In my early teens, I belonged to a small youth group at a church in my neighborhood. There was a young couple that often helped out, giving us rides to events, acting as chaperones when needed. They were the epitome of what we all were taught to strive for: Married, living in a nice neighborhood (downright rich compared to where we lived), good jobs, involved in the church, and with two of the most adorable kids ever. They were wonderful people, but what I loved about them most were there children; A baby girl named Emma, and a toddler named Owen. I could spend hours playing with Owen. He was smart, well-behaved, and of course, always impeccably dressed. On top of that, the kids were cute.
I’m guessing I talked a lot about Owen during that time period, because it became a running thing with my sisters and mom. I was the child that always did things right. I enjoyed school, and got fairly good grades. Was involved in lots of extra-curricular activities, including sports, even though I sucked at all things sports. I was involved in church. I went to college. I was responsible. It only followed suite that I would get married and have little “Owens” of my own someday.
Such became the expectation, and my fictitious Owen became such a part of my future that it was never an “if”, but rather a “when”. Over the years, I’ve heard my future son Owen talked about more times than I can count. It got to the extent that, when my younger sister was struggling with her kids as babies and toddlers, she would become bitter about my future perfect child, Owen, as if he actually existed, and really was perfect. To which I always reminded her that, for all we knew, I could end up with a bunch of wild little monkeys, instead of perfect little Owens.
I never even questioned whether I would have children. It wasn’t just that children were the expectation; I really did want to be a mother. Unlike my older sister, who has been proclaiming her lack of desire for children since the age of 20, I never imagined my life without children. I always assumed it would happen in the traditional order: I’d meet someone, get married, buy a house, and start a family. I didn’t even consider dating men who didn’t want that life.
And then, my 30’s came. I didn’t give up hope, and I was still planning for things to work out “as they should”. But, as a woman, I knew I was on a limited timeline. Sure, my grandma had her youngest at 42. But my aunt was infertile by the end of her 20s. There were no guarantees. Not long before I started this blog, I started to consider whether, if Mr. Right didn’t come along soon, I should start pursuing single motherhood. Did I need to include saving for a baby in with my short-term goals? Would I be able to afford a baby on my own? Were there doctors in the Midwest that would help a single woman become a mother? How much would that cost?
I’ll be honest, when I first went out with Bryan, neither one of us thought it would lead to anything. We were just two lonely people who were looking for company. But it wasn’t long before things started getting more serious. In our day-to-day life, we were very compatible. But we had different long-term goals. I wanted to settle down and start a family. He wasn’t interested in fatherhood a second time around. There were a lot of tears. And reconsideration, And soul-searching.
And finally, right before my 35th birthday, I walked away.
It didn’t last long. We both decided that, above everything else, we enjoyed our life together. We’d both spent a very long time looking (him about 20 years longer than me), and realized that finding someone who you were that compatible with wasn’t an easy thing. Above all else, we wanted to be together. We were happy together. We didn’t exactly agree to never having children. We just agreed to wanting to be together. What would be, would be.
I slowly started accepting the idea that I might never be a mother. Would I regret it later? Maybe. But who knew what the future held? I honestly enjoyed our daily lives. On a day-to-day basis, I didn’t feel like anything was missing. I wasn’t yearning to have a baby right now. Actually, selfishly, I enjoyed that I didn’t have to get up in the middle of the night, or put someone else’s needs first, or set aside part of my weekly pay for diapers, or daycare. As much as I wanted to be a mother, I enjoyed our child-free life.
And that has made the past year and a half so much easier to accept. As it turns out, I may not be able to have children. It isn’t a given; As much as science has figured out, there are still a lot of unknowns when it comes to making babies. But, it’s unlikely I’ll ever be able to get pregnant without the help of IVF treatments. And even then, I may not be able to carry a pregnancy to term.
Infertility is a heartbreaking road, and one I’m not sure I’m emotionally ( or financially!) equipped to travel. So I’m choosing instead to embrace the happy, childless life that I have with a man who loves me. We’ve both agreed that, should life bring us any surprises, we’ll adjust to a new course. But our plans right now are for just the two of us.
That doesn’t mean it’s always easy. I don’t tell people that I can’t have kids, because I feel like that isn’t necessarily proven fact. After all, I’ve never tried. But when people ask, I tell them that children aren’t part of our plan. My older sister sobbed when I told her there would likely never be an Owen. And I know that my grandma will ask, every Tuesday night when I go to visit. And even though I know the question is coming, I still tear up a little every time I give the answer. I’ve learned that you can be happy and sad about a decision all at the same time. And that’s okay.
Life doesn’t always work out the way we think it should. That doesn’t mean we can’t be happy with what we’ve got.
– Cindy W.