True! — aging — very, very dreadfully aging I had been and am; but why will you say that I must have a child? I have seen so many babies from heaven and on the earth. I have seen so many from hell. How, then, am I mad? It is impossible to say how first the idea entered my brain; but once I chose not to conceive, other people’s opinions haunted me day and night.
Upon my 35th year, I was more than usually cautious in opening the door to discussing my reproductive choices. Never before that time had I felt the extent of my own powers — of my sagacity as I watched my exhausted friends drag themselves around town, covered in goldfish cracker dust and spit-up while I rose from slumber each day with hours to be filled lazily. I could scarcely contain my feelings of triumph. People would press me for details, inquiring about when I, too, would be gestating and asked if I was jealous of my friends who had become mommies. The topic of conversation sprang up, and they’d cry out, “Why not?” I kept quite still and said nothing. I knew what these people felt, and pitied them, although I chuckled at heart. They had been saying to themselves, “Once she sees everyone else bearing children, she will too” or “Surely she will change her mind.” And yet, I was unmoved. While occasionally I would hear the dull ticking of what I presumed was my own biological clock, it was such a low sound — much such a sound as a watch makes when enveloped in cotton. When I took leave from being around people who wished for me to have children, the sound disappeared, and I gave it no thought.
If you still think me mad, you will think so no longer when I describe the wise precautions I took with my own body. My menses did not wane, and in fact, did not leave in silence, but rather, I experienced severe pain, causing my doctor to choose to dismember my reproductive organs — a hysterectomy! — for my own well-being. He cut up the uterus, fallopian tubes, and cervix. I collected what was left, took up three planks from the flooring of my chamber, and deposited my organs between the scantlings. I then replaced the boards so cleverly, so cunningly, that no human eye — could have detected anything wrong. The surgery had fixed all — ha! Ha!
Yet, the pressure to procreate increased—and what could I do? It was the low, dull, quick sound haunting my mind once again. I arose and argued about trifles, in a high key and with violent gesticulations; but the noise steadily increased. I could no longer birth children—why would this thought of having children not be gone? Now, even alone, I could hear the low ticking, slowly, surely beginning my descent into madness.
Meantime, the hellish tattoo of not being a mother increased. And now a new anxiety seized me — had I chosen poorly? I talked more freely to get rid of the feeling: but it continued and became indefinite. Was I wrong? Had I not known my own mind? Was I betrayed by my own body, soul, and spirit? Alas, I talked more freely to get rid of the feeling: but it continued until, at length, I found that the noise was not within my ears, but rather, once again, my falling prey to the expectations of society. Alas, there was nothing to be done — my reproductive organs were stone, stone dead. The decision would trouble me no more!
When I had healed from these surgeries, it was four weeks later. As the bell sounded the hour, there came a knocking at the street door. I went down to open it with a light heart, — for what had I now to fear? There entered my in-laws, who hugged me. They inquired about the surgery, sent me good wishes. I smiled — for what had I to fear? The choice, I said, was for my own health. I showed them my scars, my joy at no longer being able to reproduce.
But, ere long, I felt myself getting pale and wished them gone. No doubt I now grew very pale; — but I talked more fluently, and with a heightened voice. Why would they not be gone? Why were they continuing to ask when a baby would spring forth from my now-destroyed loins? Oh God! what could I do? I foamed — I raved — I swore!
“Villains!” I shrieked, “dissemble no more! I had a hysterectomy — tear up the planks, here! Here! I do not want a baby, nor can I bear one!”
They peered beneath the boards, in horror, before emerging from the floor and asking, “So are you considering adoption?”