It was girl’s night on the town, something we were all looking forward to and had prioritized amid our busy and demanding schedules. A mix of 30- and 40-somethings, we champagne-toasted each other and our much anticipated evening together. We come from all walks of life, different parts of the world, different cultures, different experiences, and we cherish one another more because of it. This is not where we are divided. Where we begin to feel the division between us is in our parental status—whether or not we will go home to children at the end of our evening.
“Everyone should have the experience of motherhood! It’s the most incredible journey ever!” exclaimed the new mother of our group. She was clearly relishing every moment of her first four months with her new baby boy. Several ladies nodded in agreement or smiled admiringly. One or two bit their lips, averted their eyes, or simply tried to change the subject. And one woman spoke out openly in an attempt to explain to the proud new mama that having children was not always so simple for everyone. The conversation resulted in a tense and emotional debate.
Conversations like this occur for many women every day as we struggle to decide if we’re ready or if we’ll ever be ready to have children, and to envision what will become of us if we opt out or are unable to have children. Of course, we are fortunate to live in a society and during a time which, for the most part, respects and values our decision either way. Sometimes the greater challenge is how we are left to contend with our inner conflict and our changing friendships as we embark down different paths in our lives.
There is a sense of loss, regardless of our decision. To have children means a loss of personal freedom, a loss of a certain spontaneity, a temporary loss of our bodies, and a loss of our previous lifestyle. Not having children brings many layers of loss: A loss of an idea or dream we may have grown up believing; the loss of how we thought our life would be when we would someday become a mother; the loss of an experience that so many others around us are having; a sense of loss regarding our friendships as priorities, schedules, and interests shift. And for those who long to have children, but who are struggling to conceive, there is a loss of confidence in our body’s abilities.
So what is the answer to this changing of the tides, this transitional moment in adulthood? We find ourselves in a position in which we must honestly reconcile any inconsistencies between our dreams and our reality. We make decisions about how to pursue our dreams, and to understand that for every woman this will look differently. For some it means birth control and for others it means fertility treatments. Some may consider adopting from China and others may consider adopting a puppy. Regardless which path we choose, may we empower ourselves and one another by respecting our decisions, may we encourage one another to explore the incredible array of options now available to us, may we diversify our sources of happiness, and may we each find a peaceful acceptance in our unique circumstances.