I married my husband when I was 40. I’d already made the decision to not have children, and most of the time, I’m 100 percent fine with that. I never regret it, knowing the realities of parenthood. However, there’s one time I get a pang I can’t explain except to say it’s basic biology.
Marriage made me a stepmom. My husband had a daughter who was 8 years old at the time we met. Most of the time when she’s with us, it feels like we are a family even though it is only temporary. But occasionally they launch into a conversation that separates me.
“Did I tell you about the night you were born?” he’ll ask.
She loves to hear that story. It’s the typical “rush to the hospital in labor” story that most parents have. But every time the conversation starts, I feel squirmy, and I can’t explain why. As I get older, I’ve begun spending more time analyzing that feeling and trying to put a name to it.
On the surface, it’s simply a story I’m not in. We can talk about the things we’ve done together and even things that happen when she isn’t with us. But it goes beyond that. There are plenty of stories about the years before I was around, and none of them make me squirmy.
So I’ve come to the conclusion it’s biological. When you love someone, nature dictates you have a child together. If you don’t have a child together, even if you have no interest in it, you can still have a pang thanks to Mother Nature. Raising a child is hard work, requiring complete dedication and sacrifice. You can know that in your mind, but there’s still something that stirs inside you when you realize you will never create life with the person you love.
I wonder if moms who remarry and don’t have more kids feel this way. Do they feel some biological pang when they realize they won’t have a child with the person they love? What happens when child-free women reach their senior years and marry a man with children? Do they still feel that pang?
Interestingly, I only briefly had a desire to have children. It was in my late 20s, when everyone else was saying that was what I was supposed to be doing. “Better get started soon, or it will be too late,” people told me over and over. After replying for a while that I didn’t want children, I started to wonder if maybe I did and just didn’t realize it.
But as I’ve gotten older and seen how my friends’ lives are, I know that it wasn’t the life for me. I would have adapted, of course, and I probably would have been a great mother. But the long, sleepless nights, the constant worrying and the responsibility of it all sound terrifying to me. I completely admire everyone who chooses motherhood and does a great job at it. I simply am not that person.
While I’ll never regret my choice to remain child free, there are times when nature takes over. The good news is, those pangs pass very quickly, and soon I’ve forgotten all about it. Even better, once you reach 40, nobody asks you when you’re going to have children. That may be one of the best things about getting older.