While I am every inch the strong, modern woman that my parents raised, the other side of that coin is very much a reflection of traditional Filipino family values. Find a good man and get married. Start a family and raise them with the same principles my parents passed on to me and my sisters, along with learnings I picked up on my own along the way. Therefore, while I was trained to be a self-thinking, self-sufficient woman—a product of my progressive generation that grew up on “girl power” and Oprah—I knew that having it all was an option. The man, the family, and everything else that comes before and after.
I would have never guessed that I would be one of those women who would say that being a mother was what completed them. However, now I can say with both pride and humility that I did not feel like I had a real purpose until I had my daughter. Yes, I had a life before her. I had people who depended on me for different things, and I was a contributing member of my community. Still, nothing quite compares to the indescribable satisfaction and the colossal responsibility that comes with motherhood.
That being said, I understand how there are many of us who would not want to have children. There is a mountain of reasons and all of them are perfectly valid, even the one which others might judge as selfish. “I just don’t want them,” some women say. That, too, I believe, is really a good enough reason. The decision to have children is a lifelong commitment, and so imagine being stuck with something all your life that you never wanted to begin with. Painting your walls a different colour takes some thought and discussion. Shouldn’t the prospect of producing another human being fall under that same category of “Things I Really Want?”
Sometimes, too, we forget that not all women are biologically capable of having children. I suffered an ectopic pregnancy before I had my daughter, and so the year and a half when we were trying to get pregnant after was filled with uncertainty and fear that having children was not in my cards. At first, when people would ask when my husband and I were going to have kids, I would offer a smile and say something funny to somehow defuse the situation. But, later on, I just decided to take a more honest approach: “Actually, I’m not sure if I can have kids.” Then, depending on my mood, I really rub it in by explaining in vivid detail the state of my reproductive system. Because of my own pregnancy journey, I have since restrained myself from asking other couples about their plans to have children. Because frankly, whether they simply do not want to or they cannot, it really is nobody else’s business.