This is about ME. It isn’t about all single parents, all mentally ill people, all people without tons of money, or all anything else. It’s just me talking about my decision, nothing more.
I would like to be a parent, in theory. The thought of someone to nurture, someone who would love me for the rest of my life and, just by existing, would give that life meaning, is more than appealing – it’s beautiful.
And I can’t have it.
Physically I can, or at least I have no reason to assume I can’t, bear a child. My not being a mother is a choice, one that is as clear-cut as it is painful. Not everyone is equipped to be a parent and far too many people have children simply because of personal desire; I refuse to be one of those people.
The problems would begin before the baby arrived. If I wanted to carry a child I’d have to stop taking my psychiatric medication, which would hurt both me and the fetus. No rational person or institution would allow me to adopt a child as a single, underemployed, mentally ill parent, and I certainly don’t have the money to hire a surrogate. Even if I did, though, once I took custody of the baby I’d still be unfit for motherhood.
I would adore my child and would do everything in my power to protect and care for them. The problem is that “everything in my power” wouldn’t be nearly enough. I lack the financial resources, but that’s not the real issue. I can’t be a parent because my anxiety and depression manifests in a way that makes even relatively small decisions seem mountainous. I doubt myself at every turn and periodically I shut down because I’m overwhelmed by mundane chores. The everyday job of motherhood would be bad for my health and that, in turn, would be even worse for the child.
My child would have only one parent – a mother who could provide love and little else. They would have to navigate around my illness, making their own choices much too young because I wouldn’t be capable of it. No matter how much work I put into trying to keep it from happening, my child would inevitably end up being my periodic caretaker, suffering through my rare but crushing depressions and far more frequent anxiety attacks. My child would grow up burdened, giving far too much to the one person from whom they should only be taking.
I might mourn my non-motherhood more if every single step of the process didn’t terrify me. Still, I have enough maternal instinct that my desire for a child almost matches my understanding of the fact that it would be wrong of me to have one.
I deal in reality, so while I might dream of what it would be like to look into the eyes of my child and feel complete love and joy, I know it’s something I simply can’t have. This is the legacy I choose to leave: That I wasn’t so selfish as to make someone be my child just so I could be their mother.