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 24×7 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.