When my husband proposed, I was 23, he was 27 and we’d been together for just under seven years.When we made the announcement, everyone cheered and whooped, and discreetly muttered ‘Finally!’. But then it started.
‘Ooh, so it won’t be long before we hear the pitter patter of tiny feet then!’
‘I reckon there’ll be a honeymoon baby, don’t you?’
The latter said with a Monty Python-esque wink and a nudge to a conspirator in this illusion about impending motherhood.
It didn’t matter how many times I firmly stated my total lack of interest in reproducing, or how many times I compared holding a baby to holding a large head of cauliflower, because I was only 23, whereas they were older and would nod in a knowing way, filled with the sage wisdom of Yoda and Mystic Meg, combined. They authoritatively informed me I would change my mind once we were married because ‘everyone’ feels the same way until then and it ‘always’ changes.
Well, we married six years ago and I regret to inform the Yoda wannabies of the world that my feelings have not changed.The only notable difference is that the ‘you’ll change your mind’ posse has been replaced by a new group; a group who (in an unnecessary and frankly, insulting manner) sympathetically tilt their heads, gently reassuring me that ‘there’s still time’. I’m 31. That’s old enough for me to know that I don’t need more time. But some people are unsettled by challenges to societal norms. They sense dissension in the ranks and, unable to see another way to handle it, strive to reassure that ‘business as usual’ will be restored soon enough.
This is one of the reasons I’m a fan of US Comedian, TV presenter, author and all-round female icon, Chelsea Handler, whose ‘Kids: they’re not that great’ (See https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sGlyFhZCyBg for a fantastic example) skits remind those of us who suffer criticism and pity for our choice not to reproduce that it’s a CHOICE. Just because I have a womb, doesn’t mean I have to use it. Men have nipples but nobody expects them to learn how to breastfeed.
The point of this yes, slightly rant-y post, is twofold.
First of all, I would like people to understand that a childless woman is not to be pitied or reassured (unless she has confided to you that she wants children but cannot have them or is struggling to conceive), but a woman of power. It is a choice that defies convention and that requires strength.
But it’s also because I would like to celebrate the role of ‘Auntie’. As of 26th June, I am a first-time biological auntie. I was already a non-bio auntie (still functional but not as effective) and I adore my nieces and nephews…but they all live pretty far away, so I don’t get to see them very often. My sister is local, so I get to see my squishy, adorable baby niece more regularly and I’m loving it (plus, narcissistically, I’m hoping she’ll look a little like me and let me take her shopping). It has awakened no motherly yearnings for my own but I feel a level of attachment to her that is overwhelming to me. It’s almost enough for me to overcome my aversion to bodily fluids oozing from places. But not quite. I’m not sure I could clean poo off her just yet but this morning I cleaned poo from the bum of one of my kittens, and isn’t that a step forward?
She is fascinating. I want to see her every day and take her to Longdown Dairy Farm and Monkey World and help her learn to spell. In short, I’m excited and keen to prove myself an amazing auntie. So no more sympathetic head tilts, please. As far as I’m concerned, I’m the luckiest woman alive; an incredible husband, 3 cats and a niece I can return to her mother once she starts producing fluids.
Life is good!