All my life I longed for kids of my own. I dreamed about it from as early on as I can remember. It was the reason I tenderly named all my dolls and took care of them as if they were real – why I spent two days in bed because I acted out giving birth to one of them (yes, I was that committed) – why I collected baby names in notebooks, bought family tradition books when I was 13, and didn’t want to go to college because I just wanted to get married and have a family.
And now I’m so afraid all that has changed. I’m worried that I’ve seen too much of the reality of giving birth and the hard, young years of kids’ lives to want it like I once innocently did. I fear that I’ve used up all the energy of my twenties that would have gone to raising children, and that I’m too exhausted now to even try if given the chance. Sometimes I listen to others’ babies cry, and I think to myself, “I’m so glad that I can sleep through the night and have quiet mornings all to myself!” – which instantly makes me feel selfish and mean-spirited.
But here’s the thing – I still love children so much it hurts sometimes. I love how funny they are, how much potential they have, how I can positively impact their lives, and how they give me so much love freely in return. I love the sweetness of cuddling with a baby, reading a picture book to a toddler on my lap, and playing games with ten- and eleven-year olds.
So how can I have both?
While I don’t know my future – and bearing children could still be in the ten to fifteen years that I have left of that possibility – I’ve come to a place of acceptance over the fact that I might not ever have kids of my own.
And while that can feel really hard sometimes, sometimes it makes perfect sense.
Maybe I’m not meant to go through the pain of pregnancy and childbirth and the exhaustion of training toddlers day in and day out.
Maybe I’m meant to love older kids who have been through a lot of trauma and need someone to believe in them.
Maybe I’m meant to be that auntie (biologically or honorably) that can give a different perspective from parents, give them a break, and love & believe in those kids alongside their parents.
Maybe I’m meant to give something to so many kids in a mothering way that I never expected – that I couldn’t give if I had kids of my own.
And maybe I’ll come to love and embrace this kind of mothering more than I ever thought was possible.
It’s just that other people don’t understand when you don’t follow the traditional route. Especially in cultures that revolve around the nuclear family – that which I love and support so much. They just feel pity for you or talk about when you’ll have kids someday.
They don’t understand that what I have now is just as precious to me – that those 25 souls that I get to spend six-seven hours a day with are my dear ones that I love more than I can possibly say – and I view my role in their life with just as much seriousness as I would if I were mother to biological children.
Like when we were sitting in that one meeting, and I hesitated when the speaker asked if I had any kids. My automatic reply would have been, “Yes, 25 that I love dearly.” But I knew that wasn’t socially acceptable, so I shook my head and said, “No, none of my own,” while holding back a sudden wave of tears. But she looked at me across the table, nodded, and whispered, “Yes, you do.” And I wanted to cry even harder. She gets it. When nobody else does, she does. And I’m so grateful.
I’m grateful for the people like her in my life who see my value and call it out when I’m too exhausted to remember. I’m grateful for my sisters who thank me for what I do for their kids as their auntie. I’m grateful for friends who invite me into their family life and let me participate in that which I don’t have and that can sometimes make me feel empty.
And I’m grateful for the quiet nights at home when the noise of kids in my classroom has been too much for my brain so that I can recharge and go back and love them again the next day.
As crazy as it might seem, it all makes sense, and I’m learning to be so grateful for my reality.
My reality which might never see a child bear my genes, my personality traits, my freckles, my loves for theater and learning.
But which might see me passing on that love for learning, for writing, for theater, for exploring, for fun to hundreds and hundreds of kids over all the years of teaching, directing, mentoring, and training.
I might never get to hold the title of “Mom” or “Mama” to a few of my own.
But I might get to mother dozens upon dozens who need my kind of mothering in that specific time of their lives.
We never know what impact we’ve been called to leave until we get to the end of our lives, and we look back to see all the pieces fitting together just as God planned them. We just see the dark and light shades as they’re pieced in one by one – but by the end, we’ll see the breathtaking portrait painted with master brush strokes.
He is bringing me peace and comfort over this reality of becoming the mother I never thought I’d be.
And to this I will cling, even when the days get difficult.