I woke up this morning with that feeling of absolute dread. That creeping sensation of doom that slowly brings you into wakefulness from the clutches of a nightmare. That flood of relief when you realise none of what had happened was real. But there were no monsters in my nightmare, no murderers, no public nakedness. I had dreamt that I was pregnant.
Pregnancy is supposed to be the most wonderful time of a woman's life. I, however, liken the condition to that of being invaded by a parasite. Reading that sentence back to myself makes me feel like a terrible person. And very worried that there is something wrong with me. This is me sharing my dirty secret via my laptop: I don't ever want to be a mother.
I'd never really given that much thought to having children. It's only since reaching an acceptable baby-making age that I realised there was something missing when I came into contact with small children. There was no longing; there were no excited thoughts for the future, just me being worried that I would somehow injure the delicate person that was being presented to me. Which new parents always do. Without fail. Hold my tiny child! Yes, it's fragile, but hold it anyway! I like to think that if I ever did have children, I'd be considerably pickier about whose arms I put them in.
Wanting children is natural. How I am feeling goes against every biological impulse ingrained into our DNA. This goes against the purpose of life, right? I think that's why I feel ashamed. When confiding in friends, my revelation is often met with pity and concern. Common responses include being told that I would make an excellent mother. As someone who can't even keep a houseplant alive, I find this to be an interesting assumption. Another is people telling me I'll feel differently when I'm older, or when I meet the right man. For such an important decision, surely I would have made up my mind by now? My body has been physically ready for children for a decade, but I don't think my mind ever will be. Is this my genetic pre-disposition? Am I programmed incorrectly? Do I not have the baby gene?
It can feel isolating being in a minority, when expectations are placed upon women to have it all. To me, having a career and a loving partner would be enough. For society, perhaps it would be a different case. I wonder whether I would be seen as lacking. Women are now delaying motherhood later and later to allow for time to progress in their career, or to travel before having children. But to not have children at all? Is that a step too far?
The worries do seep into my consciousness from time to time, niggling at my resolve. I must admit: I am anxious that I will wake up one day in my forties and it will all be too late. Will my younger self have ruined everything for middle-aged me? Has my female instinct been temporarily repressed? Will it spill over in my later years and I'll realise the terrible mistake that I've made? After losing my mother to cancer when I was 18, I am conscious that I am now the only link left to her. To not have children would be to prevent her legacy from continuing. She had so many wonderful, caring, sensitive qualities; some of which I like to think I inherited. One regret that I would have, by not having children, is that these characteristics wouldn't be passed on.
Perhaps I won't feel like this forever. Perhaps I will wake up one morning with a completely different attitude, I'll meet the right man and suddenly things will all change. However, if my feelings stay the same, I won't feel like I'm missing out. I don't need an extra person to complete me, and I don't need validation from society to make peace with that choice.
So this is my confession. I am a woman who doesn't want children. I know I am not alone in this. I hope that if more women confess to also harbouring this dark secret, that people will begin to accept that this is a legitimate mind-set. I hope that one day women who choose to go without children will no longer be given a pitying stare, a condescending head-tilt. I hope that people will stop questioning their decision, that they will realise that it was not made flippantly, that they will respect it and understand that a childless woman can still live a joyful and accomplished life.