone, I sometimes wonder if she looks back at her decision with regret or acceptance.
I also wonder when I reach the same age how I will regard my decision not to reproduce. It’s impossible to look back on a past that hasn’t yet been lived so all I can do right now is be ready to face my own truth when the time comes.