Tuesday, February 19, 2013


“Do you have children?” I’m always asked by new acquaintances as if having them was the prerequisite for a future friendship.

“No!” I always answer with an exclamation point and then offer up the response to what I sense is a sympathetic look.

“It was by choice not by a physical precondition,” I add which usually rests the subject. 

It was in a conversation with my friend, Mimi, who is also childless, that I was reminded of another response that those of us who are voluntarily without receive:  "You were smart."  For some reason, this response astounds me and I return it with a smile and, finally, a change of subject.

Smart had nothing to do with it.  I just never wanted any.  Not that I don’t like children.  I do.  I really do.  And I wonder at those who don’t.  On the other hand, I have pushed the limits of anger management when parents let their kids act like unrestricted, entitled, head-banging brats. 

There was never the desire to procreate.  To show the world I live in that I could be the ultimate woman by getting pregnant and delivering to society the perfect little me or combination little me and impregnator was never a goal.  And there was never that clock ticking that I hear so many women talk about or read about.  The only clock that determines what I do is the digital clock on my bed side table or cell phone.  And as there is no amusing game app called Babies with Friends, I remain thankfully childless.  Well, no app could make me pregnant at this time in my life anyway.

There was also the approximate nine months of incubation before the little angel was born that never attracted me.  There were times when I envied the illusion of beauty that a pregnant woman engendered in loved ones.  Though I assume it is just that, an illusion.  I just imagine the nine months of feeling like I’ve gluttonously eaten more than my healthy share and wanting to give out a good belch to relieve myself. 

Then there’s the water breaking and the pushing and the pain and the screaming and the prize being delivered.  Then there are the relieved smiles on loved ones’ faces that the prize has all the acceptable fingers and toes and is not suffering from some syndrome or something.  And the photos and the congratulations and the sleepless nights and the dirty diapers and the sitters and the planning for their education before they form their first word.  And then there are the sacrifices to be made – or should be made – to raise that child to meet their potential.  Ah, the sacrifices.

Sacrifices!  I never felt I could undertake those; make the commitment to give up that which seemed more vital to my happiness.  And yet I had a champion role model to learn how – my mother.  That she went to the edge of sacrificing her true potential to help me meet mine was my undoing as a potential mother and her potential as a fulfilled woman.  There wasn’t a chance that I would want to give up what she gave up for me.  There wasn’t a chance that I could be or want to be so selfless or full of love for her child as she was.  There wasn’t a chance that I’d give up my dreams as she did.

At this point, you’re thinking:  Madly is a cold hearted woman without a vagina and accompanying accoutrement.  And thusly I was also born without the ability to nurture.  And I’m thinking:  You’d be wrong.  And I have a witness list – available on request - to prove you’re wrong.  I declare that I have the ability to nurture.  

I love animals.  I am able to love them more than I can love humans.  They elicit a nurturing impulse in me which is felt towards humans less often.  Is it because animals are voiceless?  Defenseless against human transgression?  Made dependent because of human need or greed?  Is it because it’s not a societal expectation to love animals as we love ourselves?  Is it because humans have disappointed me so often in friendship and in love and in trust?  Is it because animals never have?

That said I now make the case for my nurturing abilities.  It was many years ago when my home had an open door for anything resembling a feline.  There were always two, or three or more cats decorating my home with their silence and grace.  And there was also the random foster or rescue that needed all the TLC a human could offer to send it on its way to a permanent home.  This brings to mind Peter, a Siamese mix male kitten who was rescued with his siblings and mom from under a Thai restaurant.  The mom was ferociously feral and so fixed and released and the kits were adopted but for one – Peter.  This blue eyed, angel faced, seal pointed boy suffered a raging case of Ringworm and a neurological problem affecting his balance.  He was nursed and loved until he found his forever mom who loved him as she would’ve had he been a human child.  By the way, Peter presented challenges upon his release - as it turned out prematurely - by the vet on assurances that his Ringworm was cured.  Soon after arriving at my home, Peter innocently spread it to two out of three of my cats and, with a few scares, to myself.  This turned out to be a chapter in sacrifice as my life turned into an extended medical drama with my bathroom as my ICU.
Let me not forget to mention the rescue of a cat with end stage liver disease.  This little tortie, who was found roaming in obvious great discomfort in front of a friend’s duplex one block over was not going to go it alone.  She wasn’t easy to impress and fought like hell to avoid me.  But I was in my Super Hero “I can’t be hurt” mode and she was mine.  Again, my bathroom became an ICU.  She passed with care and love as all creatures deserve.

And the healthy fosters who became well socialized lovers who found carefully examined families.  And my own kits – a word oddly resembling the word kids – who could not have gotten better care and more love.  And how that love often broke my heart as they left me because they could no longer live their lives without suffering.  And how I look at their carefully taken photos as evidence that nurturing is a cross species ability.  And I remember what my adored granny used to say to me which was repeated by my very much missed and loved mom:  “When I come back, I want to come back as your kit.”  And, you know what?  They did.

There is one more thought before I finish.  I don't suggest that I don't honor those women who brought children into this world and provided a future for it.  I do. I sometimes even envy those who bore children and sacrificed and loved them and raised them to be beautiful and productive, rational and sensitive adults.  I look at some and think what it might've taken from me to do the same.  But at day's end, there is the confidence that I made the right decision and my 17 year old cat, Dolly, nods in agreement.


David George said...

You will never know how having children might have changed your life. For instance: for all your mother may have given up by bearing you, did she ever tell you how much you might have added to her life?

I'm glad you are happy with the decision you made, but not having had children we can never really know.

Madly Mad said...

You could be right, David. OTOH, if I had children, I wouldn't have known how my life would've been different if I didn't have them. Fortunately for me, I am very happy with the decision.

Madly Mad said...

As many readers don't leave comments as the process to some is daunting, I get many on my e-mail instead. I have gotten permission to post the following one as it has some compelling info as relates to the subject:

An interesting footnote to your blog is that many years ago, before I birthed my two children, I was in a dentist's office and was leafing through a Good Housekeeping magazine and came upon a survey. The magazine had asked its parenting readership "If you had the chance to do it all over again, would you have children?" and the overwhelming response (85%) said "No". Now, that's a middle America response! Always remembered that.

I think your response when people ask if you have children could be very simple and to the point: "By choice, no.
xox pg