When I was working as hairstylist in my early 30s, I took a poll of over 200 of my clients. I wasn’t getting younger, and I kept wondering why my ovaries had chosen to plead the fifth. The poll did not help. “If you could go back in time,” I asked 200 times, “would you have chosen to have kids?” Two people simply said yes. (Keep in mind, people tend to tell their hairstylist everything—these were honest and heartfelt discussions.) The other 198 or so people answered with some version of “Of course! Now that they’re here, I love them and would never want to be without them, but I had NO IDEA how exhausting this would be and how much work it is. Nobody tells you how terrible it can be sometimes”…which was promptly followed by, “The joy you feel is something you can’t explain, so it’s worth it.”
But it just wasn’t enough to push me over the baby cliff.
In my late 30s, I still didn’t feel the “baby-ache.” I was married by that point, and I felt my window was closing. I was 36 and, after trying for a year, I went through a few procedures, including in vitro fertilization. Nothing was working, but I wasn’t totally distraught. I was more fearful of losing my choice to have a baby than I was longing to actually have one.
At 37, I chose to freeze my eggs. I was at the pharmacy picking up my $10,000 bag of drugs in a nitrogen basket when the financial responsibility of a baby set in. Coupled with the fact that freezing your eggs “ages” them two years, my thought was: “I’m 37 and not DYING to have a baby. My eggs-on-ice will be 39 years old. If having a baby doesn’t become an all-encompassing thought by the time I’m 39, maybe I’m not meant to be a parent. In the end, I decided not to go through with the egg freezing. Full disclosure: I also thought of how many pairs of amazing shoes $10,000 can buy. Does a maternal person who should be prepared to give up everything for her child even consider forfeiting shoes? What is WRONG with me?
It’s taken me years to realize it, but there’s nothing wrong with me.
I have so many friends who are incredible moms, some of whom have gone through unimaginable things to become moms. They love their kids and their lives. It takes a selfless person to be a good parent, but being an excellent parent requires patience, strength and self awareness that I’m still working on at 43. Now that I’ve made the final, can’t-go-back decision not to have them, it actually feels pretty terrific, despite it not being an easy decision to come to. I’m happy that it’s finally—dare I say it—normal for women to choose not to take the traditional path of “first comes love, then comes marriage, then comes baby in a baby carriage.” If you don’t feel destined to be a mother and making a permanent decision is on your mind, I’ll leave you with this, coming from my own experience: it’s not sad, it’s not scary, it’s not lonely or empty. It’s just perfect, for me—and I’m happy to have had the choice.
Alanna York has owned Head Games Salon for Hair & Body, based in Portland, for 17 years. Her professional career began in the early 1990s when she discovered the passion and excitement that came from enhancing the natural beauty in all of her clients.