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-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.
84 thoughts on “Heirlooms without Heirs”
Haha you read and you learn. I didn’t even know you were married. Now I’m gonna search for a post to see how the lucky guy popped the question and all those deets or perhaps you kept them private and chose not to write. Anyway, girl I feel you on this post even though I want children I guess.. I’ve always sort of seen them in my life’s plan. A daughter by about age 26 then a son a few years after but the older I get is the less appealing that sounds. I’m 4 years away from 26 but I sure as hell don’t want that responsibility any time soon (nor have a stable enough partner for that to happen anyway). I’ve spent all my teenage years babysitting my brother (legit mixing baby feeds, changing diapers etc. on my own at 12-13) when my mom’s at work or school since I’m from a single parent fam with virtually no extended family support so I’ve seen and dealt with enough “parenting” to last me a decade. All I want right now is to move out on my own, travel, discover life and be selfish for a few years. No catching babies ‘roun here
Haha, read and learn indeed. I don’t have a post up about it. He didn’t want me to leave the US in 2015, so it was basically a marry him and stay or go home and he was done with the relationship kind of ultimatum I was faced with 😂 Glad I chose to stay.
Kids are not for me. I have never seen one and thought “gee, I want one of those”. Just not a fan. And I’m 28.
Awww 🙂 that’s really sweet. And yes, I completely understand. Kids can be nice but ughh.. the process isn’t always worth it.
Kids are nicest when they’re not mine, I’ve learned lololololololol
Hi Shadow! haha.
I love this, feeling like I’m getting to know you better. I can’t profess to relate as I myself has wanted to “catch the babies” since I was a teenager. In my ‘life plan’ (for some reason, that’s particularly hilarious to me now) I was going to catch my first baby by 23. Pfffbbt! Ha! Then it was 25. Again, pbfftt! The further I got on the more I realized how expensive it was and settled for ‘before 30’. Now that I have caught a baby at 27 after trying a good year, I feel my family is complete. No more catching babies if I can help it. So I did change my mind lol. And my mom makes jabs all the time until she finally said, “you’re done aren’t you?”. I just smirked. She has 4 daughters, one too young to decide but of the 3 (27, 23, 16) the other 2 vocally expressed they aren’t interested. Maybe they’ll change their minds, I don’t know. But it’s their choice. My daughter is 4 months old and has been nicknamed ‘one grand’ by all her grandparents. It’s kind of funny. My point in all of that was my view changed a little, not a lot and you reserve the right to not change your mind, or to do just that.
P.S. I’m sure you can tell, I’m a huge fan of the term ‘catching babies’ lol.
Haha. Glad you like our term “catching the babies”. I was a little worried mothers might take offense to our empty-womb-humor.
This is definitely a very personal post I went back and forth with myself about posting. But what’s a personal blog without honest truths, right? I’ve always been candid and more blunt than it’s worth being – haha. Imagine the partner who has to deal with it. Poor guy.
I have had periods in my life where I considered having a kid, but it was always met with anxiety. I felt pressured by my partner or family members. After a month or two each time, I would just shrug it off and say forget that.
When I was a kid, I wanted kids. When I turned 14, something changed – and that was the end of that. I want to travel and focus on my career. It’s hard enough being independently successful as a woman in a marriage. I can’t imagine how much strain a kid would put on that. Maybe I’m selfish, but at least I’m smart enough not to include a kid in the self-focused mix lol
All the best to you and your family. I’m sure you made the right decision for you.
Shadow is trying to sniff the screen while I type this, so I’m assuming he’s trying to say hello.
No… never mind. He’s playing football with my tangerine. ~_~
Fantastic post. This topic seems to be being visited more and more and better yet discussed. My family is also Matriarchal in nature and my daughter has also chosen not to have children which will make here the last of the line too. The pressure, comments and in some cases appalling attitudes she has faced by being open and honest about this really opened my eyes to some of the beliefs and attitudes of our society. I think it’s great that this is getting some airplay. We need to realise that every woman has the right to her own body and decisions and it’s none of our business really. The common comeback of its really a decision for both partners to make doesn’t stand up if the woman in question is not up for that job – because you have just disregarded the womans wants and needs completely. Bravo to all the women brave enough to admit this out loud .. I have seen how tough that honesty can be.
Thank you. I’m glad your daughter is taking that decision into her own hands.
I believe when it comes to having kids, this is something a couple should discuss before commitment or marriage. If they can’t agree then that’s cause for a breakup.
It’s a couple’s decision to have kids. It’s a woman’s decisions not to have any. If you understand my meaning. Not sure that makes good sense.
Thanks again for reading and commenting. May our matriarchies live in some other way.
I think every woman of this generation goes through the pressure by society. I for one find that those pressuring me are not my parents but friends and its annoying at times. I guess my folks know me quite better than and they accept me as i am.The thing is through other experiences i have seen that trying to fit in societies expectations will just leave one very frustrated if its meant to be it will happen kids or marriage sometimes its not one’s path in life
Yes, I agree. Unfortunately a lot of people embark on the path before realising it’s not what they wanted or needed to find happiness.
Believe it or not, men can get this kind of pressure, too. I am the youngest of 5 (all males) and I can’t tell you how many times I was asked “when are you going to settle down and get married (and have kids)”. This was mostly coming from my mother, even though the oldest three already had children – all girls. When my brother closest to me got married, his first born was a boy, and I never heard that question again!
I’ve seen enough people who have grown up unwanted by the parents. If you don’t truly want children, and aren’t committed for the duration, don’t have them.
Yes, men do get that pressure too, I’m sure. I suppose it’s more understandable when you don’t comply though. We have a womb, so in a lot of people’s eyes, we have no excuse. God’s forbid, you’re married too…
More people need to stand up to that pressure though. Our parents and other family members shouldn’t control our womb anymore than the government should. Those are choices women, and couples, should make for themselves.
A great post from a point of view we don’t hear often enough. Far too many people have children who shouldn’t. Every child should be planned, wanted, loved, and born into a family with enough resources to provide for adequate care and nurturing. Thanks for articulately sharing your courage and wisdom.
Thank you! I agree. And it’s not just about the kids, but the relationship between the people who made them as well. That’s what scares me, even more so than the children themselves. This isn’t a generation that values longevity in anything.
Your post resonated with me. As a single woman in her early forties, I have always mulled about this question. I always wanted kids but it never happened. And I owe it to destiny. I am more of a flowing person. Not sure, where your journey will take you but I do agree with you that you cannot have a child to continue a legacy. Children are born out of love and to be loved.
Thank you Priya! Too often does society and family and husbands try to coerce women into taking on roles they don’t want, for their own benefit. A child is a lifetime commitment! – and one people should take more seriously, perhaps by not having any at all.
Thanks so much for reading and commenting, and I’m glad my post resonated with you 🙂