This is one of the custom blogs I do for my Facebook friends. I asked if there was anything they wanted me to blog about, and I’m writing a post for Sarah because she answered.
I’d like to know where you’re at on the children one day front. Last I heard it was a big NO but now you are gearing up for the big biological clock phase of womanhood… I’d be interest to know if you’re still rock solid on that. If so how do people perceive that? If not what’s changed you mind?
This is why I love the Facebook friends series, because I get questions that make me think and write about my life and my outlook in specific terms. This helps me, not just to order my own thoughts, but to be able to communicate them more fully. First, to answer this question, I have to give some exposition, as well as clarify that I wasn’t so much against children as I have been against giving birth to them.
When I was a kid, my grandmother was in a support group for people raising their family member’s children. Mostly it was grandmothers raising grandchildren, but the membership ran the gamut from aunts and uncles, to cousins and even siblings and in-laws. So, I ended up knowing a lot of children who were being raised by people who weren’t their biological parents. From a very young age I assumed that I would grow up and, like my grandmother, raise a child not my own. Even though I might not have known the specific mechanics, I understood that I could have a biological child, but it always seemed wasteful when there were already so many children without parents.
The fact that so many of my friends were being raised by other relatives, and that I felt (and was) extremely unwanted in my own home weighed heavily on me. This was also the middle eighties, a.k.a. the decade of the orphan. Just today I learned that Madeline wasn’t actually in an orphanage, rather at a boarding school, but everybody else I loved was. Ann of Green Gables, Aladdin, Batman, Punky Brewster, even the Ninja Turtles had been adopted by Splinter. My grandmother of course cared for me, but her husband hated me, and abused me, and they were both very frank about my status: They did not want me, and only took me because no one else did either. All of these factors contributed to me forming the resolve early and deeply that I would be there for someone in a way that no one was for me. As I grew up, adults insisting I’d change my mind only cemented my resolve to adopt. People’s well intentioned insistence that I would wake up someday and realize that all I wanted was to be pregnant and have a baby terrified me. I began to think of pregnancy and childbirth, not jut as wasteful, but also really gross and scary. When I was diagnosed with endometriosis in my teens, I think the doctor expected me to be sad when she said it might interfere with my ability to get pregnant later on in life. I was not.
In my early twenties I was reeling from the downfall of my relationship with my mother. Having been her caretaker from the age of 15, I was exhilarated by my new-found freedom, and there was no way I could fathom ever being in a position of being needed like that again. I felt very much that I had served my time as someone’s mother, and I was not interested in a repeat performance. Creepily, 15 is also the age that my grandmother took over caring for her infant brother after the death of their father. She claims that was the beginning of her unasked for status as mother which didn’t end until 50 years later when I left and moved in with my mom. I thought that maybe in a far away future, I could foster teenagers, but the idea of giving up my time and energy for someone else again was not appealing at all.
Now, at the gate of my late twenties, my feelings have changed again. I realize more fully what kind of childhood I really had, and what kind of mother I really had. The bittersweet reality is that I was not unwanted. I was extremely wanted. I was not unloved. I was extremely loved. If it was a problem of wanting, or a problem of loving, I would have had an incredible childhood. My parents were simply incapable. This doesn’t console me, but it does inform my own plans for the future. I maintain that pregnancy is largely gross, and that birth is extremely frightening (and also gross), but I do have my own biological clock ticking away nonetheless.
In the past few years, I’ve found myself thinking more and more about how my habits and choices will affect my future children. Because I can see the ways that my parents inability to care for themselves lead directly to an inability to care for me, I have started to be more dedicated to my own health and welfare. I think about things in terms of the effects they may have on my future children. My childish desire to want the unwanted has grown into new, informed resolve to be able to be the stable, reliable provider someone would feel good giving their baby to.
Ben and I have conversations about parenting theory, family values (not the hate group, but the real standards by which a family tries to live), and our fears and hopes regarding the future. One of the reasons I talk about moving out of LA is because I don’t want my kids to grow up here. Even though children are years and years away, the things I want to have in place before they get here are things that need to be started now, or like my work to cultivate healthy eating and exercise habits, have been started years ago. I know that life doesn’t go according to plan, and there are a lot of things between now and the day that I become someone’s mother, one of which is that Ben doesn’t feel the same way about adoption that I do. Realistically, it would be hard to find someone who does, given how I came to form my opinion on the matter. Unlike me, he has no reason to fear his genetics, and no experience that would devalue blood relations in favor of families of choice. Until he met me, he had assumed like most people, that he would find a girl and make a family the old fashioned way. He’s not against it, but he does have a certain attachment to the idea of genetic children that I don’t and probably wont ever share. Through my relationship with him, and my relationship with his amazing family, I sometimes wonder if maybe it wouldn’t be so gross to be pregnant, and maybe mental illness and addiction wouldn’t skip a generation and affect my kid, and maybe my endometriosis won’t actually be a problem, but the more I think about it, the more I am still, even as a grown up, quite icked out.