I am my mother’s daughter; her mother’s granddaughter; her mother’s great granddaughter. A thread reaches back beyond history, through women’s lives that I cannot conceive of. I am standing at the end of this line.
It always seemed sad to me that women’s names are lost every generation in the West. Men share a name with their fathers and grandfathers and great grandfathers, while women lose their names within their own lifetimes. And yet it always seemed foolish to me, the obsession of patriarchs in period dramas that the family name should live on, that there must be sons. Until now. Suddenly I apprehend it, the breath-taking gravity of the decision to be the last in a line, to be an ending.
Perhaps my brother will have a daughter. Perhaps she will look like me.
Sharing knowledge about motherhood is such a fundamental exchange between women in the same family. There are discussions my mother and I will never have. There are things she will never have to teach me, things I will never have to learn. What to expect during labour, how to breastfeed, whether to co-sleep. If I acquire this knowledge it will be academic, anthropological. Foreign. We will never really share it. There is an angle from which I will never view her relationship to me, a circle I can never close.
She has two sisters. They each have two daughters. They have five daughters between them, and one of those daughters has two daughters more, so far. The branches of the tree extend outwards. We are alone, her and I, on our branch.
So much of how she raised me brought me to this, unintentionally. Unyielding and clear. She taught me to know what I wanted, and what I didn’t, and not to compromise for others (including men, perhaps especially men). She taught me to ignore what other people thought I should want, how I ought to behave, what I ought to like. Her own clarity in these matters lead her to university instead of an early marriage, and to motherhood only much later. She made her choices. I am making mine now.
How strange, to choose at a moment in time that you will never be a certain thing. Instead of “not this year, not now, not yet”, to decide now, at this moment, “never”. There are so few such moments in life. It has such a weight, this decision, unlike anything else. I am surprised by it. I expected it to be simpler.
And yet there is simplicity to it. I do not want to be a mother. There is no place in my life for a child, nor does a place emerge in any future life I can imagine wanting to have. Even if I wanted children desperately, I would not be willing to accept the sacrifices associated with having them in this society, where motherhood still costs so much more than it should. In spite of the weight and the complexity of this decision, I am unconflicted.
I am my mother’s daughter, and the last of my line.