When I was still a young child, my parents toyed briefly with the idea of having more children. More specifically, my biological father tried to coerce my mother into popping out another babe.
My mother refused and put her foot down, but he was so insistent that my mother finally sat me down for a serious conversation.
Guarding the Inheritance
“Do you want a baby brother or sister?” she asked, in earnest.
“No!” I said quickly. “I don’t want any.”
Amused by how quickly I shot the idea down, she asked me, “Why?”
I pouted and lifted my chin in open defiance. “I don’t want to share my inheritance!”
At the time, I had no idea what that inheritance would be, and now, I’m not sure why that even crossed my mind at such a young age.
Nevertheless, my mother honoured my request and raised me as an only child. When she became a single mother a decade later, she thanked me a thousand times for ensuring she stuck to that decision.
Catching the Babies
Years later, when I was nineteen years old, my first friend became pregnant. By this, I mean, she was the first friend my own age who ‘caught the babies’ – as my best friend and I termed it.
As we grew older, more and more of our friends caught the babies. It had the contagion of the influenza. Before long, there were only a handful of friends I had gone to school with, who did not have children. My childless friends and I looked on in wonder.
When I turned 21 years old, I called my mother from my college apartment. “What the hell were you thinking?” I asked her.
She laughed. “What are you talking about?”
“What could ever convince you to have a child at 21??? I would never do such a ridiculous thing.”
My mother laughed again and said, “Good. Don’t have any! Maybe ever.”
When I graduated, found a job, and started to enjoy my young adult years, I noticed a huge shift in societal expectations of me. Suddenly, as a college graduate at 22, there was the expectation that I should be married, that I should want kids, that I should have kids.
A few months later, my boyfriend at the time whisked me off on a weekend trip to a fancy five-star hotel and treated me to a lazy beach day and fine Italian dining. Then after one too many drinks, he professed his undying love, and asked me to marry him.
I told him no, and a few weeks later, the relationship was done. He is now married to the very woman he spent our relationship complaining about. She was older, and ready for marriage – and I was not.
He was not the only disappointed one.
“You’re selfish,” men often tell me. “A woman like you – your beauty, your intelligence – your genes are the kind we need reproduced in society. How can you keep them to yourself?”
If I had a dollar for every time I heard that, I probably wouldn’t be freelancing today…
One day, I went to visit my grand-aunt in my hometown of German Town, Jamaica. I had not seen her in years, and she was delighted to know that I had graduated with honours from college, that I was employed, and that I was traveling. She was not delighted to know I had no children and no husband.
“What are you waiting on?” she asked me, incredulously. “This is the best time to have them, while you’re still young.”
She did not laugh with me. “I’m serious.”
“And who will take care of them?” I asked her. “When I have them, I’ll be sure to drop them off on your doorstep.”
She didn’t find that funny, either, and began to whisper in concerned tones with my mother.
“She doesn’t want kids,” Mom said, proudly.
“And that doesn’t bother you?”.
“No, it’s fine by me; I don’t want to be a grandmother, either.”
Coming to Terms
A few months after my mother returned to America, I called her. I had been thinking a lot lately about my life and where it was headed.
“I can’t picture myself ever getting married or having kids,” I told her. “When I think of my life ten years from now, I see myself living in a great apartment in the city, with an amazing skyline view. And it is empty. And I am happy.
“It’s not that I want that life,” I explained. “But when I look at my decisions and I think about the things I want, I can’t see it turning out any other way.”
“Your father and I have discussed that,” she admitted. “We don’t think you ever will, either.”
“It sounds like absolute bliss to me,” I confessed, “but I wonder if my 35 and 50 year-old self will agree. Or will they despise the decisions I’ve made in my youth?”
Ironically, two years later I was married.
Presented with Heirlooms
In the year leading up to my marriage, I was presented with one of the family heirlooms.
Though my family is by no means wealthy, there are certain assets that have passed through the family over the years. They are perfectly worthless now unless I sell them, to be sure, but could be a source of fortune for me 10 years from now, or for a hypothetical child in 30.
When I got married, my mother also presented me with a second heirloom: an extravagant wedding ring from her first marriage. My biological father had sent threats and tried to move mountains to get that ring back, but mom held on to it.
We joked that it was the one good thing from her marriage; and now it’s mine.
But What Legacy..?
There were other things I got for getting married. For starters: family, friends, and strangers began to wonder and ask, When’s the baby coming?
“What baby?” I often wonder. “The cat, you mean?” Certainly, they can’t mean anything else. What could be better – for me anyway – than an empty womb?
My stepfather, who fully supports my decision, nonetheless asked me what was the point of heirlooms without heirs. I am the last of the line of eldest daughters in a family that has been a matriarchy since my great-grandmother, and perhaps before.
The women make the decisions in our family, and the women fund them whatever their cost. The women are the educated ones, and the main breadwinners; and so, the women usually inherit all.
Until writing The Moreau Witches, I had not thought of this before, or even noticed a similarity between the fictional Moreau family, and my own. But I suppose subconsciously, the knowledge was there.
So, my stepfather poses a valid question: After my mother and I, what next? And yet, I can’t say I care, or that I feel any more moved to continue the family legacy in the form of something that walks, and talks, and breathes, and moves, and needs tuition money for four to eight years.
In fact, the very thought of having a child fills me with absolute dread.
Unprepared and Unwilling
A big part of that dread comes from the fact that I am definitely not in a place in my life where I would even dream of having kids, and my reasons are innumerable.
After surviving four heart conditions in my 27 years, I’m not sure I would even survive pregnancy. It’s not something I ever cared enough to ask a doctor, and probably won’t bother myself with asking any time soon. Perhaps, I already know the answer.
Along with that, having given up everything, and moved to a new country, I’m starting over from scratch. I have to build my credit from scratch, start saving from scratch, build up work experience with companies American employers can actually recognise from scratch.
I have no business throwing a child into the mix.
Throw Out. Replace. Repeat.
And then I think of my parents’ marriage, and how two decades ended in fire and brimstone. But more importantly, I think of the endless discomfort and verbal abuse my mother faced, while having to play nice with a psychopath, because he had fathered her child.
Of course, no one goes into marriage expecting these things. My mother certainly did not, nor did I. And yet… these things happen to women every single day, all around the world.
I, even more so than my mother, come from a generation where people do not fix things. They simply replace them and walk away.
My generation keeps their cell phones longer than they keep their relationships, which is saying quite a bit considering consumerist culture.
People say in time, I may very well cast doubt aside and change my mind. My biological clock will start ticking, baby fever will take a hold of me, and before long, I will have caught the babies.
Perhaps they are right, and perhaps not. What I do know is that the matriarchal line in my family may very well end with me. And you know what? Somehow, I’ve made my peace with that.