When I was growing up, there seemed to be an understanding. If you were female, you would make a great teacher. Or nurse. Or mother.
For some reason, these options felt too limiting to me and didn't appeal to me at all. I had different aspirations. Maybe it was because I was a little bit rebellious or maybe because my parents told me I could be anything I wanted to be – and I believed them.
I knew I couldn't be a teacher because I saw how rotten my classmates were to our teachers (especially Mr. Guppy...they were unimaginably horrific to that poor man).
I couldn't be a nurse because I didn't like touching strangers, especially if they were sweaty or bloody or... strange. And then there was the role of wife and mother. This seemed to me to be a dead end as well – especially the mother part.
I didn't dislike kids, in fact I imagined myself as the lady who baked cookies for all the neighborhood children who had rotten parents. I imagined that I would help in the nursery at Sunday School so I could get my cuteness-fix. Then their parents would come pick them up and I could keep focused on a career that would bring me gobs of money.
I had boyfriends on and off through the years, but my mind never wavered if the subject came up. But during my junior year in college, I met The One. In fact, I felt like he was so perfect for me, that I began wanting babies with him – lots of them. Twelve of them to be exact, according to my journal.
In this relationship, the prospect of having children became a joyous side benefit of a life filled with love and him. Then we broke up and I was crushed. Absolutely. Fully. Totally. Crushed. I barely held it together during my classes. The moment they were over, I'd rush to my second-hand couch in my crooked little apartment, and sob, blubber, and weep the rest of the day away. I was a mess.
Many months later, I met someone else. He seemed nice enough. He was funny. He had promise. He wasn't a terrible person. So, little by little, I let go of the yearning for Mr. Right and thought I could settle for Mr. Good Enough. But the idea of having children with Mr. G.E. filled me with the same ideas I had held as a teen. In fact, the more I got to know G.E., the more my unconscious mind realized that he still was a child and the idea of having babies with him filled me with anxiety. I was not having children with this man.
Long story short, I did end up with the man of my dreams (thank God). But the mind-shift was complete. I had grown up shunning the prospect of having kids, then embraced it, then shunned it once again. This time it was final.
And so, before Mr. Right (Rick) and I got married and set up house, I told him that I was not interested in having children. Rick said he wanted whatever I wanted, and so it was decided. No babies for us.
Five years later, I got pregnant. The next nine months were an emotional roller coaster. What would happen to my career? Was my ladder climb over? Was my rise to the top just a dream? As time passed, I got used to the idea, but I prayed, if I have to have a kid, please make it a girl. I just can't handle a boy.
When our little one was born, the midwife asked Rick to help. As he helped welcome the child, he whispered into my ear, "Honey, your little girl has a penis." I burst into tears.
The birth had been hard on my body. Rick is six feet tall and a lumberjack of a man. I am 11 inches shorter and small boned. The boy took after his dad, and need I say, I sustained some injuries that had me bedridden for three weeks. This turned out to be a gift, as I wasn't able to return to life as normal immediately. Instead I was "trapped" in bed with my newborn. During this time, I got to know this little human being and fell deeply and madly in love.
Now I can't imagine life without him. He has taught me so much about love, laughter, life, creativity, compassion, and imagination. My career took some unexpected twists and my priorities shifted a bit – and that's okay.
I now have a pretty clear understanding of both sides of the fence – life sans children and life filled with them. They both have their benefits and their drawbacks. I'm happy that I had time for both. The first five years of marriage without our son helped us solidify our relationship. And these last 15 years of marriage with our boy have been an adventure that I wouldn't trade for anything. Through it all, I have worked on my professional journey – with a better balance than before.
The biggest thing I learned was that perspective shifts over time. Meeting the love of my life gave me a viewpoint I hadn't had before. Having a child certainly shifted everything around. And my career – even though I'm still on the path and find great joy in it – takes a backseat to more important things like cuddles, naps and exploring the backyard.
Sometimes decisions are based on limited information. Sometimes your gut gives you new information that you hadn't considered before. And sometimes life throws you into situations you never thought you'd be in. End goals can change. And that's not always a bad thing.