I am not a person who has “always” wanted children.
I am a person who has always wanted to be a lawyer. Since I was a little girl and I knew what a lawyer was, I have wanted to become one. (Well, technically becoming a lawyer was my “plan B” if becoming a Disney princess did not work out.) The road I took to get here was twisty and long as hell, but, you know, the road less traveled and all of that.
When we got married almost 10 years ago, we were 25 and 26, 7 and 8 years into our military careers, completely over-the-top in love, and (probably like many couples) absolutely clueless about the adventure on which we were embarking.
I honestly cannot remember whether we talked about children as anything other than in an “abstract future.”
We knew we wanted our family to be “just us” for a while. For years, we did not feel like there was anything missing in our little family. We loved to travel, and we did it often. We took ballroom dancing lessons for years, and regularly danced together in our living room. Heck, we eventually quit our super legit jobs and went to freaking law school together!
At some point in our early years of marriage, we ended up having the conversation we should have had long before pledging our lives to each other – we finally talked seriously about “kids.” To our shock and horror, we realized we were not remotely on the same page. My husband, “N,” who had grown up without a father, deeply wanted children. He wanted to do all of the things that he imagined fathers should do with their children. He longed to teach Little N or Little E how to fish, how to throw a football, and how to do a sick jiu-jitsu take down.
By that point, I was pretty sure I did not want children at all. With the uncertainty that necessarily accompanied both of us serving in the military, I felt that things were too complicated. Also, I felt that our family was perfect just as it was, and children would only mess up the good thing we had going. My impression of motherhood was that a minivan comes standard issue (puke) and I would spend every Saturday into perpetuity on a soccer field (double puke). Also, my impression was that all children are sticky and loud and seem to always break things (either their own bones or items). Also, I was going to be a big shot prosecutor, continuing my previous work in the anti-human trafficking movement by putting pimps and other scary people in prison. As sure as I knew my own name, I knew that I definitely did not have the time or the inclination to take a sick day so I could stay home and wipe a kid’s snotty nose.
I’m sure you can imagine the train wreck that was our marriage during this… journey of discovery. We talked and talked and talked some more, and we just could not figure out what to do. Eventually, we went to marriage counseling because we felt so lost and disheartened.
After several sessions, and after we were able to think and talk through everything, our therapist bottom lined it for us — N could have kids, or he could have me. N would have to make a decision either to divorce me and have children with someone else, or to accept that a life with me would never include children, and somehow become okay with that.
We talked some more. We prayed. We cried. Well, I cried. N asserts that only manly things like tar come out of his tear ducts, and I’ll never say otherwise. After what felt like an eternity, N told me that he had fully accepted that we would never have children, he would never become a father, and that he would rather live a life with me without children than a life without me with children. He then went through, what only now I am able to recognize as a grieving period. He handled it with grace and dignity and a strength that I did not comprehend or appreciate at the time. As someone who did not want children, I did not and could not understand what he was giving up just to be with me. The entire future he imagined for himself, his legacy, so many of his hopes and dreams.
Eventually, things went back to “normal.” We went back to traveling, and making plans that did not include children (like law school). We were once again excited for our future and grateful for our partnership.
But, as you might have gathered based upon the subject matter of this blog, our peaceful interlude did not last.
Click here for part 2.