I am not by nature a decisive person. Anxiety freights each choice with the potential for disaster, and where possible, I defer. It ought to come as no surprise, then, that I struggled with the decision to have a child—except that even to acknowledge the existence of such a decision is routinely considered a sign of failure. We talk about clocks. We talk about cycles. We talk about diminishing fertility, the prioritization of career over family, the horror of having left it “too late,” as though it were possible that half the population might be suffering a kind of culpable ignorance with regards to their own biology. I was embarrassed at the thought of discussing my uncertainty, as though anyone I confided in would snap back, Who are you, then, to have a child? I was humiliated by how hard it felt. That my future as a mother didn’t seem to me to be a given seemed related to those other ways in which I was not as I should be: my dislike of heels and holidays; my discomfort in dresses; the way my body failed to conform, growing larger than it ought to grow. It was my excess and my lack. The link between childbearing and femininity is such that feeling myself to be deficient in the latter, I felt disqualified from the former—or vice versa.
What is a woman who might choose not to have a child? I wanted a child because I wanted a family. Because I wanted to feel secure, a part of a structure. Because I wanted, in some slight way, to be necessary. Because I wanted to be loved. None of this seemed good enough. All of it was about me. I wanted a child because I wanted one. Read More