Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Choice

I have always felt jealous of women who unambiguously knew their reproductive destiny from a young age. I always teetered on the fence. I have never had that sense that some women speak of, that they “always knew” that they were meant to be a mom, or not.

Until I was 21, I just assumed that I would marry and have children. Then I was exposed to the concept of alternate choices, and suddenly I felt wonderfully free. At that time I was engaged to my first husband, and he shared my feelings. We declared our intentions to the important people in our lives. Of course, no one older than us took us seriously.

When I got to be around 26, I reconsidered again. I had been married for 3 years to my high school sweetheart, and we were preparing to move into a house that we would share with his mother. What better opportunity could there be? I brought up the subject in a very tentative way on a few occasions, but he was not keen on the idea. Now I thank my lucky stars that we never had a child, considering the very painful divorce that followed when I was 28. (The split was not caused by reproductive conflicts.)

Shortly after I moved out, one of my best friends announced that she was expecting. This was the first child in my group of friends, but others were soon to follow. I went through agonies of longing to participate in this rite of passage. I felt left out, lesser than, and a failure, especially since I was still brushing off the dust of a ruined marriage. I went to a high school reunion where it seemed that every woman but me was pushing a baby carriage.

I began a new long-term relationship, and for the next five years I spent endless hours going around in circles in my head. Did I want the experience of parenthood? Was I ready to devote so much of myself to another being? Could I handle the challenges of motherhood on top of the already substantial health and emotional challenges I was already facing? Would my new beau, who was not enthused about fatherhood, be able to accommodate the change, or would it tear us apart? Did I really want a real baby, with all the attendant demands and concerns, or was I just chasing fairytale, white-picket-fence dreams from my girlhood?

I started reading, finding every book I could that dealt with the realities of parenthood and reproductive choices. Many women of the childfree lifestyle stated: “When I see a mom dealing with a crying baby or a Terrible Twos tantrum, I just shake my head and thank God that that’s not my life.” When I see a scene where a parent is having a hard time with their child, I feel relief, and I also feel jealousy, mixed in equal parts. After all, parenthood is a mix of everything from the ecstatically wonderful to the supremely awful. You can’t pick just half and call it the whole truth.

In the end, I decided that given the circumstances of my life, it was best for me to remain childless (or childfree, if you prefer). If my circumstances had been different, I might have made a different choice. I have achieved as much peace as I ever will with my decision. I believe with all my heart that I made the right choice, and yet I also grieve what I had to let go of to get here. Dreams, a sense of belonging, the love of my own child, all of these and more.

I wanted to put this out in the public realm, because there might be someone else out there with a similar story, who can find comfort in my words. I have always felt so alone in this experience.

3 comments:

Stewie said...

I'm currently very happy being childfree, but I'm certainly open to having some little rugrats running about.

I think no small part in my feelings on it is I'm the last of my bloodline. Certainly, it's not the only reason to have kids, but I do want my name to carry on -- and that's probably a little chauvinistic, I know.

It would be very hard to give up the "get up and go" lifestyle I have, but I think the fact that I will have the ability to shape someone's life is intriguing to me.

Especially if I use that power for evil.

Solomon Broad said...

I'm glad I'm not the only person out there who has decided not to have children. Most everyone says I should go for it, but I really don't want to. I'm happy with who I am, looking out for myself, and having Children would complicate that.

My mother once told me I was selfish for not having children. I reminded her it would be way more selfish to have children and not want them.

Sparkling Red said...

Solomon broad: Thanks for adding your thoughts here. It feels good to hear from someone who shares the same point of view.
:-)