I attended a wedding a few years ago and overheard a conversation that has stuck with me through the years. The conversation was between two women; let's call them Red Lips and Devil's Advocate. I am paraphrasing in some instances, but the gist of the story is the same.
The bride's aunt was giving a speech during the reception. I was seated at a table with nine other people, but no one was paying attention to the speech. All eyes were on a woman with dramatically arched eyebrows and blood-red lips who was dishing out gossip to her friend in a fake-whisper voice. From the malicious smile on her face and the wicked glint in her eyes, it was obvious that she was enjoying tearing a woman to pieces with her words. We were all hanging on to every word she said, although we pretended to be preoccupied with other things.
Red Lips said, "You know her husband left her because she didn't want to have any children."
"What if she was unable to have children? It might be a medical condition," Devil's Advocate responded with a sly smile on her face, clearly enjoying her role.
Red Lips shook her head and said, "No. It was a choice. She doesn't want kids. She didn't even want to marry in the first place. It was her family that pressured her to marry him, and the man only agreed because she was rich."
"But didn't she tell him she didn't want kids before they married?"
"She did, but he thought he could change her mind. He left her when he realized that she was serious about it. Can you imagine? What kind of woman doesn't want a husband and children? It's just such a shame." Red Lips turned away from her friend to eye the woman.
Everyone at the table followed with their eyes, casting surreptitious glances at the lady who was the target of the gossip.
"Do you know she's an engineer? She has accomplished a lot," Devil's Advocate said as she appraised the woman.
"So what? Is her engineering degree going to love her and take care of her when she's older?" Red Lips sneered.
Devil's Advocate shrugged and silently sipped her champagne as she continued to watch the woman.
What struck me most about the woman who was the subject of the conversation was how similar she was to my favorite character from Grey's Anatomy -- Dr. Cristina Yang, an accomplished heart surgeon. Cristina is a woman who knows what she wants and what she doesn't want. She'd always known she didn't want children; it was something she had always been up-front about in her relationships. The men always seemed OK with her decision at first, but her choice not to have children eventually caused a rift in her relationships.
I realize that the problem the men had -- the problem society as a whole has -- is a lack of respect for other people's choices. It is as if we are incapable of putting ourselves in the shoes of others and looking at things from their perspective.
Many women around the world have trouble getting pregnant, for various reasons. They want children and so they undergo the rigorous adoption process, or try IVF treatments and other fertility treatments. Because these women struggle with fertility issues, some people look at women who can give birth, but choose not to, as ungrateful, selfish or cold.
Bringing a child into this world shouldn't be something you do because society expects it of you. Having a baby is a glorious thing, and every child should be brought into this world knowing it is loved and cared for -- but mostly wanted.
As a kid, I used to play Mommy with my dolls. I have always wanted to be a mother. I won't pretend to understand women who say they have no maternal instinct and want no children of their own, because I really don't understand it. However, although I may not understand why a woman would not want children, I respect it. A child is a huge responsibility, and carrying a human being inside your body for nine months and then raising it for years is a VERY big deal. I respect a woman who recognizes the enormity of that responsibility and knows herself enough to realize she would be unable to be the kind of mother a child deserves.