“Oh, maybe someday,” used to be my go-to response when someone asked me if I wanted kids. And you know what? It was a flat-out lie, every single time. You see, I’ve wanted kids for as long as I can remember. But, somewhere along the way, I decided my maternal desire should be hidden. Why would I hide a part of myself? Great question, but that’s what I did for many, many years.
It’s hard to pinpoint when I turned into a canned, robotic version of myself. I think it was probably right around my senior year of high school. Growing up, I had quite a few beautiful friends and they all got a lot of attention from boys. On the other hand, I didn’t get as much attention, at least not for the way I looked. I quickly learned that I could make up for what I lacked in looks by having a “good personality.” It was simple — if I did or said something that other people seemed to like, I would just do that thing more. Voila! Attention! I told jokes that I knew people thought were funny; I did people lots of favors; I gave everything to be a good friend. I washed my hair with herbal essences because people loved the way it smelled, and I made fun of myself constantly, because people always laughed. If I said something and someone told me it was weird, I would make a note to myself to never say something like that again. When I started waiting tables at 18, my sense of what made people uncomfortable and what didn’t became more refined. If someone was made to feel even slightly uncomfortable by something I said or did, I would just stop saying that sort of thing altogether. And so, I turned off, or at least turned down, large parts of myself. I purposefully dimmed my light — for the benefit of others — and I operated like that for years and years and years.
When I finally started getting attention from boys for the way I looked, it totally blindsided me. I had lost about 40 pounds by going on a gluten-free diet and all of a sudden men were hitting on me, asking me out, flirting with me. I had worked so long and hard on being a “cool girl” and now men wanted to have sex with me, too!? Should I continue to be cool? Yes. Yes, I should, is what I decided. And now that I had this male attention, I tried to gauge what it was that men liked and what they didn’t like. The one major thing that I noticed most men freaking out about was the subject of babies, so my cookie-cutter answer to the question “Do you want kids?” was born. It wasn’t the only thing that I hid my true opinion about, but it was a big one. I knew I was lying, not only to whomever I was dating at the time, but also to myself. But if you asked me about it, my answer was, “Oh, maybe someday”.
The problem with lying to yourself and those around you is that you lose yourself. I told people what they wanted to hear for so long that I no longer knew what it was that I wanted, and this didn’t feel good. For over a decade, I would go to my job as a waitress; I would smile and put on my fake personality; and I would leave with loads of cash and zero sense of myself. I would go on dates or even be in full-on relationships, and I’d be wearing my fake personality. The longer I did it, the harder it got. If a table didn’t like me or a guy didn’t ask me on a second date or a friend got mad at me or a boyfriend broke up with me, I would be devastated. I would ask myself, “What did I do wrong? What did they need from me that I didn’t give them? What is wrong with me? What can I change about myself so that this won’t happen again?” I needed to do better, I needed to be better.
Right before my 33rd birthday, I decided that I needed to find some help. I was sad and. most of the time, I had no idea why. I had a job, I had a boyfriend, I had friends, I had family who loved me, but I felt sad all the time. With that sadness came guilt, guilt over the things I did, guilt over the way I acted, guilt over not knowing what I wanted, guilt over being sad. Why can’t I be happy? Why can’t I be appreciative? Why do I feel anxious and depressed all the time? And my answer to all of those questions was, ‘because you’re terrible, Ginger. You’re nobody.’
Lucky for me, I was able to find an amazing therapist who was so very kind to me, but more importantly, taught me to be kind to myself. She helped me to realize that I wasn’t nobody at all — I was just scared to show who I was. I had desires; I had dreams; I had a personality. They were just buried beneath years of abuse, mostly from myself. I was my own worst enemy. I learned that the negative voices in my head will never go away, but I can battle them with positive voices. I learned to stick up for myself, to myself.
While I was learning to be nice to myself, I also learned to trust myself more. My dreams and desires weren’t meaningless things that should be hidden from everyone. They were there for a reason, and if you’re reading this, your dreams and desires mean something to you, too. During this exploration of my desires, I realized that I didn’t want to be a waitress anymore. I wanted to write and create and have days where I didn’t have to fake it. I also realized that I had a strong maternal desire, I always had. I learned that if I didn’t start being honest with myself and others about these desires, they were going to bubble up inside of me until I lost my mind. This might sound overly dramatic, but it felt like I was going to explode.
