This is a topic I broach with great trepidation, although I know I am not alone. There may be no more personal subject in the world than an individual’s decision to have a child or not. Then, once a child is had, I have found reactions to the topic of childrearing one of the most instantly defensive, judging, joyous, inflamed, and protective that I’ve ever encountered. Primitive instincts are fiercely at play—the whole Mamma Bear thing—as I believe they should be. There is perhaps nothing more precious to us than human life, and, as most might instinctively agree, the life of a child.
Some of you who are my close friends know my feelings on the subject of having children. (For the sake of this essay, from now on when I say “having children” or “having a kid”, I mean biologically as opposed to adoption.) To those of you who don’t know, I cautiously share with you my honest feelings… For myself, after much inner contemplation and reflection, I’ve found that I can think of no unselfish reason other than mere instinct to have a child from my own body. Let me reinstate that this is how I feel, how I think, and what my deepest personal convictions are. Let me also add that this is how I believe right now; I very well could change my mind someday, and I give myself absolute permission to. I don’t believe it’s wrong to have kids. If I were to become pregnant now, I’d probably keep it, and be overjoyed and love the child dearly. However, I have no desire to go out of my way to have a kid, now and indefinitely. A lot of people want to know why, so with care and respect to everyone else’s choices and opinions, I will try to share as eloquently as I can the basis for my current decision. It’s very multi-layered and complex, so bear with me.
From where I stand, I don’t find it wise, beneficial, or necessary to continue procreating. There are several reasons for this. A) There are literally millions of children already here that desperately need parents and safe, loving homes. B) Call me a doomsayer, but I don’t see the future of the world and particularly America a place that I would feel right bringing a new child into, especially when—again—there’s children already here. C) I don’t know the meaning of life and this troubles me very greatly; I wrestle with being responsible for creating life while I can’t justify it. Why bring someone else here when I don’t even know why I’m here, and don’t even like it half the time? D) I don’t want to genetically pass down certain things to my kids, such as a probable tendency toward depression, suicide, anxiety and physical disease. E) I have absolutely no desire to experience pregnancy and childbirth. Nothing about pregnancy looks appealing, and I’ve witnessed childbirth several times in real life (and I’ve seen lots of filmed births) and it looks beyond painful and I can’t fathom wanting to put myself through that. I don’t care how many moms tell me how fast it’s over, or much it’s worth it, how ecstatic they feel, or how much self-empowerment they gain. I don’t want to give birth, vaginally or otherwise. I’m plenty self-empowered already, and will take your word for it that our bodies are capable of doing incredible things. Mothers have told me that they lose some control over their urination post-vaginal delivery, and often pee when laughing hard or sneezing even when their kids are full-grown. After birth, our vaginas will never be the same, nor sex. Our bodies will stretch and sag and otherwise deplete, for pregnancy is a very taxing event to put it through.
Maybe not wanting to experience pregnancy and childbirth is vain and selfish of me. I honestly feel that having biological kids would also be vain and selfish of me. I came to this thought about two years ago when I asked myself, for the first time, why I wanted to have them. I was unsatisfied with my answers… To continue my family’s mixed heritage; to create a new life with a man I love, which I think is the greatest form of creation we humans possess; to then attach myself to the man I love and gain a false sense of security, if I’m honest; to see if my daughter will have my freckles and passion for food; to see if my son will look like his dad and have his dad’s talents; to give my parents grandchildren; to have someone to pass on my values, beliefs, and goals to; to be taken care of when I’m old; to validate me as a woman; to love and be loved; because I’m afraid of missing out on this popular human experience; because I just want to. All of these reasons and more—to ME—are selfish. They are all about me. So I can see what they’ll look like. So I can be loved back. So I won’t feel like I’m letting down my parents. So I’ll have someone to pass on my values and beliefs to. So I can bring life into the world. There are already lives in the world desperate for a mother. I started feeling that to try and have a kid of my own would take up space in my heart, budget, health, and life that I could give to a kid who already exists, a kid who may suffer and die otherwise. Yes, we all suffer and eventually die, and it is all relative, but you know what I mean.
