I knew from an early age that I didn’t want to be a birth mother.
There was nothing wrong with my body or my mind. I often dreamt about getting married and was always described as a loving person.
I vividly remember the conversation I had with my father about this when I was a teenager.
I was raised in a Catholic family in Croatia, and a statement like this was rather controversial. To defend my opinion in front of my puzzled, yet highly intellectual father, I stated that there were already too many children in the world who were neglected, abused or orphaned and in need of someone’s love.
And despite my father’s convincing theories about how my natural maternal instincts would eventually lead me to biological motherhood, deep inside I knew this wouldn’t happen. I just knew that I was capable of loving all children and that life would eventually provide me with the opportunity to do so.
As the years went by, this conviction never faltered and in all my relationships, including my first marriage, I insisted on not having children. As this was often met with resistance, I thought that my path might be to adopt. However, during a seven-year single stint in my early 30s, I dropped the idea, as I learned how impossible adoption can be as a single woman. By my late 30s, I was still looking for a relationship and imagined my potential partner having children already. I liked the idea of being a stepmum, and as I have a fabulous relationship with my own stepmother, I had a terrific role model.
As a Buddhist, I love people equally and I worked hard on my inner growth to attract a spiritually aware and emotionally healthy person. And what do you know, it happened when I wasn’t looking for it!
As I sit in our family home with my soulmate and his two little boys playing Legos, I am aware that I am living my dream. I didn’t know it back then, but the universe had a plan for me all along.
I’m an active parent. My contribution to their lives is love, kindness, compassion and wisdom. I will never be their birth mother, nor do I feel that I need to be. All that comes from my heart is a desire to give. I am not obligated, expected or asked to give more. I choose to enjoy their presence. I appreciate the opportunity to mend a wound when there is one, create a space for laughter, and guide them with clarity. I am honoured to be loved by these beautiful little souls, and grateful to my partner for allowing me in.
But more than anything, I am humbled by the wisdom that has guided me all these years. The self-awareness of knowing what I needed to become, even when I didn’t fully understand. I am amazed by how natural it feels to be a stepmum and how unnatural I feel when I imagine conceiving my own child.
We live in an amazing time in history. Even 15 years ago, stories like this would have been rebuked because of the long-held idea that a woman is not complete if she is not a birth mother. I know I’m not alone in this opinion and draw encouragement from women like Jennifer Aniston, who broke her no public comment rule and declared last year that she “is not a mother, and no less a woman.”
But we have a long way to go to as there is still a lot of stigma attached to not being a birth mother. It is our duty, as modern and educated women, to support each other instead of shaming or labeling each other for not conceiving or giving birth. Women like me bring another light to this world. I give all my love to my stepchildren, even though I didn’t give birth to them.
Instead of looking at stepparents as stereotypes or putting adoptive parents under scrutiny, we need to consider how much selfless love we are able to give. It’s one way we can reduced suffering in our world.
Author: Duda Jadrijevic
Image: Jordan Whitt/Unsplash
Editor: Nicole Cameron