I Was Meant To Be An Auntie
I don't want kids, and I'm not having them. There, I've said it! I'm happy, blissfully so, that I'm not planning to bring life into this world. Problem is that it doesn't always feel like this outlook is accepted or supported. It often depends on how you were raised, what religion (if any) you prescribe to, and what culture(s) have shaped and are shaping your life. I will be the first to admit that my problem isn't something unique and that the burdens are not immense by any stretch. But they are mine and I wanted to share my thoughts for anyone else out there that may feel similarly.
Throughout my life it's often felt like a forgone conclusion that I would get married and, then, have kids. It's what you do, right? Especially when you grow up in a conservative Christian denomination. It's right there in the Bible: God blessed them, and God said to them, "Be fruitful, multiply, fill the earth, and subdue it. Rule the fish of the sea, the birds of the sky, and every creature that crawls on the earth." (Genesis 1:28 CSB). I often got stuck on the "multiply, fill the earth" part; it left me with an uncomfortable feeling that I wouldn't identify for many, many years.
When I was younger I never really dreamed of getting married, or of having kids, for that matter. Sure, I dreamed about love, but I was never a wedding and babies kind of person. Having kids was just something that was on the checklist of life, but it didn't bear much thought until I actually got married.
I think it was because it was one of those expected, "everyone does it" life events that it wasn't until after my husband and I were married and decided to try having kids that I understood the full ramifications of not really understanding if this was something I wanted or just what was expected of me. I feel lucky that I was given the appropriate space to consider how I felt about kids before anything took during those months.
We tried for a while. I ended up with cysts on both ovaries and doctors orders to go back on birth control. I found myself happy, even if the diagnosis was scary. I was extremely terrified after I was told that if I felt a gut-wrenching, knee-buckling pain to get myself to the ER stat...apparently with big cysts there was a high chance of one or both of my ovaries turning, possibly needing emergency surgery. (Please remember that I am NOT a doctor.)
I was finally afforded the time to consider, candidly, if I actually wanted kids. And it was quickly becoming quite clear that I had little to no interest in something that was supposed to bring me fulfillment and joy as a woman. What's more, I felt I couldn't talk about it freely because it kind of feels oppressively expected that a woman should also become a mother. If I commented or remarked that I wasn't too sure about the whole kids thing, it felt frequently waved/laughed off and I was sometimes told "Oh, you'll want them, you'll want them." Like I had no choice in the matter. I realize now that they were speaking to their own experiences, but at the time I felt silenced, unheard, and hurt.
There were honestly days where I was just waiting for that instinct to kick in and then finding myself years later realizing I had made a huge mistake when my mind and body were taken over with the need to have kids, because of hormones. Well, so far they haven't taken over my mind or body. Thankfully. Though I've been promised on multiple occasions that they will, in fact, do so. For a while, when it continued to not happen, I worried that meant that I was broken. But now I'm pretty sure that I'm not meant for kids and that the hormones won't be commandeering my body. And that's really OK.
When I got really honest with myself, I found that I didn't want to deal with all the frustrations that we're told will all pale in comparison to the joy and fulfillment of raising tiny humans. No thanks, I'll keep my happy married with no kids life. Huge shout-out and mad respect to all the parents out there!
The experience that I didn't expect throughout all of this was grief. Now I'm certain that kids are not on the table; I don't want them, I have a cancer gene mutation (50/50 chance of passing it along), there could be a slim chance that pregnancy could trigger said cancer stuff (really not sure on this one, but I'm not feeling willing to take the chance), honestly we can't afford it, and our lives are just fine without kids.
But I'm still sad and grieving what could have been. Our friends and family will have kids and hit all those life events that we will not. They will be going on adventures that we will not be following. I may not want it, but it is still a door closing that must be acknowledged and felt deeply. We don't just grieve the missing the things we like or want. Any sadness we feel for roads we don't take because of our decision to follow another is still extremely valid.
In the last few years I have discovered something I like to call the Auntie Loophole. I can hang with tiny humans that I love, but don't have to live with them or push them out of my own body. I have two beautiful nieces and two charming nephews that I love dearly. I adore being an auntie. I can see them, but I don't have to deal with them ALL the time. It's the perfect loophole!
I do have to admit to not knowing my nephews as well as I possibly should. They are a bit older than my nieces, and we haven't lived as close to them as we have to my nieces. I desperately wish that I could see my nieces more right now; they are so young and full of wonder and love. I had made a goal to see them and really be a part of their lives this year since they live close by...but with COVID-19 there hasn't been too many good chances.
The truth is that it's OK not to follow the "normal" life plan. I know that many other women have decided not to have kids, but I've been feeling like it's not a very widely accepted decision. I just want some acknowledgement that maybe there are women out there who would be unhappy at the prospect of having a tiny human, maybe even frustrated or terrified of the decisions in may entail to keep pregnancy from ever happening. There are women out there who are perfectly happy to enjoy being an aunt. I know that I am one of those women, and I want to put my support and love out there for others grappling with the same burdens.
—A Recovering Design Imposter