By Lori Day – I am the mother of a 26-year-old daughter, my only child. As one of the early IVF pioneers of the late 80’s and early 90’s, I went through many years of infertility treatment to bring her into the world. Lightning only struck once. When she was four years old, I finally stepped off the infertility treadmill to have a hysterectomy and close that chapter forever. I chose this surgery voluntarily and willingly, knowing I would become a better mother to my daughter once I was released from chronic pain and the compulsion to try for Baby #2 “just one more time.”
So, all my eggs landed in one basket, pun intended, and I soothed my longing for more children with the balm of knowing that one day I would have grandchildren and I would love them fiercely.
My daughter has never wanted children, and has stated her decision regularly and firmly throughout her life. If I’m honest with myself, I can look back on her imaginary play as a child and see that this has always been true. She never liked dolls, and even with her dozens of stuffed animals, she never pretended to mother them. She did pretend they were her students, instructing them theatrically in her bedroom, and today she is a college professor.
Recently, while we were watching old home movies that my husband had transferred from VHS to DVDs, my daughter stared intently at several videos of me changing her clothes and feeding her as a newborn. She asked me, “Mom, did you ever have any time for yourself?” I sort of snorted, and then she said, “This is why I don’t want children. I would probably neglect them. I don’t have that kind of patience, and I need a lot of time to myself.” It’s true, she’s right, and it’s for the best. Not all women want to be mothers, and many simply shouldn’t be. Everyone says my daughter will change her mind, but I know her better. She won’t, and I accept it.
Still, it is painful. I have waited for grandchildren for what seems like forever. I have not gotten the craving for babies and little ones out of my system. The ache to hold infants and rock toddlers, and even to be back-talked by teens, is still burning inside me.
Civilizational collapse is enough of a mental horror movie without envisioning my little grandbabies enduring it.
I’ve made peace with these circumstances. Nothing eviscerates the place where my phantom womb aches like watching my country descend into fascism while the planet groans under the weight of 7.6 billion people intent on destroying her. If I had grandchildren now, I would lose even more sleep than I already do. I literally cry when imagining the hardship that likely awaits my daughter, especially after I have taken my last breath. If she had children of her own? I can’t even go there in my mind. Civilizational collapse is enough of a mental horror movie without envisioning my little grandbabies enduring it.
I know I’m a pessimist. I do not believe that all people are good. All babies are good, but somewhere along the way, many of them are indoctrinated by parents and other adults in their communities to hate and scapegoat other people. Once that happens, there is very little that can be done to change hearts and minds, and those people are particularly vulnerable to being preyed upon by authoritarian figures who know how to leverage their prejudices to instill fear, resentment, and ultimately, the desire to harm the others.
Right now, the world seems to be increasingly full of evil leaders trying to drag us all backwards. It feels insurmountable. It feels like our species never learns from history. Periods of darkness always follow periods of light, and vice versa. The periods tend to be long, not short. My worries are that we will not emerge from the coming darkness within my lifetime, and that given the existence of nuclear weapons and the threat of climate change, we may never emerge from this particular period of darkness at all.
This doesn’t mean I will give up; we all have to fight for our collective survival, and the survival of this planet and all creatures on it. My focus in on how to do this, while also trying to enjoy what remains of my life, and while keeping my loved ones as safe as is possible.
Not having grandchildren in my future began as something to grieve, but it became a blessing. I know that children represent hope, and that for many other women (and men), having children in these troubled times can be seen as a brave act of resistance and an extraordinary embrace of optimism. I don’t judge them at all. I can honor their choice, while taking solace that my dream of someday having grandchildren will remain just that.
Lead image source: Pixabay
About The Author
Lori Day is an educational psychologist with Lori Day Consulting in Newburyport, MA. She is the author of Her Next Chapter and President of the Board of Directors of the Jeanne Geiger Crisis Center. She is also a guest contributor to Women You Should Know. You can connect with Lori on Facebook and Twitter.