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No One Writes That They’ll be Infertile When They Grow Up

The twins had a writing assignment in school detailing how they see their life unfolding 20 years from now.  They were telling me about it over dinner.  Both started with the number of kids they would have and how they would each get to be an aunt or uncle.  The ChickieNob had even broken down her brood by sex.

“But where will you be living?  What will you be doing?” I asked after they spent a good five minutes explaining their whole family set up.

They had answers for that too, and yes, they will both still be living in my home (saves on babysitting!).  They had exciting jobs, big travel plans, homes in a multitude of areas.  (I guess they can afford it since they won’t be paying a mortgage on their main residence.)  The Wolvog had plotted out college, the ChickieNob skipped over that time period saying that where you went to college was no longer important when you were 28!

I used to love assignments like that, when every possibility seemed equally likely.  I could end up the lead actress in an eponymous sitcom: Melissa!  I could end up the author of several bestselling novels.  I could find the cure for all cancers; a single pill that cures everything.  I could live in a drafty estate in rural England.  All of it.  At the same time.

I took the ChickieNob to her art class and sat down in the waiting area to read.  I kept coming back mentally to their assignment until I found myself in the art school’s bathroom, crying.  I don’t even know why I was crying.  Because I’m turning 40 and imagining my life 20 years from now isn’t quite as exciting?  Well, I suppose I’ll still be doing yoga, that is, if my hips allow it.  And I assume I’ll still be working since we’ll never be able to afford to retire.  And I’m sure I’ll have a hearing aid by then.  On second thought, we’ll probably be living underground by then to escape the apocalyptic zombies.  So… maybe the hearing aid won’t be necessary in such small quarters.

Or was I crying because at 28, I was in the middle of treatments, trying to build my family.  I thought it would happen so easily for me, and when my family building endeavours didn’t unfold as planned in my eight-year-old mind, it was such a jolt.  Such a terrible tangent off that path of what should-have-been.  I could deal with the lack of sitcom, the fact that I didn’t cure cancer, and my dearth of British real estate.  But I could never quite reconcile that eight-year-old idea of parenthood with what was happening in reality.  I felt so sad thinking about my excited eight-year-old self.  How sure I also had been about reaching parenthood in 20 years — a length of time which felt impossibly old as a child.

No one writes that they’ll be infertile when they grow up.


Image: Becca.Peterson26 via Flickr

No one writes, Well, I’ll probably be struggling with money or in an unsupportive marriage or a dead-end job.  But I have friends who are living out those realities.  No one writes that they’ll be rejected from the college of their choice or in an abusive relationship or end up with cancer.  We write only happy, exciting things.

Are they wishes or expectations?

Or a little bit of hopeful thinking that if we write it out, it could possibly come true?


1 Peg { 05.14.14 at 8:46 am }

Wow. Great post. Sorry for the tears, but thanks so much for sharing.

2 JB { 05.14.14 at 8:56 am }

I always look forward to your posts when I get to work in the morning, and this one was no exception. I recently wrote about my dear friend who lost 2 of her 3 daughters in a tragic car accident in which she was driving. No one writes about that. No one writes that after they have this beautiful child–no matter what it took to get there–that this child could die before the parent. This child who was hoped and prayed and sometimes made into existence. No one writes about that. Because in my mind, I can’t even think about it. I try. I love my friend so I try to put myself in her shoes, but I can’t. Maybe our minds don’t allow us to think that way? Maybe it’s a defense mechanism, or maybe we’re all of the school of thought–think positively and positive things will happen. I’m not sure.

But voicing our fears or frightening possibilities on paper makes them more real, even more real than typing them.

3 a { 05.14.14 at 9:50 am }

The practical me says it’s just a writing exercise – to keep kids quiet for a period of time, to get them to improve their writing skills, and maybe to put a little daydreaming time into their day.

My daughter just brought home her page about her “futcher” plans. It involved a big house and lots of animals. When I told her I guess I wouldn’t be visiting (I’m allergic to half the animals she wants to have), she said she’d shove ’em all up in the attic so I could come over.

They’re wishes and expectations and writing them out will help some part of them come true. For some reason, we delight in asking kids to plan for futures with no practical knowledge of what might be possible. I think we (adults) just like to hear those innocent answers, free from the taint of reality.

4 Suzanna { 05.14.14 at 10:38 am }

I thought I’d get married young and have a kid when I’m 21. I was born when my mom was 21, and she was born when grandma was 21, so I figured I’d have one then too. Then I got married at 19 and thought I might have one earlier than that! Well 25 now and… not a single pregnancy? Having a family was definitely always at the top of my list for my future, kinda wondering when and if that future will ever happen now.

5 Mrs T (missohkay) { 05.14.14 at 11:21 am }

I do think those are our expectations, which are sadly shattered one at a time. This is a great post, though I’m a little depressed now 🙂

6 Tiara { 05.14.14 at 12:30 pm }

One of my fav songs right now is House of Gold by Twenty One Pilots…there’s a line in the song I love, “And since we know that dreams are dead and life turns plans up on their head, I will plan to be a bum, so I just might become someone” https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mDyxykpYeu8&feature=kp

I had a similar assignment my 1st year of college, to plan out your perfect life, dream job, family, etc. Many years later, while in the depths of believing I’d never be a mother, I came across the assignment while packing. It just about killed me to realize just how far off I was from any of it & it hurt so much. I remembered completing the assignment, I was probably 19 years old, & there wasn’t a fibre in me that didn’t believe it all would come true.

