“What would it take for you to want to have biological kids?” a Reddit thread recently asked.
My heart immediately recoiled and whispered, “Not a damn thing.”
Would I enjoy a billion dollars? Sure. But at the expense of my probable indifference to raising another human being?
Not. Worth. It.
When I married my love, I married a man who was already ecstatically snipped; like normal people, we honestly discussed our feelings on children. I was happily seated upon the fence at that point.
He told me in all earnestness that if having a child were something that I craved in my heart of hearts, he would consider getting his vasectomy reversed, or we could look into finding a donor for the dude’s necessary side of procreation. Ultimately, my happiness was (and is!) the most important thing to him, and he would support whatever choice I eventually made.
Fortunately, I quickly skidded to the realization that having biological children is not for me.
I am 100% happily child-free.
However, this was not always so. Unlike many women who choose the child-free route, choosing to play “doctor” instead of “dolls”, I wasn’t always sure that I didn’t want kids. I played doctor and dolls just as often as I built snow castles and reigned terror upon the imagined Lilliputians who lived there, so said my imagination.
Back to the Before: When I thought I wanted (ish) children.
Having children was, once upon a time, a foregone conclusion for me. There was no particular reason why; I never thought too hard on the subject–especially not wistfully or with longing.
I simply assumed I would eventually pop out one or two, wondered if they’d have blue eyes like my mom, and then spent most of the daydream hoping they wouldn’t turn out to be murderers.
It perhaps should have seemed odd to me that I, the queen of overthinking all the things, paid relatively little thought to my someday spawn other than to unreasonably assume they would become awful humans.
As a writer, I firmly believe that not only are we the heroes of our own stories, but that we are all also the villains in someone else’s story too… but some of us are far worse than others. History illustrates that many horrible people had a doting, loving mother at some point, right? I could try my best, enthusiastically fulfill the Supermom role and manage to be the best mom ever (LOL, yeah right), and still accidentally raise a tiny little Hitler.
Clearly, I’m well adjusted.
Maybe part of my “no babies!” stance is due to the fact that, against all odds a la circumstance and my own terrible (but interesting and fun!) life choices, my life has turned out well. I’d like to keep that going!
So, here I am, thirty-two and a full four years into embracing a child-free-by-choice lifestyle. I am reasonably sure I’ll live happily ever after and at peace with that decision.
How do I know that I won’t change my mind?
There are as many reasons to not have kiddos as there are to have them—and everyone’s reasons for/against are their own and valid. Hell, I even like kids, especially middle schoolers. But babies are sticky and loud and demanding and apparently spend the first two years of their lives unintentionally trying to off themselves, according to several of my lovely mom friends.
Quite frankly, I am already exhausted just by being. With my Hashimoto’s diagnosis (if you have an autoimmune condition, obviously your experience is entirely your own and unique to you and your circumstances), I cannot imagine myself somehow even being marginally okay while also getting up every two hours for feedings and trying to keep aforementioned tiny human alive. It simply wouldn’t be fair to the child.
Sometimes–very rarely, actually, since I tend to choose to think about things I can control over the things that I can’t–I ruminate on if I would make the same child-free choice if I were perfectly healthy.
If I had the best health and all the energy in the world, would I still choose the child-free life?
Short answer? Absolutely.
If I had more energy, I like to imagine I’d get a lot more writing done. I’d be further along in my French fluency and have obtained my Master’s degree by now. I’m still happily chugging along at these goals with the spoons I do have, but I would do them faster, with more abandon, were I totally healthy. 🙂
The fact is, I love my life just how it is. And that, by itself, is a great reason not to have children.
“But that’s selfish!” is a frequently used argument. I disagree; I think it is far more selfish for people to have children when they know that they don’t want them.
That’s no way to come into the world, already unwanted.
When did I first decide that child-free might be for me?
My child-free story really starts with a very, very, VERY late period. It was the first and only true pregnancy scare I’ve ever had.
In my late twenties, there was a remote possibility I might be pregnant. At the time, there was exactly a .0001% chance of that, since the only potential father had received a glorious vasectomy years prior to meeting me and my other partner was a lady. But as the weeks went by and my communists did not grace my funhouse, I started to worry.
I was somehow more exhausted than usual. My ankles were swelling (edema). I couldn’t decide if I was being extra emotional and acting irrationally, or just reacting normally to stress. There was a lot of stress.
Over and over, I irrationally imagined my child, the mass murderer/rapist/Trump supporter and felt the panic grow and grow.
