I spoke with someone yesterday at some length about my decision not to have children. Actually, she spoke, I nodded and smiled (even though it was on the phone and she couldn’t see me) and tried very hard to change the subject.
People in my life, even my closest friends, most of them don’t seem to understand that just because I have made the decision not to have kids, that doesn’t mean it’s an easy topic to discuss. As it happens, it’s one of the more difficult in my life.
I helped to raise the two most perfect baby girls you could ever imagine. I was there every step of the way (literally as well as figuratively), from the magical to the hellish to the every day. Every moment on the spectrum. And I never held them at arm’s length because they were “someone else’s kids.” They were, and are still, my kids. Their triumphs are mine, I endure their trials alongside them, when they bleed I scar.
I don’t think anyone in the world who has made the decision not to have children knows quite so well as I do exactly the particulars and consequences of that choice. I would love to have a child, and I would be an incredible mother. But this is something I have thought about long and hard over a course of years, it’s a decision I make again most every day, and whether it’s an easy or a difficult conclusion for me to accept, it’s the right one.
There are so many things I could have been, could still be, and I would be wonderful at them. A doctor, a mother, a linguist, a writer, a photographer, a teacher, an advocate. But I don’t do things in my life half-way. I won’t throw myself into a million different ventures, because you cannot devote yourself to any of them wholeheartedly when you do.
Were I to have a child, everything else would be dropped completely. Having spent so much time raising other people’s children, I’ll be damned if I will miss out on any of the moments in my own baby’s life. From bath time to play time to meal time to nap time to being thrown up on and wakened because a diaper needs changing or a nightmare has caused for my little one the need to climb into bed with me.
Eventually, when my child started school, I might be able to return to writing. The only way that I know how to write, you see, is to give it my undivided attention. No phone calls, no knocks on the door, no distractions at all. That’s how I’m wired, the end.
And we’re talking strictly of the “me” aspect on this one, not even beginning to consider whom the child’s father might be and his role and understanding of the way I am wired. I am not going to deliberately bring a child into this world without a man whom I love and trust to help me parent, and that ship sailed long ago. I know that there are many out there who think I am just being cynical, but you know not the details of that particular aspect of my life. And you never will. The best way I can choose to be a good, responsible, loving, caring, nurturing parent to my child is not to conceive them.
Still, last night, after I got off the phone with this dear friend, I did something I haven’t done in some time. I curled up on the floor in my bedroom and I cried some. Was I crying for my baby? Yes. Was I crying for love? Yes. Was I crying for the doctor I will never be and the roads I will never walk? Also yes.
It isn’t something which can properly be explained, but that doesn’t mean I won’t attempt it.
Every choice you make in your life, big or little, automatically eliminates endless other choices. You choose today to get the mint chocolate chip ice cream? Well that rules out the strawberry. You choose to spend your money on a plane ticket? The newest bestseller and that dress you fell in love with and the shoes that would be perfect with it? You can’t have them now. You choose to devote your life to one path? You rule out almost every other. You choose instead to include in your life many different pursuits? You miss the smallest pieces, the finest mundane moments of each.
I (I was going to preface this statement with ‘I think,’ but I don’t think, I know) have a capacity to feel and understand and grasp the ramifications and subtleties of those things in life that nearly no one can. Most people just aren’t wired that way, some are but choose not to let it all in. And it has absolutely nothing to do with my manic-depression or mental differences. Except perhaps insofar as the combination of my innate ability for seeing what others don’t coupled with my bipolar makes certain moments and life experiences more visceral.
The title of this post is, ‘Whatever You Do In Life, You’re Going To Regret It.’ Most people won’t, because most people don’t see the smallest, most infinitesimal threads that make up the greater fabric of life. And that’s for the best, it’s as it should be.
Moral of the story: I know I will look back and regret the choices I didn’t make, and the lives I didn’t lead. But that doesn’t mean that those choices would have been right for me, nor those lives ones I should have lived instead.
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