“You must have had a bad childhood.”

Until the year my mother died, she called me on my birthday to tell me this story: “I wasn’t sure I wanted another child after your brother was born. He was a big baby—nine pounds. I didn’t know if I could go through that again. But after my own mother died, I started longing for another child, this time a girl. Several months into the pregnancy with you, they took an x-ray—they did that back then—and the doctor told me the baby had such big hands and feet it was probably going to be another boy. I tried to hide my disappointment.
“When I went into labor, that childbirth was every bit as difficult as the first one. But then I heard, ‘It’s a girl! Nine pounds, all toes and fingers.’ I looked to the heavens and said, “Thank you. I will never ask for anything else. I have my bundle of joy.”
 I never tired of hearing it. My parents grew up in the Depression and lived through the Dust Bowl in Oklahoma where I was born. Those hard times gave my parents perspective. Anything good that happened was a blessing; anything bad could be managed. My mother and father lived to be 94 and 95, respectively.
I wasn’t the perfect child, but they were very nearly the perfect parents. They rolled with punches and knew how to balance boundaries and independence, expectations and creativity. My relationship with my mom was so connected and unconditional I found it almost daunting as I grew older. I worried I might be unable to recreate such a bond. Further, she’d given over her whole life to me. She was the Girl Scout leader, the Bible school superintendent, the aide to the children’s choir at church, the gifted seamstress who made cheerleading outfits and prom dresses, and the talented and hard-working cook who made luscious coconut cream pies and whose fried chicken and gravy were legendary.
What if a child of mine just couldn’t connect with me? Or worse, what if being a mother didn’t bring me the joy it clearly brought my mom? Doubts filled my head when I imagined myself with children. If I chose that life, how would I ever get anything else done? I wanted to do things. I wanted to travel. I wanted to create art. Could I give my entire life to a child as my mother had? And, more importantly, should I? Would it be the right decision for me? Could I be happy as a parent as she so clearly was? Was that the right lifestyle for me? I knew even then it wasn’t. I felt it in my gut. I just knew I would have to walk a different path.