Guest Post by Candyce Pelfrey Kannengieser
I had not always wanted children. I wasn’t born maternal. I did not like minding my younger brothers and I hated babysitting.
I definitely did not want to get pregnant, so at sixteen and still a virgin, I went on birth control pills. I never really went off them until I was married and trying to get pregnant. Certain osteopaths blame long-term birth control use on my infertility, or “poor egg quality.” I think they’re full of shit.
What I do know is that as I watched my mother raise three children, I saw nothing but unhappiness. She did not like being a mother. She had a mantra that she told me (and herself) over and over again; it started when I was maybe twelve or thirteen. She’d say: “Don’t get married. Don’t have kids.”
Every day. All the time. “Don’t get married. Don’t have kids.”
My dad thought it was some kind of joke, though he confessed to my grandmother he thought I was starting to believe it.
I remember my grandmother, she herself a mother of six, pulling me aside one day and telling me that her children were one of the best parts of her life. But by then it was too late. Don’t get married. Don’t have kids. I had internalized the message, not just from my mother’s mantra, but from her obvious misery.
My mother even told me once, “Boys are easier to raise. Less drama.” She never ceased in finding ways to crush my spirit. Ironically, my brothers tortured her in their twenties by going to jail, doing drugs, violent outbursts. Yet, she still doesn’t hate them. After all, the worst one of them had a child. Now my mother has a grandchild – and she never fails to remind me of it. Her cruelty is legendary, first ensuring I was imprinted with no desire to have a family, then chastising me because I don’t.
We don’t see each other often.
I finishing my first graduate degree, got out of an awful relationship, and grew up. At some point in my late twenties I realized that it might be nice to have a partner. A husband, maybe. I was lonely. I didn’t even have a dog. I began to realize I could create my own family, but I wanted true love. I created cleaning spells, scrubbed the floor of my apartment with them, and made my own mantra: “I’m holding out for true love.” Thank God I did. Because when I met my husband, at the age of 31, we fell hard and deep, wildly in love. It was the best time of my life.
Early on, perhaps too early, I told him my dream of having a child. I dreamed of them. Once I dreamed of three small boys, legs and arms like sticks, with straw blonde hair. But I always thought I’d have a girl. At 33, after we had been married for a year, I stopped taking my pills. I got pregnant. I lost the baby.
But I still have the dreams.
About the Author
Candyce Pelfrey Kannengieser is a writer of short fiction, long poems, flash memoir and experiments in prosody. She also teaches English, tends to a dog named Wyatt and is currently working on two projects of mosaic fiction—pieces fitting together to bring a whole work of art into focus.