When I was thirteen I wrote a letter to myself to be read fifteen years later. So when I was twenty-eight. It was a school project. They wanted us to write down our dreams for the future and what we hoped to accomplish by then.
At the time, my goals didn’t seem too ambitious. I wanted to be married, have 4 kids (just like my mom and dad), and either be a teacher or an executive assistant (my mom’s job). I basically wanted to be my mom. In my eyes, she had the perfect life. A husband, children, a home, a car, a great full-time job. She was beautiful, smart, and athletic. I spent many years as a kid at the ballpark watching my entire family play baseball. I played on the playground or scavenged my grandma’s purse for a quarter so I could buy a Now and Later from the snack shack.
At twenty-eight, I had accomplished one of those things: I was married. The job thing really didn’t bother me. I’d received my associate degree for the administrative assistant part, but ended up at a company doing services for libraries. I loved my job. I worked in the digitization department for years. I got to travel the U.S. and scan really cool pictures and maps for libraries and historical societies. Then I moved to the accounting department and learned payroll, invoicing, taxes, and much more. Now, I get to focus on my writing (something that had never crossed my mind as a kid).
Back then, the fact that I hadn’t had kids yet didn’t bother me all that much. I’d been married for six years. Longer than I wanted before I had kids, but I still had time. I looked at it as a blessing at first. I’d watch so many couples start popping out the kids as soon as they got married, hardly giving them time to really bond with their spouse before kids rocked their world. My husband and I were able to work on having a happy marriage and creating time for each other. We bought our first house, our first car, adopted an adorable kitten, and were able to travel.
Looking back now, I wished we would have travelled more. I kept thinking that one day we’d have kids, so we needed to save my money for that instead of wasting it on selfish things. That’s what I used to think: it was selfish. I was way wrong. I now know that spending your hard-earned money on yourself isn’t a bad thing. In fact, it’s a great thing. We should enjoy life. Embrace it. Learn more about everything around us and become better people. Obviously we still need to be practical, but splurging a little every now and then to create memories is important.
The thought of never having a child didn’t cross my mind. Hope still clung to me, desperately wanting to latch on and never let go. I kept thinking, one day. One day I’ll get pregnant. One day I’ll be a mom. One day I’ll hold my tiny infant in my arms and kiss their head. I’d play with their tiny fingers and toes, and tickle their tummy. I’d watch them smile for the first time. I’d enjoy all the firsts: sitting up, crawling, walking, talking, teeth, school, friends, dating.
I never thought: this will NEVER happen. Because, how cruel would that be? I didn’t deserve that. I’d tried to live a good life and be a good person, so of course one day a baby of my own would be in my arms.
As time went on, that seed of hope began to fall further inside of me, getting buried so deep that it couldn’t see light and would never grow to become a reality.
You’re basically living out a book that has no beginning, middle, or end. There’s no climax, turning point, or resolution. There’s just one overall reality: you can’t have kids.
You become the main character and the premise of the story is to have kids. Your sidekick is all your well-meaning friends and family who offer support, crack jokes, but in the end aren’t quite sure what to do or what to say. Most of the time they end up saying the exact wrong thing, but you still love them because they’ll always be by your side no matter what and will defend the crap out of you if some stupid villain comes along.
Oh, the villain. We could use the word antagonist here, but you get to the point where you’re so ticked off that villain fits so much better. There are lots of villains. A lot you don’t expect and certainly don’t see coming.
There are the doctors who can’t quite figure it out and make you all sorts of uncomfortable with their questions and tests. Sometimes the procedures they suggest are extremely painful or throw your body into a complete meltdown of emotions. They charge you thousands of dollars for treatments that don’t always work. So you’re literally paying for something you didn’t sign up for and want nothing to do with.
If you’re religious, there’s God. You can’t understand why you’re going through this and you start to question everything, including if there is in fact a God. You feel bad about questioning Him and getting mad at Him. But it’s perfectly natural to feel that way and question everything. You’ve been put in a horrible situation that you didn’t ask for. It becomes a cold, cruel reality that really pisses you off and you want answers you don’t get.
Sometimes, if only one partner is having the problem, the spouse becomes a villain. It’s all their fault you can’t have kids. You want to be supportive and love them, but they’re the ones who put you in this situation. The one thing I can suggest in this position: think about it from their point of view. Imagine how awful they feel. Remember, they didn’t sign up for it.
The others are the villains in the wild. The random stranger who thinks it’s totally okay to ask why you don’t have kids or if you can’t have them. The store clerk who wishes you a Happy Mother’s Day when there’s obviously no kids with you. (Spoiler alert: Woman does not equal Mother. Man does not equal Father). There’s the person from church you’ve had a couple interactions with and asks why you don’t have kids and can’t figure out why asking that is offensive.
My favorite is the dentist assistant who’s trying to kill time, but does it in the totally wrong way:
Dentist assistant: Are you married?
DA: How many years?
Me: Eight (at the time of this encounter)
DA: How many kids do you have? (I love the assumption that we have kids)
Me: None. Just a cat named Princess Buttercup. (Sometimes humor shuts them up)
Alas, it didn’t.
DA: Are you waiting, or do you not want them?
Me: (wishing I had some clever retort, but I’m too stunned and what in the world is this lady’s problem?) If it’s meant to be, it’ll happen.
DA: *clueless smile*
Of course I now have a few comebacks for these situations, one being: well, we’ll find out in nine months if last night worked!
There’s also the innocent antagonists like children. They haven’t been subjected to the harsh reality that some people can’t have kids so when they very seriously ask you why you don’t have kids yet, you give them a smile and think of the most innocent answer that comes to your mind.
I once made the mistake of saying to a kid at church who was really concerned that my husband and I didn’t have kids, “It’s not in Heavenly Father’s plan yet.” The kid broke down crying. It made an awkward moment doubly awkward. So most of the time I simply say, “It just hasn’t happened yet.”
The main villain though, the one you need to overcome in the end, is yourself. You pound yourself with question after question. Why me? Did I do something to deserve this? Am I such a bad person that God didn’t want to put a child in my arms? Would I be a terrible mother or father? At the end of the day, you can let the crushing reality run your life or you can choose to be strong. I’ll be honest, some days it’s really hard to choose the latter because there is no end to this story.
There’s only a repeat of a new reality: I’ll never be a mom.