As long as I can remember I have loved and admired children. Even when I was still a child myself I enjoyed playing with kids that were younger than me. Now for more than 5 years I’ve been babysitting a lot and I really thrived on it. And, what is more important, I always felt that the children enjoyed being with me. I might sometimes have problems interacting with people who are my age, but with children I always felt very natural and comfortable, and certain in my actions. Although many parts of my plan for life were and are blurry and unsteady, having children always seemed to be something I really wanted.
This idea was there, but not consciously present, until I was diagnosed with an ovarian cyst that threatened my fertility. This discovery confronted me directly with a topic that had until that point only been a faraway idea. I was eighteen at that time, and overwhelmed with the seriousness of the situation that might decide over big parts of my life. Luckily, the surgery was successful and I kept both of my ovaries. But three things stayed from this affair: First, two small scars on my belly; second, a fear that emerges from time to time that this might happen to me again; and third, the certainty that I would be deeply unhappy if I could not have children myself.
It happened only last year that I began to question the idea of having children in general. When I saw parents with their children, or when I was reflecting on the times with the kids I looked after at the time, I suddenly had an oppressive feeling. It seemed as if I had developed an awareness of the enormous responsibility one has to bear when dealing with children, or even having children oneself. I could suddenly understand my sister, who had always been more cautious and less euphoric than I was about playing and caring for the children in our family.
Soon after these doubts had arisen, I spent an afternoon with my family, including my cousin and her son Leo, who was then almost three years old. While everyone sat down to have coffee, I offered to continue playing with Leo meanwhile in order for his mother and grandmother to relax and give them some time for themselves. This was a familiar scenario; I did not mind at all not being part of the coffee round and Leo knew and trusted me enough so that he would stay with me. My parents had bought a new big sofa then, and Leo was excited about it. He climbed the backrest and jumped down on the seat, with me holding his hand for stability. We did that about thirty times and had great fun, but then he failed to balance one of his jumps and fell backwards, hitting his neck on the backrest. He began to cry for his mother and I took him to her, but suddenly he got silent and stopped breathing. He was winding his head and rolled his eyes. Leo’s grandmother, who had had three children herself, was quick-thinking and decided to spill cold water on him, which actually brought him back to consciousness again. All of this probably didn’t last more than a minute, but for me, being unable to do anything and freaking out, it felt like forever. Leo was as happy as before soon afterwards and didn’t show any sign of an injury, but I was really shaken. I kept asking if we could take him to hospital to make sure everything is ok (which they refused as he acted very normally), and couldn’t stop crying for hours. My relatives were then probably equally worried about me as they were about Leo. He himself came to me and said, “Don’t cry, Wilma!”
Since then, I have very mixed feelings about having children. How can one ever carry the responsibility for creating and caring for a life? How can you protect a life in a world that is so dangerous, and at the same time let your children simply live and explore and grow? I know that these questions are super unoriginal, but I guess they still bother me.