I then started questioning why I want to adopt (I try to be very thorough in prying apart my mixed motives). I have a lot of love to give. There are children who want it, who need it. And I am so excited to share it with them someday. Children need safety and warm place to sleep; I can give them that. Children need nourishment and health care; I can give them that. Children need clothes, education, fostering of talent and goals, opportunities to follow their dreams; I can give them that. Not all of them, for I realize I will not save the world, but I can nurture a few, physically and more. Children need mothering, and though not all get it, I love to mother and very much look forward to mothering my adopted children one day. I am 100% confident that any maternal urges I have will be just as satisfied loving someone else’s child as though it were from my own body. I know adopted children come with emotional and physical complications unforeseen, and I know they may never love me back or even want to call me “Mom”. But I’m okay with that, because I believe in loving them anyway, as I believe biological parents ought to love their children. No child, from our body or not, is ours. Really. I know being an adoptive parent will be hard, but so is being a parent, period. I know the kids will have issues, but so does everyone, and my own kid would have them, too. I know I’ll make mistakes and failures as a parent, and I’m okay with never being perfect. At least, I tell myself, I’ll have the comfort of knowing that it’s not my fault yet another person is suffering in this world just because I wanted them to come from my body. I know that sounds like a judgment; please hear that this is just my thought.
I have found much relief in my decision to adopt, besides the privilege of giving an orphaned or abandoned child a home. If I adopt, I no longer have the anxiety-producing pressure of that blasted ticking clock driving my every life choice. I can take my time climbing the career ladder, working as many years as I want until I am creatively satiated and financially secure enough to take a decade-long break, which is what I think I’d want to do when I’m ready for a family. I am given the freedom of time, which will prevent me from making urgent and unwise decisions (like marrying a man even if he’s not Mr. Right-For-Me because I’m afraid I’ll miss out on my reproductive years). I’ll still get the maternal satisfaction of having a kid someday, when I’m truly ready. Maybe he or she won’t come from my womb, but I really didn’t want to do that anyway. I’m not saying that everyone should adopt, but I am sharing with you the joy I’ve found in releasing myself from the obligation to reproduce.
I realize how harsh this may sound to those of you who have kids and those of you who want them. Please hear, again, that this is simply my perspective, that I’m not out to judge you for your decisions. I’ll admit that it does frustrate me to hear of couples spending so much money trying to get pregnant that could be used to love a young life already out there and in need, but the truth is that I don’t know a couple’s motives for trying to conceive. It is none of my business what other people do with their bodies, life, and money, as it’s no one else’s business what I do with mine.
Boys, you have almost all of your lives to find a woman you want to raise kids with, and to decide if indeed you want to procreate, and when. For us girls, especially my peers, we are currently facing an evolutionally recent dilemma: Do we want to have a baby? If we do, should we do it now while we’re young and fit, even if we’d be putting our careers on hold? Should we wait, hoping that if we pursue our professional goals with extra fervor, that maybe we’ll reach the top in time to still be fertile? Should we try to do both simultaneously? Should we keep waiting for the right man, or accept that he may not come along ‘til we’re past our prime? If we do the latter, do we go ahead and have a kid now anyway, if that’s what we really want? And if we do that, which sperm donor do we pick? What will dating be like if I have a kid alone and still want to get married someday? Will I regret having kids while I’m young? Will I regret having them when I’m older? Will I regret not having them at all, and now it’s too late?
My decision to not have a child of my own is shared by other women, though no one I personally know. I recently read an article (I think in Marie Claire last year) written by a woman who also decided she didn’t want babies, and she pointed out the social backlash that goes with making such a statement as that. People think if you don’t want to have children that there must something wrong with you. You’re probably a selfish workaholic who will die alone and bitter with regret. If you’re a woman, the judgments are usually worse. What warm-blooded woman doesn’t want to have a baby? What woman, upon that realization too late, gives up all her parental rights in the divorce, letting the man have full custody? “If more women start to think this way, the human race will end!” they cry. And I chuckle to myself, for I have to ask, what would be so wrong with that? I think it’s just our instincts to survive, as individuals and as a species. I’m not convinced of a god or greater purpose, and I know I come across as life-hating cynic to some. My truth is, I care deeply for my fellow human. I don’t know why I’m here, and I don’t want to bring anyone else here, but I am here, and I enjoy, relish, learn, grow, inspire, feed, savor, drink, and love as best as I can. May we all make the wise decisions that are right for us, and give ourselves the time to find those out.