I grew up learning that I would marry and have children. It's what my mother did, her mother before her, aunts, cousins, friends.
I did other things. I went to graduate school, I got a Ph.D., I started a career. I never made a statement like "I choose not to get married and have children." I just didn't do it. Some relationships ended as they should, some were rejected for bad reasons--but never for a principled reason like "I choose not to get married and have children."
In my early 40s, when my biological clock alarmed me, I had a period of wistfulness about it. And then I let it go. I would love other people's children. I would be the Auntie Mame for my brother's family. It would be glamorous and I would be unfettered.
But every once in a while, something like this happens:
I go to my trainer's home gym at 6:30 AM. It's dark, save for her studio in the basement. We whisper on the way down the stairs, shut the door and then turn our attention to strength and balance.
Then I hear muted little feet thud to the floor, one set after another, from three different rooms upstairs. I hear whimpering dogs, the dad's resonant voice through the floor joists.
When I come up from the basement, Mattie, 3, is sitting at the top stair, wrapped in a pink blankie, hair swirled, sleep in her eyes, a baby-husky morning voice saying "yes" to my "are you waking up now, Mattie?"
And I am knocked over by a wave of crushing grief between patting her arm, righting myself, and opening the door out into my world and new daylight.