I never really wanted children. In fact, for most of my 20s, I found the whole notion of pregnancy quite revolting -- I believe "parasitic" was my adjective of choice. And then I met my husband and my opinions on children were turned upside down. Well, maybe they did a quarter turn. Because it wasn't so much that I'd gone to bed disliking children and woke raving to open a daycare, it was more that I was so in love with my husband and our joint existence that I suddenly had the urge to replicate it/us. The intensity and unexpectedness of my feelings about my marriage caused me to fall in love with the idea of a small version of us. A rounded, blonde haired, blue eyed us, who combined my husband's dry wit, great legs and generous heart with my, well, something fun from me too. Of course, we joked that any child we created would need serious math tutoring, probably from preschool onwards, and would be terrible with money. Our child would be a hopeless dreamer, probably paralytically shy in groups, precociously verbal, and likely lead an intense inner life. A real nerd, in other words.
We even tossed around names, ridiculously old fashioned monikers for our imaginary, nerdy child. Oliver Hugel for a boy (Hugel is an Alsatian wine producer whose wines I particularly love), or keeping in the wine theme, Lucy Claret. Charlotte Louisa was a longtime contender, finally ousted by Prue, short for Prudence Dorothea.*
It took a few years of marriage to find out that I have a thing, a condition that makes conception highly unlikely and then to learn about the various options available if conception, indeed, was what I wanted. So, rather late in the game (in baby-making terms, I was already geriatric) we started that process. The doctor explained the various routes to baby (more complicated than your standard Insert Tab A Into Slot B) and I chose the least invasive and least mechanical option. And endured about a year of regular blood tests, ultrasounds, doses of chemicals, and a terrible cycle (punny!) of hope/disappointment, hope/disappointment as the treatment failed to bear fruit (again, punny!) over and over again.
What is mildly interesting to me is realizing that, at the time, it was all quite normal. It very quickly became normal to give up a daily vial of blood (let me tell you, a technician who can take your blood painlessly becomes someone you add to your Christmas card list if you have to do it for long enough), and take doses of hormones and start your day with a thorough rogering by an ultrasound wand, not to mention planning every bit of marital intimacy to the minute so that it coincides with your body's medically-assisted phases. It all became totally normal.
But it wasn't natural. Which, in the end, was what killed the whole thing for us. Well, that and the fact that the clinic was relocating to another community and the whole thing was going to become that much more inconvenient. Apparently, my limits on humiliating medical procedures are geographical. But, anyway, the point is that there was nothing natural about my attempts to do what some would argue is the most natural thing on earth. And this, in the end, begged the question of whether the whole thing was meant to happen. So in January of this year, I said no more. There were a few months of minor-key emotional turmoil about this decision, and I still flip-flop a bit on how to answer the bog-standard So Do You Have Kids? question at parties (do I tell the truth and deal with the sympathetic Why Don't You Adopt question, or do I just say no and deal with the silent You Must Hate Children baleful stare), but ultimately it was absolutely the right thing to do.
Kate, herself the mother of four children under 10 years of age, has suggested that the universe actually intends for me to mother others, meaning that my maternal instincts and skills have been, and will continue to be, put to use mothering my friends and family (sometimes an alternate mother is a good thing) and pets, and pets of friends and family, and so on and so forth. She wrote, "It's easy for me to see you as a mother, because you already are one." Just not in the conventional sense.
So, it will just be the two of us 'til the end of time. There are still moments when that makes me sad, that we'll never get to play the "she gets that from YOU" game, that my husband's innate good fatherdom will never be exercised on anything more taxing than the dog, that we won't get to make something so amazing together. Of course, as time goes on and I listen to trials and tribulations of the parents I know, the list of reasons why I should be happy I'm not a parent (I never have to deal with other parents, I never have to be on Parent Council, I never have to play Bad Cop, I never have to say no, I never have to pay for orthodonia) grows. And besides, lots of my friends have adorable, healthy, beautiful children that I can play Auntie to and then give back when their diapers become too full, or their questions become too difficult. To be honest, looking around our tiny unkempt house, chances are good that we'd just lose a baby to a family of marauding dustbunnies, anyway.
* It is a strong possibility that the universe didn't give us a child because no one under 68 should be saddled with Prudence Dorothea as a name.