I am a woman. A single, childless woman. By choice. At times, I feel that maybe I haven't fully stepped into the depths of "womanhood" because I don't have children, and at this point in my life, I have no intention of doing so. We all agree that not having kids doesn't make you less of a woman, but I sometimes wonder if I will regret not knowing how it feels to be pregnant or give birth.
Raising kids is not my idea of a good time, but in order to experience childbirth, I would then have a child that would require raising, so to put it bluntly: I would be stuck with him/her. The solution? I should freeze my eggs, just in case I change my mind! I mean, younger eggs are more willing than older ones, right? But even if I did that and, for some reason, found myself without a partner, I would have to choose the perfect donor. With my anxiety issues, I think that would prove impossible. I wouldn't even know where to begin. Short or tall? Left-brained or right-brained? Ethnic background? Wait ... musical. He must be musical. Or maybe not musical, but at least have an appreciation for music. Ivy League graduate would be nice, as well. But he must not be arrogant about it. Oh! And he should enjoy going to art museums, and history museums and, well, museums in general. And books. He must love reading books. And ...
When people ask if I will ever want kids, one thing always comes to mind. Children deserve the security of feeling that everything is going to be OK. That they are safe and have nothing to worry about. I would have a really hard time saying, "Everything is going to be OK." Because I don't know. No one knows.
The darker side of life is filled with trials, tragedy, death and trauma, and the world can be a daunting and dangerous place. The burden of protection would be on me, and I'm scared, too! I don't think it would be helpful if a child said to me, "Mommy, I'm scared," and I replied, "Well, you know, it's a scary world out there."
When I'm in the presence of children I feel joy and sadness, for they have no idea what's coming. If children knew that the world can be difficult, confusing and complex, that thing they have that is lost in adulthood, would no longer exist. The one man who would be most likely to convince me that having kids is a good idea has said on more than one occasion. "Why would you feel sad? Children are so innocent and happy." Well, that's why it makes me sad.
As a child, if I had known that I was going to lose my father to suicide after years of pain in the midst of a relentless, public and press-dominated sh*t show, I doubt I would have had the same childhood experience. I still mourn for that child who had no idea. But I'm thankful that she didn't. The little Natalie didn't know, and she wasn't supposed to know. She had something that can be hard to find in adulthood: hope. The purity of innocence, the unadulterated love, the abounding joy, the bursting excitement—these are qualities we strive to retrieve as adults. Instead of playing in the sandbox, we take pharmaceuticals, do yoga, meditate, exercise and go to therapy. We do these things to try and get a tiny bit closer to seeing the world through the lens of a child again.
As we become adults, we discover the whole story. And it scares us. Worry creeps in. Fear takes over. And happiness can be elusive. Oftentimes, we have to struggle and strive to truly see what's good and right. When these things remain invisible, we should fight to dig them out of the rubble. I don't have the responsibility of telling a child that everything is going to be OK, and I commend those who choose to be parents. You are superheroes. What I do have is a responsibility to be my best self. Even if I don't have children of my own, I can learn a lot from them. It's not all darkness, even though I struggle against a tendency to focus on the darker side of things. If I remove my adult-blinders, there is so much light to appreciate. I know it's right there, in the midst of all that frightens me.
As an adult, I am more than aware of the bad that exists in the world, but at the very least, I can be a champion and advocate of the good. As adulthood brings awareness, we have a responsibility to be agents of positive change. We can make the world better than it was, even if by one act of kindness at a time.
Natalie Irby is a Jackson native and graduate of the University of Mississippi with a degree in southern studies. She currently lives in Los Angeles and is the founder and CEO of Corner to Corner Productions.