Saturday, January 29, 2011

Childfree

This is a topic that I have been itching to write about. I may alter a few friendships by doing so, but it's a very important aspect of my life and I feel that it's important to voice where my husband and I stand on this issue.

My husband and I will not be having children. We will not be changing our minds. We made the decision before we got married that children were not in our future, and we expect our family and friends to respect that decision.

As with any group of like-minded individuals, there are fanatics. Unfortunately there are Childfree people in this world that make the rest of us look bad by being overly hostile when they share their beliefs. My husband and I try very hard not to stoop to that level. Just as we expect people to respect our decision to be Childfree, we respect others' decision to have children. However, this does not mean we welcome other people's children into our home or our lives unless we absolutely have to.

We live in a child-centric world. This is great for some people, but not for us. I have had health professionals put my life and health in jeopardy because of the chance that I might change my mind in the next five years and want a child. I ended up needing emergency surgery because of the misguided actions of those doctors. I very well could have bled to death from a hemorrhagic uterine tumor - it was a very real risk, but my doctors put off surgery for a week because they claimed they had to "respect my uterus" and my "ability to bear children." That week was hell for me - I was so anemic that they couldn't take any more of my blood for testing, I had pica and spent about 20 hours a day sleeping because I was so weak from the blood loss. I had to sleep on a grocery bag and a pile of towels because the bleeding was beyond my control. I was on high-dose prescription painkillers to help ease the agony of having a grapefruit-sized tumor bleeding out, but those pills just barely took the edge off. My husband had to take care of the animals all by himself, in addition to taking care of me and working full-time. Every day I worried that I'd go to sleep and not wake up the next morning.

This was a very angry time in my life, because no less than six specialists had reduced my self-worth to that of an incubator for the next generation. They apparently had more respect for my reproductive system than they did for ME - a living, breathing, highly educated adult woman who had always known she would not be a mother. To this day, my gynecologist does not like me because I pressured her into giving me an IUD. The thinly veiled disgust on her face when we discuss my lack of desire for children is a hard signal to miss. She herself told me that the IUD was not my best option. Given the health (or lack thereof) of my reproductive system, the best option for me is a hysterectomy - but that option is not on the table because the medical world says I need another 5 years to be mentally capable of making that decision. That is the world we live in.

It's very difficult to live a Childfree lifestyle in a family-focused world. Family-types have the support of society; we don't. Childfree people are often not given the same amount of respect and understanding for our decisions. We frequently hear disapproving/disbelieving comments such as:

"You'll change your mind!"
"You'll love them when they're your own!"
"You're being so selfish by not having kids!"
"You don't know what you're missing!"
"Your love of animals proves you have the maternal instinct!"
"Nonsense, you'd be great parents! Your kids would be so wonderful!"
"Who will take care of you when you are old?"
"Don't you think you owe your parents some grandchildren?"
" You aren't having kids? Omigosh, that's so sad! I feel so bad for you!"

Ah, the things some people say that make Childfree people bristle. Many people say they respect our choice to be Childfree, but often trivialize our life decisions by actually implying, "Parenthood is the best experience in the world, but I suppose you can make your own silly little choices, you poor dears!" We are happy with our decision to not have kids - to us, living in a Kid-Free Zone is the best experience in the world. In fact, we spend very little time thinking about our Childfree lifestyle at all - we take the dogs on day-long hikes in nature, we go to dog shows, we rehabilitate rescued dogs, we play video games, we watch movies, we go out to eat at our favorite sushi restaurant, we cook, we curl up on the sofa with a pile of dogs and a good book... the only time we even think about children is when other people bring up how "sad" our lack of having any is.

All I'm asking for is respect. If you want kids, great - have as many as you want. If that's what makes your life whole, more power to you - and I'm truly happy that you find such joy in them. But please, do not think less of me for not sharing your enthusiasm, and do not expect me to change my stripes and enjoy their company as much as you do. Thinking I'm wrong for not wanting kids would be like me thinking you're wrong for not wanting a 4ft long African python in your dining room. My husband and I do have such a creature in our dining room, we love him very much but we don't kid ourselves into thinking everyone else is "missing out on life" because they don't have one too.

