Are you all fans of the ‘Dear Sugar’ podcast? It is incredible. Listeners write in anonymously to hosts Cheryl Strayed and Steve Almond. The topics are usually pretty heavy, but I find it fascinating to hear Cheryl and Steve’s advice. They really know their stuff. Their answers are compassionate, poignant, well-thought-out, and encouraging.
A few years ago, there was a letter from a 41 year old man asking Cheryl and Steve for advice on whether or not his partner and him should have children. They love their childless life, but could also see themselves loving a life with children.
We are at a unique place in history where birth control is increasingly safer, affordable, and reliable (YAY!). Even though some folks still aren’t on the birth control wagon (for reasons I will never fathom), it is more and more available and empowering us women to make choices about our careers, lives, and families.
This puts us in a puzzling/unnerving/humbling predicament. If you do choose to have children, when should you start trying? What if it takes longer than expected? What if you need help? What if you get pregnant and then don’t feel ready? What if you don’t get pregnant and are now more upset knowing than when you didn’t know? If you choose not to have children, will you regret it later in life when it’s too late? The questions, and scenarios, are endless.
Since becoming pregnant, I have thought about this quite a bit. It is an exciting time, but also a terrifying one. Our lives are about to change dramatically. Several of my friends are going through this decision-making-process right now. We are all at different stages and doubting and wondering ‘is this the right time?’ It turns out there may never be a right time: The amazing advice they give this 41 year old gave me comfort and solace knowing that people struggle with this decision ‘to try’, and the unpredictable aftereffects, everywhere. ‘Dear Sugar’ reminds us that whichever path you choose there will be loss. You can’t have two different lives. We are forced, every. single. day, to make decisions that alter our lives and that is a scary thought.
Their words of wisdom end with this line: “I’ll never know and neither will you of the life you don’t choose. We’ll only know that whatever that sister life was, it was important and beautiful and not ours. It was the ghost ship that didn’t carry us. There’s nothing to do but salute it from the shore.”
*SO* many feeeeelings. This pertains to countless situations in our lives– not just about children. You could be struggling with career decisions, where to live, what job to take, etc., etc. We can only plan so much, and for those of us who love planning, it’s a tough lesson to learn.
Photo of Yosemite Park, California. Source unknown.