“You seriously don’t want children?”
I barely hear him ask, his hushed voice hardly audible over the loud thumps of the tavern’s music.
“100 percent sure,” I whispered, fearful, but still completely full of assertiveness. His arm disappeared from around my back and he shifted over two feet in the booth. I knew right then and there that it was the end of us.
I had realized and embraced my childfree identity over the course of a decade prior to this stinging moment. As I consumed dozens of inspiring articles and relatable anecdotes about “lacking that maternal instinct,” never once did I read about the heartache I was now experiencing. The articles give impressive statistics about the increasing number of couple who eschew parenthood, or the perks of a childfree life to your personal and professional life, not to mention your marital status. They empower you with the individual right to make this conscious choice, to confidently defy society’s expectations of how you should use your uterus.
But what about when the man you love wants, and needs, to be a father? What if the person who has been your loving companion — your best friend — expects and cannot imagine a life without parenthood in your future?
We went home, silent in the cab but holding hands as always. He trailed me around the apartment as I roamed about in despair and assumed fetal positions in various locations. The corner of his bed, the edge of the couch, the tiled bathroom floor. He begged for me to stop sobbing—it hurt him to see me like that. Our hands touched warily, unsure of the boundaries of our new crumbled relationship.
Being childfree is a personal choice, one to make after serious consideration. It infuses itself so deeply into your identity that you include it in your Twitter bio and share articles about it to your Facebook news feed. You read books by authors like Jen Kirkman and relish in her unapologetic, childless life.
But being childfree involves a second person so rarely discussed: your partner. And it doesn’t matter if he sits on the bathroom floor with you for an hour, sharing your sobs, calling you beautiful and amazing. He wants a child. And you don’t.
And over time, you realize being childfree marginalizes you in the cruel dating world. You are the lazy, old cat at the adoption center, skimmed over and passed up for the fluffier, fruitful, youthful kittens frolicking in their cage. You are the car at the used sales lot with a history of crashes, shined up and repaired but never fully trusted by a cautious buyer. You are the day-old pastries at the cafe. The racehorse with a weak ankle. Decaf coffee. Baked Cheetos.
“There’s nothing wrong with not wanting to be a mother. That doesn’t make you flawed,” a therapist asserted to me once. “Lots of men do not want kids.”
But I don’t want those men. I found my partner; but he’s not settling for decaf.