7 Rachel { 05.14.14 at 12:36 pm }

I used to have very specific images in my head of me giving 3 children baths, and being the only one there to wrap them in towels. I was convinced I would be a single mom. Imagine my shock now that I am married but no babies in the towels…

8 Serenity { 05.14.14 at 1:55 pm }

I think that’s my biggest source of grief right now: The future I had planned for, wrote about, imagined so clearly when I was a girl is not at all my reality.

And I can’t tell if it was the collision of my expectations and idealism, or the fact that the horizon isn’t wide open in front of me any more, but either way, I grieve for that future that never was.

9 Ana { 05.14.14 at 1:55 pm }

That’s the part about aging that I never once considered—I thought about responsibility, and losing loved ones, and physical changes—but I never considered how many doors would close each year, how many opportunities and paths would forever be gone. Childhood is a time of infinite hope and possibility, and along the way, you pick things (or they pick you), and those million possible paths become thousands, then hundreds, and then one. There are so many things I always dreamed I’d do that I know I’m never going to do now (family-building and other-wise).
I guess we pass that hope down to the next generation and we like to see them use it—hence why we continuously ask kids to do these types of assignments so we can sigh with envy.

10 loribeth { 05.14.14 at 2:01 pm }

I had my life all planned out when I was a teenager: go to university, become an author, get married when I was done school (around 21 or 22), wait a year or so & then start having kids (at least 2, possibly as many as 4) & then quit working to stay home with them. To a certain point, my life worked out pretty much as planned (“become an author” evolved into “go to journalism school & be a newspaper reporter, which eventually translated into a corporate communications job). The only real limits on my dreams seemed to be related to money. I did get married when I was 24, albeit to a guy from Toronto of all places (not the dr from Winnipeg I had envisioned, lol — NOBODY at the time & place I grew up ever thought of Toronto as a place to go — Calgary or Edmonton maybe…). And then my life began to diverge wildly from the plan. The Toronto housing market took off like a rocket & it took us a lot longer than we anticipated to afford a house — and then, of course, we had a mortgage to pay. I had no mother-in-law or other support nearby, and I realized that if we had kids, I was not going to be able to stay home with them, and would probably have to continue work full time. I was 34 when I stopped taking the pill, 37 when I finally did get pregnant (& then lose the baby), almost 39 when I finally turned to infertility treatments, & 40 when I made the decision to stop. Who ever imagines these things when they’re teenagers?

I wouldn’t want to DIScourage any child from dreaming big. I know my mother viewed my plans to be a writer somewhat dubiously — she always wanted me to be a teacher, to have “something to fall back on.” A few years ago, she admitted, “I guess the writing thing didn’t turn out too badly after all.” 😉 Talk about satisfying moments. 😉

11 nicoleandmaggie { 05.14.14 at 3:19 pm }

My son, I think, always has the best answer for this question. When he was asked at age 3 what he wanted to be when he grew up, he didn’t say fireman or dinosaur or any of the other answers his classmates gave. He said he wanted to be a grown-up. I think that’s a wonderful goal and something not all adults achieve.

It’s still his standard answer at age 7.

12 nicoleandmaggie { 05.14.14 at 3:20 pm }
13 Lori Lavender Luz { 05.14.14 at 4:39 pm }

Whenever I get together at a class reunion, I always think thank G*d we didn’t know then what we know now. That so-and-so will get this disease. And that guy will crash his motorcycle. And that woman will be a widow at age 42. Each one of them/us will suffer things that would seem unbearable to an 18 year old, who is more likely thinking about being a superstar in her chosen field.

And yet. We live. We endure, we laugh and cry and love and lose and open our hips and turn 60 (if we’re lucky) and if we’re really REALLY lucky we find ways to be happy or at least content that we get to experience such things, through it all.

14 nicoleandmaggie { 05.14.14 at 7:24 pm }

(previous comment is languishing in moderation 🙁 )

15 Aerotropolitan Comitissa { 05.14.14 at 9:51 pm }

First. You should look into that drafty English estate. Sounds like it could come in handy if the twins’ plans have anything in them.

You know it’s true, we look forward and see the endless dreams and possibilities and it’s not always realistic. But it would be a very sad thing indeed if people were aiming for a dead end job, empty relationships, broken dreams. I mean, they’d have to have one hell of a personal growth story to add on to that dream to make it not be depressing.

16 MissingNoah { 05.14.14 at 11:25 pm }

I thought I would be done having my (4) kids (all girls) by 30. But here I am staring it down, one living son, one son stillborn, one miscarriage trying to decide when to move on to IVF. But I’m also a SAHM which kid me would have told you I wouldn’t be caught dead doing. And I wouldn’t trade it for anything.

17 Pepper { 05.15.14 at 8:19 am }

I always had a hard time with these assignments, although I assigned them frequently when I was a teacher (irony?). I still can’t see what my future holds and I don’t know why. I do know I’m not living the life I would have predicted but I love it. And I guess in the end, that’s what matters.

18 St. E { 05.16.14 at 12:55 am }

I do give these kind of assignments to my students (and they are way more grown up than the twins), and I have hardly had an answer that struck me well-thought. It just wilts as another assignment.

Kudos to the twins for taking this so seriously. Also, I love the childish innocence when they say that they would be still living at home when they are 28.

No one really does think that they would be infertile. I want/do not want children is one thing, but I will never be able to have children isn’t a thought that comes.

19 Battynurse { 05.16.14 at 5:12 am }

I still haven’t figured that out. My life looks nothing like how I imagined it would. Not that I’m unhappy with my life life but sometimes the unfullfilled dreams sting a bit. I’m working on my plan B but who knows what is next. Or twenty years down the road.

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