Babies made me sweaty. Every time a mom friend asked if I wanted to hold her infant, my hands instantly went from calm to clammy. My usual plan of action was to politely decline the offer and come up with an excuse like, “Oh, your little one looks so adorable in her stroller, I don’t want to interrupt her downtime.”
This never worked. My friends quickly saw through my not-so-clever ruse, and an interrogation would follow asking why I’d turned them down.
“Babies make me nervous,” I’d eventually admit.
It was at this point my girlfriends reassured me I was wrong. “Oh, no! Infants make you giddy,” I was informed. They explained how at this very moment, they could hear their ovaries whispering to them that now was the time to have many babies. I held my breath and paused.
I heard no whispers. I did, however, feel my ovaries break out into a nervous sweat along with the rest of me. Would I ever hear a calling to be a mama?
When I was 8 years old, I listed all my dreams in my diary. These included adulting goals like finding a career, owning a dog, and meeting Han Solo. Items on my list came and went, but never did I write “start a family”. My own family supported my every dream, so it didn’t occur to me that “unchoosing” motherhood might be radical thinking—until I was in high school.
Sitting at the lunch table listening to my girlfriends talk, I felt, well … awkward. They took the entire period to discuss how many kids they wanted, and by the time I’d devoured my dessert, I knew all their kids’ imaginary first, middle, and middle-middle names.
“What are you naming your babies?” one girl asked.
“Um, well … I’m not sure if I want kids.” The entire cafeteria met me with a disapproving silence. I felt totally out of place.
After that experience, I noticed more and more that my feelings on motherhood weren’t exactly the norm. When I mentioned my life goals and left out momming, I was cross-examined or given concerned looks. I was happy my girlfriends were so invested in their parenting futures, but why was I receiving less approval for speaking my truth?
As I grew older, I crossed my fingers, toes, and eyelashes that friends, family members, and baristas wouldn’t ask me about having kids. That way I could dodge all the awkwardness and that hollow, out of place feeling in my stomach. But eventually there was one person I couldn’t avoid having a baby making convo with — my husband-to-be.
When it came time to talk to my fiancé about our future plans, I noticed a familiar nervousness creep into my belly. The last thing I wanted was to feel the same judgment I’d felt from friends and strangers. As it turns out, though, my nervousness was unnecessary. We were on the same page when it came to starting a family, and it read: Undecided. My fiancé was grateful to remain unsure without pressure from me, and I was thankful to receive unconditional support — one I didn’t know I’d need for our married life.
After I got hitched, I expected there’d be hiccups I’d have to navigate like how to keep my partner from taking all the bedcovers or who’d clean the toilet. I did not, however, anticipate feeling such a pressure to procreate. This strangeness began with my mailbox delivering me massive amounts of guilt in the form of ads for baby stuff. Apparently, my obvious next step after becoming a married lady was to immediately become a pregnant one. I grew annoyed while I stuffed baby-centric coupons, ads, and magazines into my recycling bin.
“You just got married, right? When are you getting pregnant?” my neighbor asked excitedly while I was taking my recycling to the curb.
My upper lip broke out into a sweat. I cracked a smile and gave my standard “undecided” answer. Whereas before this question might have made me feel insecure, now it triggered a deep obstinance. I wanted to be free to make my own choice when it came to starting a family, but all these expectations were making me feel trapped into one way of thinking — everyone else’s. The pressure increased for me to step into my assumed feminine mom role, and that created a quiet rebellion within me.
Although being a rebel has never really been my jam (I never even passed notes in class), my personal rebellion against motherhood lasted 8 years into my marriage. I needed space to process what I truly wanted. Babies never stopped making me nervous, but as my close friends started becoming mothers, I felt something more than sweat on my palms. I was mesmerized by the deep love and connection they shared with their children.
“You want to hold her?” my best friend asked.
“I’m good,” I began, “I love watching you hold your baby.” And that was the truth. It wasn’t a baby that made me giddy, but the love my mom friends shared with their kid that did.
It took some time, but I worked hard to silence all those outside voices and opinions so that I could decide what I truly wanted. Breaking out my diary and lots of talks with my husband helped the process. Then one day both our pages read: Decided. We felt moved to start a family.
Coming to motherhood on my own terms, and not because society or my next-door-neighbor expected it of me, opened my heart to the possibility. Being a mother to my son has deepened my well of emotions in positive ways I’m still processing. And when I look at my kid, I know without a doubt that being his mom was the best choice I’ve ever made. As it turns out, it wasn’t my ovaries that called me to motherhood, but my heart.
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