Monday, March 8, 2010

Childless—Whose Choice?

Sitting at the table making small talk with the manicurist as she meticulously paints my nails a soft, slightly iridescent shade of pink I am caught off guard by The Question: “So, how many children do you have?” asks the forty year-old mother of three and grandmother of two. “None,” I reply as I watch her apply the three strokes to my nail: first down the center, and then one stroke of polish on each side. She stops and looks up at me.” It’s not something I wanted to do by myself,” I stammer. “When the husband didn’t come, I decided against it and now I’m too old,” is how I justify not being One of Them.
“It’s not too late,” she says pausing the brush in the air before going on to tell me about her clients who have opted to have babies alone. One woman had a baby through invitro, and her mother helps her care for the baby. “My mother is eighty-one,” I say. Still convinced that I need to have a baby, she shares the story of the “worthless” husband she left behind and still raised three children alone. I listen and nod at the appropriate times because I’ve learned that opposition to these you-need-to-have-a-baby conversations are futile.
“You seem like a good person, and you can do it,” she says trying to make her wad of words stick to my psyche. Even though I’ve been here before, I’m still amazed at how intrusive people can be in a matter that as personal and private as pregnancy. I recall a conversation that I’d had with this guy I barely knew who asked me if I had any children, and when I said no, he said, “I bet I can get you pregnant.” I didn’t take him up on his offer.
As an able bodied woman with the right credentials (degreed professional with middle class values and no history of mental illness), I should have children. Because of my medical history I don’t even know if I can have children. Battling fibroids since I was 28, I have had two major surgeries and one procedure to shrink them. But I still thought I might have children. I’ve been around kids all my life as an aunt, great aunt, “play” aunt, godmother and educator. As a child I loved dolls, and thought that I’d grow up and replace them with real babies of my own, but something happened—or didn’t-- along the way. And I don’t know if it was of my own doing or God’s design because I have never been pregnant nor have I ever tried.
Some of my friends are parents, others are grandparents, and I don’t envy them because I don’t have the patience that I used to have. I have been an auntie since I was two years old, and from as long as I can remember I have dragged my nieces and nephews and other folks kids from place to place. I now have two great nephews and twin goddaughters and I love and enjoy the four of them, but I also like returning them to their parents. I’ve accepted that I’m not going to have the starring role of Mama in this movie called Life, but I’m a pretty good supporting actress.


  1. I can relate, Stephanie. I also have no children but I have touched many through my years as an educator. I try not to have those conversations but I can shut a few lips when I remind them that being a mother doesn't mean that all is necessarily well with mother and child. Hello? Also, I have an abundance of peace!

  2. It is what it is... It is what it ain't. What is it? It's just "is."

  3. Great post!! I am nearing my 35th birthday, still single, and people are always asking me about whether I want kids. For me, it has always been more important to have a great, supportive partner - then together we can decide whether WE want children. I too have a niece and a nephew and I am in love with them - no doubt more so because I can give them back at the end of the day. Thanks for writing your column!

  4. Stephanie,

    This sounds all to familiar and here's my opinion on people people who seem too preoccupied with my not having any children. Misery loves company and what I'm going to said next is sad but true. Some of these women are simply Jealous. People who are happy with their lives and their decisions, simply wouldn't spend the time trying to convince someone on why they should have children or anything else for that matter that's of no concern to them.