It starts at the gentle age of 18. This is when they start to ask, “Do you have a boyfriend?” and “Are you getting married?” “They” are annoying family members, nosy neighbors and people whose only purpose in life was to reproduce and feel obliged to impose their views on others.
I was in the midst of my puberty going through the activist phase and to every provocative question of that kind I responded with a loud, “I’M NEVER GETTING MARRIED AND I’M NEVER HAVING KIDS!” I was no stranger to the idea of focusing solely and exclusively on the career and was ready to spread my wings and settle somewhere across the ocean after graduating from college. Somehow I believed that good opportunities were everywhere but here. These were rebellious times with strict rules: this is a man’s world but women run it; no man will open doors for me; hold my coat or get me pregnant. Some would say girl power at its best (or worst?).This was perhaps my way of giving the middle finger to patriarchal Balkan society – a society determined to downgrade the ability for women to provide for themselves.
When I entered my 20’s something slightly changed. I became comfortable with my surroundings, fell in love with my hometown and met new friends who made the very idea of leaving completely unbearable. Men stopped being enemies of women’s freedom and babies in strollers started to look really cute. But career driven ice queen was still here, on a prowl and more focused than ever.
And then came the summer of 2010. Call it stress, lack of care for your own health, call it how you want it - all of a sudden I found myself in a twirl of unexpected. Now, one year on, I’m still trying to erase the memories of endless visits to hospitals and five wrong diagnoses. My own body turned against me, as is always the case with autoimmune diseases. Somewhere along the line, after a long explanation of how to deal with this condition, one of my doctors asked when I planned to have my first pregnancy. “Um, when I hit 35”, I said with the confidence of someone who had it all mapped out and wasn’t willing to give up on it. “No, no, no…” he shook his head with disapproval, “you have to have your first child before you’re 30.” Shock. This was not coming from an annoying cousin or nosy neighbor; this was coming from an expert giving me an honest opinion.
There I was, 25 years old with expiration date, my existence defined by the activity of my raging thyroid. I experienced a small panic attack as visions of my possible near future flashed before my eyes. Wait, what? No! I have plans! Very well thought out plans waiting to be brought to life, and none of them include bringing a child into the world. Then again, the idea that my stubborn quasi-feminist behavior could cost me a lifetime of joy wasn’t acceptable. “There is no finer investment for any community than putting milk into babies” Winston Churchill once said. Who am I to disagree with the mighty authority that is Warlord?
The deadline was here. Five years to get a decent job, move out and find the perfect mate; five years to do it properly; five years to fulfill what is (according to someone else’s standards) a woman’s ultimate purpose. Faced with this choice, I decided the best thing to do is not to make a choice at all. No choices, no regrets. I’m not willing to compromise with my own principles and values and at the same time I will not be decisive about anything until the time comes to do so.
Nowadays, my mothering instinct is pretty strong but I have chosen to ignore it until I create a stable living environment for myself. I have been compensating for it by pushing my cousin’s wife to finally have a child that I could smother with love. Those requests are politely denied. What a waste of good genetic material.
The article was originally written in English.
Photo credit: Kate Cox
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