I remember when I finally got the courage to have a serious conversation with my then-boyfriend about my maternal desire. I went over what I was going to say about a hundred times in my head. Then I told him something along the lines of, “I feel like I need to be really honest with you. I want to have kids. I want to get married, too, but I really want kids. I always have, and I’m getting older. It feels like there’s a portion of my heart that is reserved for my unborn children and it’s not accessible with any other love.”
Unfortunately, this scared him. He told me he had to think about it. The next several months felt like a tug of war, with each of us pushing the other away and then pulling them back when it started to feel too far. We should’ve just been honest right then and there that we were on different pages, but these things are hard to do when you care about someone. At one point, I even reverted back to my old ways of telling people what they want to hear and told him that maybe I could be happy without children, as long as we entertained a lot. Another lie.
Looking back, I can’t believe I put myself through such a torturous limbo period. I finally knew what I wanted and had the courage to speak up about it, but it scared people, most of all my boyfriend. I was now carrying around these truths of mine, but I didn’t really have anywhere to plant them. I guess I was hoping he would come around, he would realize that we should make babies and then we would and everything would be better. I was waiting for that to happen. I was putting my desires on hold, which I thought was slightly better than hiding them completely.
I was wrong. The day he broke up with me I found myself sitting in my car breaking down, not knowing where to go or who to call or what to do. It felt as though being honest about my feelings was ruining my life. I was mad, mostly at myself. I called my mom and shouted through sobs, “My maternal desire just made me lose the most important person in my life! Why is it here? Why do I have it? What is the point of being honest about it?” She tried to calm me down that day and for months afterwards by telling me that my desires were valid and I shouldn’t feel bad about them. It took me a long time to agree with her.
During the time after my breakup, with the help of my therapist, my friends and my family, I realized that maybe this was all happening for a reason. Maybe this was paving the way for me to finally be my true self. I felt like shit most days, but I just kept trying to be honest about my feelings.
That’s when I started dating Matt the DJ. I was this raw version of myself and, for some reason, he made me feel safe. He’s the only person I’ve ever dated that I didn’t hold back from. I told him from the get-go that I wanted kids; I hated my job; I felt lost, I wanted to write more, even though it scared me; I missed my family; I often drank too much because I just couldn’t hang … I was brutally honest with him. And you know what? It didn’t scare him at all. It felt so good to finally be 100 percent of myself. I’ll always be thankful to him for that.
You know how they say that the universe rewards courage and action? I’m here to tell you that I now believe this to be true. How do I know? Because a year ago I was miserable, heartbroken, confused and lost. The very best thing I could do was to show up for myself every day, to feel all the things I was feeling, to be honest, to be vulnerable. I got to the point where I just couldn’t fake it for the benefit of others anymore, I got to the point where I needed and wanted to get to know myself. I got to the point where I wanted to let my feelings guide me instead of the feelings of others. And I did (Somehow, I did it.) It was fucking hard, one of the hardest parts being that I had to admit that I had this maternal desire living inside of me, and it wasn’t going away. Admitting that felt like it made my life crumble around me. Admitting that meant I had to break up with someone I cared about, and move out of the home we shared. All that time I spent reflecting on what actually mattered to me made me realize that I also couldn’t keep doing my job, and I couldn’t keep living my life the way I was. To realize all of these things in such a short time meant I had to listen to my gut, I had to trust myself, and that was something I wasn’t familiar with.
But, I did it anyway. I survived that breakup; I quit that job; I moved home; I started dating Matt, even though I worried about people judging me; I started writing for the newspaper, even though I worried about people judging me; I changed my diet, my perspective, my daily routine; I changed almost everything. And I did all of it simply because it felt right. I trusted myself, no matter how hard it was to do so.
It may sound simple, but listening to myself and treating myself with kindness has literally changed my life in less than a year. And the rewards for loving myself? Well, they are aplenty. I now get to share my life with this amazing man, Matt the DJ, who loves me for exactly who I really am and is crazy enough to want to marry me. I also just accepted a full-time job as a reporter at the newspaper, which I can hardly believe is true, because it means that I’m going to get paid a decent wage to write things, and I don’t have to wait tables anymore. But, my biggest reward of all is that there is a BABY growing inside of me — a baby whose parents love each other, but also love themselves; a baby who is already changing me and making me better; a baby who is making a dream that I thought would never come true, come true. With each passing day, I can feel that part of my heart that I had reserved for my unborn child warming up and swelling. So I’m here to tell you, listen to yourself! Be kind to yourself! Your dreams and desires live inside of you for a reason: let them out; give them a chance to surprise you.