I spent a lot of money that month and a half on pregnancy tests (fun fact, you can get $1 pregnancy tests that work just as well from the Dollar Tree–save yourself the $20). Every negative result brought a breath of relief, but it wasn’t until finally, 68 days later, that Aunt Flo arrived that the tension drained from my soul.
I cried with relief.
Apparently irregular cycles, edema, and severe exhaustion are some of the many “gifts” of Hashimoto’s, I later learned.
This was the start of my personal confirmation that I do not ever want my own children.
A Crisis of Conscience
A few years later, I had a tiny bit of a midlife crisis around the idea of having babies when I turned thirty. For approximately thirty-six hours, I bemoaned my aging eggs, largely because it felt like the milestone when I’d likely be forced to decide–up until that point, it felt like I still could change my decision if so I chose, if that”you’ll change your mind!” curse people tend to wish upon me suddenly came true.
Tick tick tick.
In those two days, as my new husband and I house hunted for our dream home, I very very briefly considered the possibility that we might want to look for a place with space for a nursery — but when I thought about it like that, I was suddenly filled with foreboding and despair.
It was then that I realized: every time I’ve had even the mildest of pregnancy scares (irregular Hashimoto’s period much?), whether I was single and alone, married and trying, or some weird, unconventional period in between relationships, every potential for pregnancy left me sick with dread.
Nope, bio kids aren’t for me!
“Come now–you wouldn’t raise your kid to be a mass murderer,” I hear you think. You continue, “Wouldn’t you be good parents?“
Okay, for one, much like no one gets married expecting to get divorced, no one plans to raise their kids to be terrible human beings. Yet we all know that family that was raised in the same household by wonderful parents, back-to-back with their sisters and brothers, and yet there is that one sibling who is just… off. Then later you find out that aforementioned “off sibling” tortures neighborhood cats and you never go back over to their house ever again.
But I digress.
For two, I mean, if I could conquer my fatigue, I’m sure I wouldn’t be too terrible as a mom. The child would grow up reasonably unscarred and as well-adjusted as one can be having been born any time after 2000 and the rise of the internet. It’d be chill.
My beloved, on the other hand, would be an incredible father; as it is, he’s a fantastic, patient parront to our feathered “kids” (our perpetual toddlers-with-pliers) and our stubborn, wrinkly Shar Peis.
On paper, we would make solid parents.
We are very much in love and have plenty to share.
But I know, 100%, that I do not want kids.
The Day I Knew for Certain
Trigger Warning: If you are Trying to Conceive and/or struggling with infertility, you might skip this next section by clicking here. It’s a story about infertility. You’ve been warned.
A doctor recently sat me down after my annual physical. I’d been having some weird symptoms—autoimmune conditions often come in twos and a second one has recently been diagnosed. (Yay for me, I guess?)
Her face grew ashen as she broke the news that, with my newly diagnosed condition, it would likely be damn near impossible for me to bear children without significant help, like IUI.
I smiled, informed her that we had already decided against having kids, and thought no more about it.
Flash forward to last month: When my partner recently received the same news, that he likely couldn’t have biological children without a zillion dollars and a test tube? Same response.
I haven’t lost a single wink of sleep over my childless future. I’ve made grand plans, though!
But what if I turn forty-five and suddenly realize I made a mistake?
That I need a child in my life and it’s too late?
Well, in honor of my incredible, social worker mother, in that case, I suppose I’ll foster kids.
There are lots of older children and teens in the foster system who need stable homes–sometimes just for now, and sometimes forever. Someday, we will probably open ours to a teenager or six, who need just as much (if not even more) love, support, and stability for the rest of his or her life too. We will skip the baby/young child phase and go right to the kiddos I click with the most. As a former middle school teacher, I look forward to it.
But who will take care of me when I’m older?
Well, I will. I’ll take care of me. We’re happily saving money and working hard to stay as healthy and hale as we can, since fitness and health are a life-long journey. And if someday I find myself rocking alone in a nursing home, staring out a window on Christmas with no gifts and a dry turkey sandwich for lunch? I will make friends there and ask the other parents about their children’s busy lives.
And we will eat lots of jello.
But really, my ultimate life goal is this: to die young as late as possible. And nothing keeps you young like NOT having kids! 😀
There’s an old wisdom—that we often regret the things we didn’t do far more than the things we did. I’ve decided this sentiment doesn’t apply to kids—it is far better to regret the children you didn’t have than regret the ones you did have.
Sure, sometimes, when my love holds babies (rare that it is due to COVID), it does something funny to my ovaries, but that’s simple, basic biology.
However, I am far more than my genetic programming.
So, I happily choose to remain biologically child-free—to chase my dreams as hard as I can.
Having a child simply isn’t one of them.