Recent evidence suggests that my on-board egg factory either already has ceased or will soon cease production after dropping more than 400 payloads down the hatch. Which means that, among other things, all symptoms of unstable hormonal activity in my body will soon cease as well (I hope—Gott im Himmel, I hope!).
I am finally passing through the gates of the change of life, leaving my procreative potential behind forever. The maiden who never became a mother has now become a … crone.
Well, shoot, that’s neither a pretty word nor a pretty idea. But it beats the alternative:
I read all the time in the women’s magazines how single women of reproductive age who haven’t taken that option are pestered constantly by friends, family and strangers to explain why they haven’t. Funnily enough, almost nobody has ever put that inquiry to me. If they have, my answer is this: I would want any child of mine to be born in wedlock to his or her two biological parents who love each other and who can together provide a stable, loving home for that child. Because I have never been able to provide that, I have not had children. (Note: I don’t care what reproductive choices other women make, which are none of my business.)
The biggest deal breaker, of course, was not having the partner and fellow bioparent, otherwise known as the father, with whom to create and rear that child. There was a young man, once, back in high school, whom I envisioned in this role, but he was never interested in playing the part. I haven’t met anyone since who might have replaced him. I’ve had relationships, of course, but no permanent romantic partner. I have no excuses, apologies or complaints to offer for this state of affairs (or lack thereof). It is what it is. This is the life I’ve made and the path I’ve chosen. A partner and child(ren) were simply not part of the plan this time around.
The other deal breaker, entirely apart from circumstances, was always knowing that I don’t have the energy to play the short game of raising children to get through the days nor the patience and foresight to play the long game to get through the years, so I am not mourning the passing of my fertility and my potential to send forth my own little arrows into the future. My sister has two children, and I see them as my arrows almost as much as hers. They are the entire next generation of our immediate family, in fact. I know I could not have raised them one tiny fraction as well as my sister has, so I’m glad they are her kids in that respect. I think I’m a good auntie, though, and they know I love them just slightly less than their mother does.
When my grandmother was my age, she had two adult children who had graduated college and married, two children in college, a second-grader at home, and her first grandchild (my brother). When my mother was my age, she had one adult child, one college student, and one teenager at home. I think our family represents a larger trend in more ways than one. My grandmother had a high-school education and five living children out of seven or eight pregnancies. My mother had a nursing degree and three children. I have a bachelor’s and a master’s degree and no children. They say the more education a woman has, the less likely she is to reproduce. I never made a conscious choice to pursue my education or my career over partnership and family; it just happened that way.
Then, too, I always suspected it would. When that first early love of mine came to nothing, I really couldn’t see a partner in my future ever again. It always seemed to me that no matter how much I wanted it or how hard I looked for it or how hard I tried to make it happen with this person or that person, I just knew that no, this was not going to happen for me. They say there’s a lid for every pot, but I have seen that this is not true and I have finally stopped expecting it for myself.
I struggled against that realization for a long time because human beings are not made to be alone and not meant to be lonely. But some time in the past decade, without my noticing when it left, the intensity of my desire to be coupled has faded away to nearly nothing. I am still sometimes lonely in my heart, I will admit, but I am rarely lonely in the daily rounds of my life. I’m good at living alone and I enjoy it. I like having my own space my own way and making my own rules. Being single is not the worst thing that can happen to a person. Being with the wrong person might be, though.
So instead of waiting for or dreaming about or feeling abandoned by love, I try to love myself and my life and everything and everyone in it with courage and commitment and integrity, just as I would a partner and child(ren), not holding back on living while I wait for The One to show up and flip my “on” switch so as to finally allow me to be the best potential version of myself.
When you’re younger, you have time to play that game, and perhaps a biological clock spurring you on as well. But once you pass through the gate, you start to realize that all you are is all you have and that all you are is enough.