Let’s start with my mum, who by the way insists on looking on my unmarried state like an illness, like something that needs to be helped. Somehow, all my achievements in this life – achievements that I have worked hard for – have been reduced to the singular ‘but’ of the fact that I’m not married.
So, here I am. Knocking at the gates of 35. The gates open in a few months, and all I can think is ‘Damn, that’s 5 years to 40!’ Hell of a perspective to look at it from, right? That’s what my sister thought as well, when I stopped her in mid-jubilation as she rejoiced at the fact that there could be a potential birthday celebration in a few months. She still found a way to end the conversation on the subject of cake, but I couldn’t shake off the stupid, oversabi calculator in my head that insisted on reminding me that five years goes by pretty quick.
I’m old enough to know (and accept) that life almost never happens the way we plan; I mean, if life was to follow my blueprint, I wouldn’t even be writing this. But irrespective, I have to say that life has indeed been good to me in a lot of unexpected ways. I’m one of those independent women and I don’t mean that in the almost derogatory way people say it these days. I mean it in the way that I’m not a liability to anyone around me; I always bring something to the table; and I always have a whole lot of value to add to the lives of anyone I have the opportunity to come across. So, yes. I’m a strong, independent woman – a blessing in all ramifications, but if my village people had to be the ones to define it, it would be a curse.
On another hand, I haven’t been very lucky when it comes to men. Maybe I should say I haven’t been very smart; I always seem to pick the wrong guys. And for that reason, I haven’t got marriage on my horizon. Several failed relationships later, I kind of figured it’s not meant to happen, and for the most part, I’ve decided to move on from that. But the one thing I will not give up on is the joy of being a mum. I can’t imagine going through life without a child of my own. Without a husband, I can deal. But childless too? Haba! Who did I offend?
And so I’ve decided that in this modern day and age, where being a single mum is far from unusual and where technological advances have made it possible to have children without coitus, I want to have a baby. Why? Because it doesn’t make any sense to put my life on hold just because there’s no ‘man’. Because it doesn’t make sense to continue to wait in the hopes that “it will happen” (If I was 24, that would be an appropriate sentiment). Because I don’t want to wake up at 40 and wish I had done it sooner. Because I want to be there for my kids in my prime and not ageing. And because I can; I can literally make the plans and get it done.
The problem? Everybody else.
Let’s start with my mum, who by the way insists on looking on my unmarried state like an illness, like something that needs to be helped. Somehow, all my achievements in this life – achievements that I have worked hard for – have been reduced to the singular ‘but’ of the fact that I’m not married. I mentioned to her that I was considering having a baby on my own because I’m getting on in years and I don’t want to leave it too long. She burst into tears and then asked me to go and talk to a priest (we’re catholic), because she didn’t think the Church would baptize a child out of wedlock. I nodded and said ok; of course with no intention to go talk to a priest. But a week later, my mother calls me and says she went to speak to a priest on my behalf. Like really!!! And guess what the priest said – that the Church encourages that children are born out of love between a man and a woman. They would make an exception for an adopted child because that is viewed as a work of charity but that children through other artificial means (That’s how she said it. She couldn’t even say IVF) were frowned upon. Now, I don’t know if my mum just made that up to discourage me from doing something she probably considers disgraceful to her, or if that is really the position of the Church. But I wasn’t really interested in going to find out. In my mind, the Church shouldn’t discriminate. Simple.
Then there’s the bunch of ‘pious’ and/or traditional people who think that it’s not right to go have a baby on my own. “You should do it the right way!” they say. And it makes me wonder who said going through IVF is a wrong way. Their right way is getting married and having a child as a legally (and religiously) bound couple. Otherwise, it’s not a good thing. As if that makes me any less of a mum, or the child any less of a child. My question to them is always “What if I don’t get married? Then I’ll never have kids?” Why should I be punished for a situation that is beyond my control? Of course, their next assumption is that something must be wrong with me, and that’s why I’m not married. “Are you sure you’re not being picky?” they ask. “You can’t get a perfect man o.” As if I didn’t know that already. I don’t expect them to understand really. They probably got married nice and early, and the ones who didn’t get married early still got married sha, at least early enough to have children. So they really cannot understand. They haven’t had to deal with the long term uncertainty of an unmarried and boyfriend-less situation.
Then there are the well-meaning friends/colleagues who are in the single motherhood space, who insist on discouraging me because “It’s not easy.” I’m not a child. I know it can’t be easy. I know the ideal thing is to have the right level of support. But support doesn’t always have to be a man. Support can be my siblings; or my close friends. Support can even be them, these people who already know what it’s like and who can help me avoid some of the pitfalls! But I don’t even understand how they can’t see it that way. Instead they ask me “Who will be the dad? What name will you give the child? You can’t just go off and have a baby on your own!” This is because they didn’t choose their current situation. So they’re judging my decision based on their own experiences. Somehow, it just doesn’t make sense to them that a woman can just choose to go have a baby on her own. “Why are you in a hurry?” one said to me. “You’re young and gorgeous. I’m sure some nice guy will come snap you up soon. Don’t give up on yourself.” I had to ask her why she thought that my wanting to have a baby on my own meant giving up on myself. On the contrary, I am choosing not to give up on myself by making things happen for me because I can – not waiting for someone to come make it happen.
Don’t get me wrong. I am not being naïve and assuming that it will all be peachy. I have not completely ignored the important things – like who will be the father-figure in the child’s life. I don’t want to give the child too much to struggle with, and so it would be good to have someone who would step in now and again to provide some ‘fatherliness’. I know some of you are already saying “Ehen!” probably wanting to ask me why I cannot be both daddy and mummy since I’m insisting on having a child by myself. My options? Phone a friend, who will be happy to play that role without being the biological father of the child. Chances of that happening? 50 – 50. As a last resort, I will have to find a way to manage and get my brothers as involved as possible. Not ideal, but workable. And maybe I’ll have a girl, so I don’t have to worry about having male conversations with a boy.
I am not ignoring the fact that I will have sole responsibility for the child – there won’t be anyone to share the responsibility with, except family and friends who will do as much as they can, but only so much. I can’t ignore the fact that there will be days when I will feel like I really need a partner to share the joys and pains with – the hard days, the fun days, the days when I will wonder why the fuck I chose to do it – someone to plan with, to decide names, to pick schools, to instil discipline and to explain life’s puzzles (at least the ones we have figured out). But it doesn’t change the fact that I want to be a mum. I have everything else working for me – at least the things that really matter, because you might look on the fact that marriage is not ticked, but I only see it as a nice-to-have, not a must-have. Now I just want a baby.
So I’m asking the audience. What would you do if you were in my shoes?