My Mom's Birthday

Today is my mom's birthday. My mom died in 1998 when I was 26, the same age she was when she gave birth to me.

As my mother lay dying, she begged me not to have any children because she couldn't bear the thought of one day my laying somewhere, dying of the rare cancer that has taken several generations of women in her line before the age of 60, looking into my own daughter's face, seeing the pain there. While she was dying, in an inconceivable amount of pain, she was more concerned about my being in the same situation some day than she was about her own quickly-approaching death.

That's a level of love that I cannot conceive of having.

I promised her that I wouldn't bear my own children unless and until we get to choose gender beforehand. I knew what I was promising, and I knew that I would keep it because, well, you don't turn down the dying wish of a family member if it's remotely possible to keep it.

So I've lived through the procreative years of my life not bearing children. I've never married. I've aborted. I've lived with roommates in order to avoid having an empty home and thrown myself into my career with a ferocity that masquerades as workaholism. I have a television on in my home 24x7 to have the sound of human voices around me. I've promised myself that I can always adopt, and I've also promised myself I won't marry a man for whom that's not an option.

I've told every close friend or boyfriend I've had since my mom's death that I won't bear my own children because of my mother's dying wish, my promise to her, and my own fear of the rare (almost undiagnosable) cancer that kills women in my line early. The thing is, that's only half the reason.

The other half of the reason, and the one I've never told anyone before, is that I can't conceive of being the kind of person, the kind of mother, who would or could lay dying, in incomprehensible pain, and be more concerned about my daughter experiencing the same thing than I am about my own impending death.

I can't live up to that. I can't even see the bar my mom set, much less reach it. That's the other half of the reason I never bore my own children and won't unless and until gender selection becomes a viable option.



  1. Thank you for sharing your story with us. There are so many reasons why a person may choose to have or not have a family. Your experience shows us that those reasons may not always be the ones that we assume them to be.

  2. Jane,

    Mothers are such a tender spot for us. I can't imagine the pain you must have felt as she lay there slipping away from you. I'm sure, however that, should you become a mother someday, you would fully understand your own mother's feelings. You would feel them yourself for your child. Children tend to bring out the best in us. We have all these fantastic qualities we never even knew we had.
    Thank you for sharing your story.

  3. Thank you for your support!

    The older I get, the more people ask me, "So, when are we getting married?" I dodge it with, "As soon as my picky ass finds a good enough man."

    Then comes the inevitable, "Aren't you worried about, you know, having kids?"

    No matter how many times this happens, no matter how many variants of this conversation happen, my brain still locks up in the struggle amongst feelings of failure, shame, and outrage.

    All I want to do is scream, "Keep your nose out of my uterus!"

    The unspoken implication is that I'm doing something wrong, that I'm somehow not fulfilling my destiny.

    I know they don't mean any harm, but my female socialization runs just as deeply as any other woman's.

    I just wish these people would THINK, just for ONE SECOND, about the possibility that a strong, outspoken, professional, and intelligent woman might *already know* that time is running short, that maybe, just maybe, she DOESN'T NEED TO BE TOLD!


    I say again, "Keep your nose out of my uterus!"