Please understand that children are not welcome in our home. This not us being selfish or mean, this is us understanding that our home is not the ideal environment for your children. We have several large, territorial dogs that do not like children on their home turf. Our house is not kid-proof. We are protecting your children by barring them from our home.

If you're interested to hear a calm, well-spoken narrative by another young woman who has never had any interest in having children, click here. It was produced by National Public Radio's program, "The Story" - it's a great piece of media that truly embodies how Childfree people feel.

9 comments:

  1. Ok, so reading this is kinda weird. It's as if you scanned our brains and put our thoughts to words (note to self: If she can do this, who else can? Make new tinfoil hat. Stat!). Our house is a child free zone as well, far from child friendly. Bring your dog over and we'll have a grand 'ole time, but please, no children. Very well written article, by the way!

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  2. Well dang! Childfree as a choice should be as legitimate as any other life choice. If you don't want them, don't have them. I see too many people who have kids but don't care about them or for them. Wish many more folks were as up-front as you are. Go girl!

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  3. I'm sorry Leah! That's just... ridiculous what your doctor did.

    Mine all but told me to get an IUD and I'm not even certain I don't want kids... I just know I don't want them right now!

    I can't believe there's a "right" age for a hysterectomy if it will make your life better NOW!

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  4. I'm right there with you.People have tendency to criticize everything that is not like they used too.At some point they will "give up" changing your mind, - yes it's getting better with age (LOL)

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  5. It's your absolute right to design your life as you see fit. The doctors you encountered seem to be quite insane. I don't see how they can limit medical options to an adult who has not been declared incompetent following a formal judicial hearing. I think it's grounds for a law suit - and could easily be a class action suit. That sort of gross "parentalism" needs to be rooted out, even if the issue needs to be reviewed by the Supreme Court.

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  6. Leah, this post spoke to me because it honestly felt like I could have written parts of it. Bless your heart for going through all of the medical scares and difficulties. Shame on your doctor.

    I hear all of those things that you listed. I have answers for all of them by now (I am sure that you do too). I wish people respected other people's wishes, despite them being "different".

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  7. This is a good article. While I have 4 children myself, I should have only had two, and the dr refused to tie my tubes at 23 after 2 kids because "I might change my mind" o.O Now, I am going to say this. Should genetic testing be mandatory along with blood and such for a marriage license, I would have had NO children after finding out that I am the carrier for a very rare GENETIC disorder that if carried on, will kill a child before they can drive. How did I find out, 3 months ago my beautiful 3 year old daughter was diagnosed it with it. Genetic testing would have halted the possibility that my one daughter, and my three other kids would possibly be carriers, and continue this!! They wouldn't breed a dog with bad hips, why cant I have the option of having "genetically sound" children?
    I firmly believe living child free is very much so a decision that if chosen, should be accepted. After all I have had enough for more than one family, lol.

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  8. I love your article. We are childfree as well but I am not banning all children from our home, only those that wouldn't do well with our dogs. I have three GSD's and they come and will always be first.

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  9. Fantastic article! I, too decided I didn't want children at a very young age. When I met my husband, I discussed this with him and he agreed with my decision and we have never regretted it. Our GSD's are our children, and we have not felt the lack of human children. I was fortunate enough to have found a gynecologist who agreed with my decision to have my tubes tied - I was 26 when I had that procedure done. All I had to do was sign a waiver that I would not hold her responsible if I changed my mind later. So, very lucky I had that doctor. I'm 51 now and neither I nor my husband have ever had regrets. I agree that it is up to the individual to decide if children are right for you. It should not be up to anybody else what you decide for yourself.
    I actually had a former friend's husband tell me I wasn't a real woman because I didn't want to have a child. Stick to your guns and enjoy your life the way you want.

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