It was a random day, probably a Sunday. I was sitting in the kitchen with my mother. I was about 21 years old, still teaching eighth grade English at Bais Yaakov of Boro Park. I hadn’t started college yet.
Someone must have just given birth, maybe we were discussing a bris or a kiddush. I’m not sure how we got to the topic of childbirth.
But in any case, I mentioned that the idea of giving birth freaked me out.
“Oh, you’ll be fine,” my mother said. “Sure, it’s scary, but once you’re pregnant and once you’re in labor, you’ll be fine. You always worry too much before things even happen.”
“No, I don’t mean I’m afraid of the birth,” I said. “I mean, I have crazy cramps every month. I have a pretty good idea of what dealing with pain is like.”
“So what freaks you out about it?”
“The idea of another life living inside of me – a baby actually growing inside of my own body – brr.” I shuddered.
My mother looked at me for a long minute.
“You’re reading too many of those JD Robb books.”
I mean, she had a point. I was obsessed with JD Robb’s In Death series at that point (Nora Roberts’ alter-ego). And Eve Dallas, the kick-ass female cop in the future, was perturbed by most social interactions and was explicitly disgusted at the thought of an “alien” growing inside of her.
For the time being, I was quiet, I didn’t argue back. I did, after all, have a history of relating too strongly to characters in books (my siblings used to love catching me out when I used lines that I’d lifted directly from books I’d been reading). Maybe this wasn’t my own thought? Maybe I was just feeling too much identification with Eve Dallas?
Maybe I really did want kids?
I didn’t tell my mother that the other reason I didn’t want kids was because I thought I’d make a terrible mother.
Years later, I realized that Eve Dallas did give me the words to express even that tiny bit of it (although it was so much more).
At the time I just didn’t know how to say “yes, she gave me the words to say it, but that thought is my own too.”
Partly because I didn’t have the concept of books giving you words to say what you already want to say rather than putting ideas in your head. Now, having studied enough literature and pedagogy, I understand that concept.
And partly because I knew that my mother would say I think it’s my own idea, but it’s really not…