I have a confession: when taxi drivers try to strike up a conversation with me and I don’t really feel like talking, I tend to just make things up. Most of them ask me if I’m married and/or how many children I have, and the stories kind of just go on from there. They ask their questions, and I hone my skills in yearn weaving.
Last night kind of jumped at me in particular though. He asked me if I had any children, and when I said no, he surprisingly exclaimed “dalaga pa po kayo ma’am???” (“you’re still single, ma’am???”) Not really wanting to discuss my love life with a random stranger at that specific moment, I started telling him about how I’m 30 years old (I’m 27) and I have a boyfriend (I’ve been single for almost a decade) and we’ve been together for 4 years (my longest relationship lasted 16 months and ended in college) but we’re not yet sure if we want to get married or if we even want to have kids at all in the future. In fairness, that part was true. I don’t even know if I want kids or not. (Which has many different reasons in itself but once again, wasn’t in a mood to overshare with a complete stranger) But in any case, it was really interesting how he started trying to politely tell me that I better get a move on because I’m already a certain age and it’s much better for women to start procreating as early as possible.
So here’s the thing. I have polycystic ovary syndrome. I found out a few months ago that both my ovaries have more than a dozen cysts on each one. After hours and hours of research and discussion on forums and even more research, one thing is clear: conceiving a child will never be easy for me. It’s not impossible, and there is still a small chance that it’ll happen without a sitch, but statistically I will have a hard time having kids.
As a woman, no matter what your views are on having kids, this is a heavy blow. It’s one thing to make a conscious decision to not have kids, but it’s another to be told that there’s a chance that you can’t have any. You feel like there’s something wrong with you, that you’re lacking as a woman, and that you suddenly have less to offer the world. It’s a strange feeling to have, walking around like you are a lesser version of the self that you always imagined you were. Twenty-seven years and here I was feeling like I was a freak all this time and that I didn’t know it. (Omg, is this how it feels to find out that you’re a mutant and that you have special powers??? I think so! Except… lame.)
But another thing that happened when I found out about my condition is that it complicated the discussion of having children. Now it isn’t even just about whether I would ever make a conscious decision to have them, but if I’m even willing to go through the treatments and medications and heartache that usually accompanies trying to conceive with this condition. Do I want kids? And if I feel like I do, do I want kids enough?
So being given all of that, what really struck me last night was how it was such a clear thing to this man – I am a woman, if I don’t have children at all, I am just being selfish and that I wasn’t really fulfilling my purpose. It was that simple to him. I’m not a stranger to this kind of thinking, living in a largely patriarchal country like the Philippines means that you’re exposed to this kind of thinking all the time, ironically and laughably mostly coming from men. But it’s different to be confronted with it one on one, isn’t it? To be told that having children is not my choice, it is my purpose, and that my thoughts about not bringing more life into this (already overpopulated) world is selfish. By a man. Who will never even experience the childbirth that he is talking about.
Don’t get me wrong, I love kids. I loooove kids. Babies are the most precious thing in the world, and I truly believe that a new born baby is the only thing in the world that is still good and pure and without fault. The day my nephew came into the world, my whole outlook on life changed, and I finally kind of understood what it meant to have a baby change your life. But do I want one of my own? That’s still up for discussion. And it’s never, ever as simple a discussion as you think it is.
And if anything else, here’s a little piece of advice for all you men out there who find themselves agreeing with this man: