What to Expect When You Will Never Be Expecting
Guest Post by Keturah Kendrick, a blogger and podcaster who centers the experience of “free black women” in much of her work. A world traveler, she has lived on three continents and traveled to over a dozen countries.
In her first collection of essays, Keturah explores a woman's choice to remain happily childfree while critiquing the cultural narrative that black women, particularly, exist solely to birth and care for children. Her collection is scheduled for publication in June 2019. You can follow Keturah on Facebook or Twitter (@happysinglegal).
You will get used to having the same conversation. It usually starts as a result of your inability to hide that children don’t drive your uterus into states of frenzy. It starts because within seconds of gazing at a newborn you become bored. It starts because you have no desire to hold a baby or coo to a little one or do anything other than peek into a gigantic stroller and tell the beaming mother, “Congratulations. She’s cute.”
“You aren’t really into kids, are you?” This will be his first question. Posed more as a statement. He would have asked a statement in similar fashion the week before when he chose the movie and midway through it, observed, “You are not into sci-fi, are you?”
When you respond, “Naw, not really,” he will just look at you with the same curiosity as he had when you munched on popcorn and stared with indifference at the movie screen.
Don’t be fooled into believing this question-statement just popped into his head right after he joked how his future daughter would have him wrapped around her finger and waited 15 whole seconds for you to share your own parental fantasies.
Most likely, he would have thought about this for two months. He would have considered and reconsidered if it were the right time to bring it up. Ruled out the first two times because to ask would have been presumptuous. Too much, too soon.
But, now, almost three months in. Two sleepovers and one appearance at a friend’s birthday party later, he has decided he can no longer not ask.
“Do you want children?”
In your 20s, you will pander. You still hear all those voices from teachers, church elders, and peers telling you that you are going through a phase. The hearty chuckles making you wonder if there is anything more comical than a female person saying she does not want to raise children. The “scientific research” in magazine articles that speak of this biological clock, this maternal instinct that will whisper its way into your body.
So, the first few times a nice man you are falling for initiates the conversation, your answers will all be some version of the same lie: “Well, I am not sure. I don’t think I do, but I guess I could change my mind.”
In your 30s, you will have realized that oh so many people have lied to you. Boldfaced fabrications said with serious expressions right to your face. Your aunties, your girlfriends, your doctors, your own mother. You will still have little interest in humans under the age of 13. You will wait for what many claim is inevitability: the emptiness, the longing, the fear that you were wrong. Sometimes, you will find yourself wondering when the sound of your shriveling ovaries will keep you up at night in tears.
As you wait for this moment to arrive, you will commit yourself to birth control with a focus some might call obsessive. You will stop lying. “Naw, Bruh…it ain’t happening” will fall from your lips with an ease that comes from years of repetition.
In your 40s, you will bring it up by the second date. “There will be no babies coming out of my body. If you want fatherhood, I can give you the number of a friend who would be a better match for you.”
The men will change, but their reactions will not.
“Am I being punked?”
The nerdy social worker will go into his man cave just like the hard-working retail manager a decade before. He, too, will not be able to understand. He will say he does. Because he is an educated man of the 21st century. He has read bell hooks. For eight hours a day, he advocates for queer youth of color and survivors of domestic violence. Yet, he will be thrown into an existential crisis.
How can he be involved with a beautiful woman who is easy going, kind, intelligent and who actually digs him, too, and yet…she does not want to bear any man’s child? Can this be real life? He will ask for time. He will come back. He will ask if you are sure. You will offer him the number of a friend who is sure in the way he wants you to be sure. He will ask for time. You will have moved on because you already know what he will say when he returns.
Over and over again you will star in this same movie. It will become tiring, but very telling. You will start to look at the lives of these men who initiate the conversation. Men who have made it to their 40s without any accidental children anywhere out there in the world. They claim they cannot imagine never having children. They want their names to carry on, they say. Yet, nothing in their daily lives resembles an adult who would be committed to the tedious work of parenting. Nothing in their fatherly fantasies make you confident that if you did desire motherhood, these men would approach fatherhood in any other way beyond “helping” you take care of their legacies.
One of these men will be relieved you are not one of those women who asserts her two-year plan to marriage and motherhood after a few good dates. He will confide in you that some women want to trap a man by having a child. You will sit across from him and imagine the dozens of women left wounded in his wake. You will envision these weary women smacked into silent shock as this man who now sits before you claimed “too much pressure” when they were forthright about what they wanted. It will be difficult not to laugh at the absurdity of it all.
Here you are, one little lady who is now saying to him there is no pressure at all. You do not want to have his baby and are indifferent about being offered his ring. And this will send him into a nonsensical spiral of confusion. He will emerge from his sunken place with subtle attempts to mold you into a version of all the women he left - their fertile years evaporating as they braved the dating landscape fraught with anxiety.
This will be valuable training for you. You will reach your 40s grateful you have continued to make the same choice. You will love freely, accepting dates from men simply because you find them attractive and interesting. You will have the luxury of time. A six-month affair that ended amicably enough will be viewed with the same pleasant gratitude as the three-year relationship that ran its course.
You will realize that you have lived the privilege women do not get to enjoy until they are much older. You get to think only of happiness and pleasure when you are considering a romantic prospect. There is no anxiety. No saving up to freeze eggs. No trying to force the broken remains of a relationship that never should have happened into an almost workable remodel because you don’t have another three years to give somebody new when you are two years away from possible-birth-defects pregnancy age.
You have been the lucky one. In your 20s, you never even considered it. In your 30s, you suspected it. At age 40 and beyond, you know it. You revel in it.