By: Holly Hansen, BFA, Project Manager, Healthy Children Project, Inc.*
I don’t want children. It’s something I’ve known about myself for a long time. I always preferred playing with stuffed animals to baby dolls; I did have one, named Christina. Oddly, I never really played with Christina as if I was her mother and she my child—Christina was a character in my stories, someone who could interact with my stuffed bears as I, their director, saw fit (is it any wonder I went into the theatre?). It can be marked back to when I was six years old and watching “Sarah Plain and Tall”; there’s a particularly harsh scene of childbirth (or at least it seemed at the time). I turned to my mother and said, “I don’t want to have babies.” It’s a perfect portrait of how media portrayal of childbirth and motherhood can put us off of them. I thought motherhood meant pain.
Of course, as I got older and received a proper sexual education, there was a clearer understanding of the act of childbirth; pain could be involved, yes, but it was obviously about and worth more than that. But the idea of becoming a mother still wasn’t my preference. Still, in middle school (when many my age began to babysit) I went with my sister on one of her babysitting jobs.
Pandemonium. The father hadn’t even finished writing down his emergency contact information before his two toddlers were naked, screaming, and running around the house. Now I associated motherhood not with pain, but with chaos.
Through my high school years, I was far too busy with class and friends and getting into a good college to even contemplate motherhood. After all, that was a problem for Future Holly to debate about. Motherhood was a task for which I didn’t have the time.
Then came college (specifically my sophomore year), when a production of Wendy Wasserstein’s The Heidi Chronicles had me deeply considering single parenthood. Compelled by the drama of the play, the drama of being new to sexual relationships, and the overall drama of being just so complicated because I was 20 and nobody understood me I had an “epiphany” that I really wanted to be a single mom. I was looking at motherhood like a television event, a storyline to draw in ratings to my super dramatic life.
I got over that thought real quick.
Then came life post-college: truly living away from home, proper jobs, ugly bills, and actual adult relationships, where discussions of starting families and potential children’s names became the appropriate brunch time filler talk. Talks with engaged friends, married friends, pregnant friends, and so many, too many, family members—being a childless, adult female meant that I couldn’t escape conversations with any of them when it came to the subject of motherhood.
Motherhood became a topic I wished so heartily to avoid, because apparently, “it’s not for me” wasn’t a good enough answer.
Motherhood was something I resented because it wasn’t in my plans, it wasn’t something I wanted, and even now—happily engaged—it isn’t something my fiancé and I desire for our future. It can be tiring to have to constantly respond to questions about motherhood. Will there ever be an acceptable response to my lack of desire to become a parent?
But I have realized more and more, especially becoming educated about birth and breastfeeding, that there are so many ways to be a mother, even if it’s not in the traditional sense.
Motherhood is supporting my friends who have children and are happy and exhausted and content. Motherhood is listening to those who want children but cannot have them, and being compassionate. Motherhood is supporting women’s health issues and being aware and open-minded about the different debates going on in the world.
Motherhood is painful, and chaotic, and time-consuming, and dramatic, and completely normal, all at the same time.
*(Ed. Note: Our Milk Way blogger Jess Fedenia is on parental leave for the months of July, August, and September, 2016 to welcome a third child into the family. During Jess’s leave, members of the Healthy Children Project circle are taking up the blogger role.)