Every year we make a fair number of decisions, some more important than others. But what about the decisions that we somehow make without our knowledge?
At each year-end, I reflect and realize that, without intention, I had made the decision not to have children. Year after year would fly by, and though I did not consciously say I did not want a child, I made no decision to have one. Suddenly, making no decision turned into the making of quite an important one. To wake up 40-something, single, intelligent, practical, and childless is to realize that the decision has been made for me.
Numerous articles explain what can be medically done for pregnancies labeled high-risk (over 40), but few or no articles deal with the reality that rearing a child is an exhausting, sometimes rewarding, sometimes tedious, and immensely expensive proposition for a single mother. Apart from the number of divorces, children of once-married couples will at least have the knowledge they have two parents who hopefully love them. Not so for the child of a single mother.
Those were the thoughts that repeatedly race through my mind when I get that sinking feeling I have missed out on the most meaningful experience a woman can have. No matter how much pain and suffering a pregnancy can cause, no matter how much time and trouble a child can take, there is also the reoccurring pain that haunts me that I have made an important decision without realizing I have made a decision.
Of course, a life without children leads one to experiencing a totally different set of circumstances and situations, and who’s to say which life is better. It seems that many mothers fantasize about the life they would’ve had if they had remained single and childless. Friends have envied me for my freedom, my independence, my lack of responsibility, and even for my solitude whenever I wish. But with that freedom, independence and solitude comes a very heavy price. A decision that is as permanent as the decision to have a child.
At 30, postponing children was not serious. We retain the thought about having another ten years, and we will just see what happens. Even at 35, we quietly remain smug with the knowledge we can change our situations and our minds at any time. But 40 creeps up faster than one can imagine, and in our 40s, it isn't so easy to give up a free-and-easy lifestyle, knowing we are to trade it in for one filled with diapers, toilet training, school decisions and problems, belt-tightening, baby-sitters, and the overall knowledge we are now responsible for two lives instead of one.
Yes, it is a heavy price to pay whichever decision we make. I just wish I had been around when I was making it.