When I was 18, I went to my (then) general physician with a specific request: I'd like to have a hysterectomy so that I will not have children.
Now please note, I was 18, I was not sexually active, and I was not worldly in the least. Also, please note, I did not say I didn't want to get pregnant. I was very specific: I did not want to have children. There's a difference. I may not have been worldly, but I knew what I meant.
The doctor looked at me, with very keen interest, for several moments, and then said, "Well, you're too young to make that decision. I think you should wait until you're older." To which I replied, "Being older won't make any difference. I don't want to have children." He was adamant, however, and refused to indulge me. I left his office feeling very frustrated.
Parenthood was never something I ever saw in my future. It was never a concept I ever entertained. I never saw myself as a parent, nor saw myself bearing children (actually, that thought terrified me, quite frankly). I never got any kind of warm, fuzzy feelings over the thought of being pregnant and having a living being growing inside me. I couldn't even get my brain to reach that point. Nope. No kids. Ever.
To be honest, I had huge fears where raising children was concerned. To be 18, that young, and to think far enough ahead that I believed, understood, that having children was not something I should do, well, looking back on it, that doesn't surprise me. I've always been very forward-looking. Yet there's a part of me that is astonished that, at that age, I was able to surmise that, quite possibly, I should not be a parent.
There were two reasons, that I can recall, that led me to that decision, and I don't accurately remember which was the more telling: 1. I'd been abused, and 2. There were already enough children in the world, and not enough homes for all of them. At the age of 18, I was just starting to come to grips with my own childhood (and that would play out for years to come), so my understanding of the cycle of abuse was not yet fully formed. It was only later in life that I came to understand what that meant. But I knew, innately, that I must not bear children, or, to be more concise, I must not raise them.
Now, if I'm being honest, I can see how flawed my reasoning has been, to an extent. In hindsight, certainly. But who I was then, and up until I was, what, 35? I doubt I would have been the parent I possibly could be now. To be frank, I am in awe of those people who are good parents. Parenthood humbles me. It is something I have never experienced, and when I see it executed well, I am literally in awe. To raise a child, to take responsibility for a human life, and raise that little person to be (hopefully) the best they can be, is something I cannot conceive of. My (later realized) fear of perpetuating a cycle of violence was not without merit, but I see now how I could possibly have been a fine parent. Indeed, some people who know me well have said they thought I would be an excellent parent. At times, I've believed that. I respect children, and I do enjoy most of them, and I get along well with most. I am not overly indulgent with children, I expect good behaviour, and have no tolerance for bad behaviour. And hey, if you're thinking now I have nothing to back that up with, I have nieces and nephews and various kids I've babysat who can vouch for me.
What I'm getting at here is that I made a choice at a very young age, and while it was rather vague then, it came to be much less so as I got older, and my perception never changed. I still stand by that decision. Parenthood confounds me, as much as it astonishes me. I am perpetually in awe of those who choose (rightly or wrongly) to have children, and more so of those who parent well. But I will never experience that. And while there is a part of me, deep down, that truly aches, when I think of being a parent, of having a child of my own, to love, and to be loved by, I know what I've denied myself. And while I may (though not likely) regret that, I will always know that I made a choice.
And for that, at least, I am grateful.