So, how does a self-proclaimed back-up parent who didn’t even really want kids to begin with end up with one?
I think people assume I gave into society or gender norms. Or that my husband expected it of me and I obliged. But none of that is true. Let me tell you the story.
My entire adult life I’ve gone back and forth about whether or not I want children. For the majority of the time, the answer has been no. When I did feel like I might want them, it was more of a “of course I’ll want kids someday” type of feeling. I never felt the desire to be a mom that so many women talk about. After years of therapy, I think these were the reasons for my feelings:
- I had enough responsibility on my plate; I didn’t need more. This was mainly due to my dad choosing to abandon my family when I was 28, leaving Chandler and myself to figure out how to care for my physically disabled mom and brother with cerebral palsy.
- I’m the carrier of a genetic disease that is maternally inherited. If my baby were to get the disease (as opposed to solely being a carrier, like me), he or she would die– most likely before the age of 2.
- I just… didn’t.
(Side note– my third reason is just as valid as my first and second, just FYI.)
I got married when I was barely 23. Kids weren’t on our minds, and definitely not in our immediate future. We agreed that we would have kids someday, and that was that. End of the “pre-marriage children discussion” that can make or break couples later in life.
I loved everything about being a young married couple without kids. Everything. The parties and events. The constant time with friends. The travel. The quality time with my boo. The ability to focus on our careers. We truly grew up together and, luckily, we grew together, too.
Seems perfect, right?
There’s only one catch. My husband wanted children more than any man I had ever known. He wanted to be a dad the way a lot of women dream of being moms. I knew he’d be a damn good dad, too, but I still didn’t know if I could do it.
For years, we kept setting deadlines to “start trying.” And, as the date approached, there was always a reason to push it back. We wanted to buy a house first. We wanted to take one last trip as a family of 2. We wanted… anything that could let me get away with pushing that deadline back.
Then one day, as my 29th birthday was fast approaching, I woke up with a strong feeling that it was time to decide. Maybe it was my internal clock? This overwhelming feeling made me realize we couldn’t keep pushing back the date– it wasn’t fair to my husband. I had to decide: do I want kids, or is it time to let Chandler go so that he can fulfill his desire to be a dad with someone else?
Those were the two options for me. There wasn’t a world where I stayed married to Chandler but kept him from his dream of being a father. This was, by far, the hardest decision I had ever had to make. I was madly in love with my husband, and I wanted to spend the rest of my life with him.
If I’m being honest, there was more to my hesitation to becoming a mom than the three items listed above. As a person who has struggled with anxiety and depression for most of my adult life, my fears of postpartum depression were very real and realistic. But even more so, I feared how my life would change. That I wouldn’t be able to spend as much time with friends, or focus on my career, or travel multiple times a year. That I wouldn’t be a good mom. That I wouldn’t want to be a good mom.
One evening after a long day at work, I drove home lost in my thoughts, knowing I had to make a decision sooner than later.
Shortly after getting home I asked Chandler bluntly, “What if I don’t want to be a mom? What happens next? You deserve to be with someone who wants to make you a dad.” Although I had encouraged us to push back having children several times, I had never uttered these words to my husband. He did not know the extent of the internal turmoil that had been going on in my heart for years. My heart was pounding, anticipating his response. My anxiety was palpable. I looked into to his eyes, not knowing what was going to happen next.
And then, it happened. My husband– the man who wanted kids more than anyone I’ve ever known– looked me in the eyes and said without hesitation, “Then we won’t have kids. I don’t want a life without you in it.”
Let me repeat that… I. don’t. want. a. life. without. you. in. it.
Those words give me chills to this day.
It was in that moment, for the very first time in my life, there was nothing in this world I wanted more than to have a child with my husband. His willingness to sacrifice something he wanted so badly to be with me, was everything I never knew I needed in a partner to make it possible for me to go through with it.