I don’t have children. It was a choice…one I often regret at this stage in my life. It was a painful choice. It is more painful now, looking back. Now that I understand with more clarity why I did what I did. Life is like that. It’s often easier to see the truth when looking in the rear-view mirror. It is easier to see paths you should have taken instead of the ones you did.
I made the decision to remain childless when I was 16 years old while sitting in American History Class one afternoon. I hated history. My mind often wandered to more profound topics. Which is what happened on this particular day. The memory is extremely clear. I was daydreaming, writing out a list of names I liked, potential names for the daughter I hoped to have someday. Madison, Zoe, Heather, Hannah, Michaela, Addison, Maddie, Mackenzie…I had a long list. I was imagining what she would be like, this child I vowed to love with all of my heart. Would she adore words the way I did? Would she have any of my features? Would she have the same kind of intuition and insight I often had; a maturity beyond her years? Would she love the water? Love to run? Enjoy learning? Love dogs?
As I wrote, some nasty persistent thoughts kept interrupting my pleasant musings. And I couldn’t quite banish them to the back of my mind.
I began to think about something I had recently read, a story about how abused children often grew up to be abusers themselves. Finally, the thought captured my full attention. I stopped writing. Contemplated the implications of the research. Looked over the names I had written. Thought some more, as everything began to come together. It was an important moment, one that is indelibly etched in my mind. Frozen in time, sharp and clear. It was one of those moments when reality is revealed and something very deep and significant results. A shift takes place. In an instant, the course of one’s life forever altered.
I knew in my heart I wouldn’t abuse a child. I could never hurt anyone the way I had been hurt. But in that moment, I became acutely aware of the big holes in my soul. And I feared what I lacked and the ways I had been damaged might prevent me from being able to give a child all the things they would need to grow into a happy, healthy, normal adult.
Sydney, Whitney, Madison, Holly, Lexie, Jillian, Sadie…
The more I thought about the risk, the sadder and emptier I felt.
Marne, Haley, Willow, Quinn, Jordan, Quincy…
I stared at the list, rereading each name until the sadness was overwhelming. And I began to grieve.
I remember feeling hollowed out. I pushed my pen aside. Finally resigned, I quietly but firmly folded up the paper that contained my list of special names. I placed it between the pages of my notebook. Tucking it away. And I knew, with an understanding that defied logic, I would never use any of those names because I would never have a child. I couldn’t take the chance. I couldn’t risk it.
And just like that, the decision was made.
I never really looked back. There was a time in my early 30’s when I gave God permission to change my mind. I didn’t think I had made a mistake, but I wanted to make sure I had been thinking clearly when I originally made my choice as a daydreaming 16-year-old girl in American History class. He was silent. My heart did not condemn me. I took that as agreement.
But sometimes it really hurts.
I have never been pregnant. Never felt a child move inside of me. Never held my baby in my arms. Never been able to pour myself out for another being I loved more than life itself. Never had the chance to protect a little one, to guide them, to help them learn and grow. And nothing of myself will be left upon this earth when I am gone. No one will remember me. Or care that I once was.
I never got to go through the ups and downs, rediscovering the beauty of life, enjoying their innocence, their puzzlement, seeing them experience the world. Never got to observe those first steps, their first love, their first kiss, graduation, marriage, jobs. Never held them when they cried. Never bandaged scraped knees. Watched the stars and the moon with them. Taught them to drive. Helped them to be strong and confident and secure.
I never received a Mother’s Day card.
I never got to see their face or look into their eyes.
I will never know the joy of having a grandchild.
It hurts because that child who might have been will never be. The first time I was on the maternity ward of the hospital, it was to recover after having a hysterectomy. I did not experience giving birth to a new life. I let that opportunity slip through my fingers because I was afraid I would not be the kind of parent I needed to be.
When I die, no one will cherish my belongings, holding some worthless trinket tenderly in their hand as they remember me. No one will want the poems and songs I have written or care about the struggles of my life; my victories and defeats. No one will miss me. My passing will not impact a single soul.
To the child of my heart, the child of my dreams and imagination, I can only say this: I loved you enough not to have you. I was afraid, I admit it. Afraid I couldn’t be a good enough mother to give you all that you would need to grow strong and whole. There were so many things I didn’t have that I needed. So many things I experienced that damaged me. I didn’t know if I could overcome the damage and still equip you to be a resilient and confident individual. I was afraid my lack would cause me to fail you. I was fearful of deeply hurting you. Injuring you. So even though I dreamed about you, longed for you and wrote out lists of names that I thought would express how special you were, I realized I needed to think of you first. It wasn’t about me and what I wanted. It was about your heart, your life, your wholeness, your soul.
When it came down to it, it was all about not taking the chance of hurting you irreparably. It meant not having a baby, a child for my satisfaction and fulfillment. It meant thinking about you, your needs, what I could give you, what I might not be able to give you, and making a decision that was best for you.
I would have rather died than hurt you. And I was terrified I would severely wound you the way I had been wounded.
Oh, I felt certain I wouldn’t do the things to you that had been done to me. But did I have what you would need? Could I give you a stable, healthy, loving foundation? I was afraid I would fail you too many times and in too many important ways. Destroy you unintentionally. Shatter you. Break your spirit. So, I gave you up. I gave up the hope of having a little girl. I tucked my dreams away in my notebook along with the list of special names I had written. And I never looked at either of them again.
I suppose in the end I failed you, regardless of the choice I made. But I did what I did because I felt it was the right thing. For you. I was trying to be unselfish. Even though it hurt. I wasn’t confident I could give you strong wings that would carry you high and far and allow you to soar, especially considering I had never flown myself.
It seems we both paid the price of the childhood abuse I suffered…abuse that resulted in my shattered soul and broken wings. Because of this, we both lost our life. And neither one of us will ever fly.