You know what they say about little girls who “just know” they want to be mommies when they’re older? Yeah, well, I have always “just known” I don’t want to be a parent.
Let me explain – I don’t hate kids. I’ve grown up extremely protective of my cousin, and have played with my baby nephew through all his growing up years. But aside from that, especially when it comes to babies who aren’t directly related to me, I truly believe I don’t have a single maternal bone in my body. As horrid as it may sound, I’ve run away from screaming kids without trying to calm them down, stepped over howling toddlers who’ve learned that having a public meltdown will get them just about whatever they want. And that’s perfectly okay. It’s okay that I have never had the inclination to produce spawn of my own.
You may argue that I’m young, too naive to be making any concrete decisions about my future. But if at 20, you expect me to find a career path and stick to it, I think I’m old enough to know my own mind without having to apologize for it.
The knee-jerk reaction I get from people when they, like normal socially-confirming individuals, ask me how many kids I want; and I, like the disgrace I am to women and motherhood, tell them ‘none’, is an instant “haha you’ll change your mind!” They’re confident that over time, I will meet a male human, fall in love with him and immediately want to build a life complete with a white picket fence, a dog, and several babies perfectly cocooned in their pink and blue colour coded onsies, after which they’ll spend the rest of their years conforming to the gender binary.
Other reactions include horror at my cold-heartedness, outright insults that highlight how I’m “selfish” for not wanting kids, pity at my underdeveloped femininity, and disappointment on behalf of my poor family because in all probability our bloodline will die with me.
What really irks me is that we’ve created this whole rose-tinged fairy tale about the journey of motherhood. About how it’s beautiful, and magical, and the most intensely validating thing you will ever do in your life. I’m not denying the fact that two humans creating life with nothing but their bodies is a miracle in itself, but that doesn’t mean it’s not painful, grueling and often traumatic, for more than 50% of the women. Nobody talks about the not so glorious changes that occur within the body. Nobody talks about how the only thing that keeps you from passing out or pushing away your baby right after they’re born is an actual high from the hormones your body secretes, which is in essence, your defense mechanism tricking you into believing that pain is love. Twisted, right? This illustrates exactly what happens in much better detail.
My mother is the single most important person in my life. She’s also honest to a fault – so when I was younger, I didn’t believe babies were dropped off by storks. She gave me a scientific explanation for the whole process, leaving sexuality out of the equation. In fact, my grandparents, who raised me, treated me like a person, with an identity and opinions; and not merely a child – something I will be grateful for until the end of time.
To put it plainly, my mum’s pregnancy was terrible. She did not glow like a goddess on a sugar rush, did not have a fancy photoshoot a la Beyonce, she did not spend her days gliding around in high heels and no heartburn.
If I were to outline her pregnancy, it was in fact, a train wreck. She started bleeding in her first trimester, and was forcefully prescribed bedrest. Then, she was so sick all through the last three months that she couldn’t sleep lying down. She spent her nights propped up against pillows, trying her hardest to get some shut eye in the sitting position. Just before I was born, the placenta detached from her uterine lining, and she was rushed into an emerging Cesarean. She spent an hour in excruciating pain, and in the flurry that followed the celebration of delivering a baby that wasn’t dead, the doctors accidentally left a piece of the placenta inside her. After two surgeries within days of each other and a combined weight loss of 16kgs in 6 weeks, my mother developed severe postpartum depression and anxiety, often triggered by anything to do with hospitals and medical care.
And somehow, after all of this, “concerned” family members still found it in them to ask her why she was being selfish and depriving me of a sibling, when she could have easily gotten pregnant again.
It is true that the fear of losing my mother to societal pressure that shaped my opinion on having kids of my own. But it wasn’t just the fact that she very nearly died, no, it was how society deemed it normal, natural, and acceptable for a woman to make these sacrifices for the sake of having kids.
But the point I’m trying to make isn’t about babies at all. It’s about the people who call themselves pro choice and still find it in themselves to shame and bully others who don’t have the same opinions as them. Most of these people are women.
Here’s a small list of actual things I’ve been told when the whole “I’m not having kids” thing comes up:
- “You’re so selfish, how do you not want to care for a child?”
- “What a waste of genes/don’t you want your bloodline to continue?”
No, because not only is your point of view creepy, but also if that’s the only reason you want kids, I don’t even want to be friends with you anymore.
- “Why would you want to deprive your partner like that? THAT’S why men cheat.”
Way to go, you managed to justify misogyny and immorality in one go.
- “Not having kids is unnatural, people will wonder if you have fertility issues.”
Right, so that makes sterile heterosexual couples and the entire LGBTQIAP community that chooses not to procreate unnatural because reproduction should be everybody’s long term goal.
- “You’re not being grateful enough, think of all the women who want kids and can’t have them”
No, YOU think of all the kids starving in Africa while you eat your double cheeseburger.
- “You’re a woman, that’s your duty/job/purpose in life!”
Around this time, I’m so tired, I usually walk away to avoid stabbing the person in question.
I’m all for bodily autonomy. You want a tattoo? Awesome, go do it. You want tongue piercings? Yay! You want whisker implants to look more like your pet cat? Cool.
If we are so accepting of a host of things that were socially unacceptable in the past, why are we so narrow minded and patriarchal about this? I’ve met quite a few people like me. We don’t slut shame women who choose to have a lot of children. We don’t tell them they lack ambition and are failures if they choose to be stay at home moms. We don’t criticize maternity shoots and documentaries that display the whole birthing process in vivid detail, and although it isn’t very palatable for us to watch, we don’t bash it on a public platform. If we don’t demean and name-call the decisions of others, why should something as personal as whether or not to have a child ever be open to debate?
Maybe I’ll change my mind someday (and that will have nothing to do with anyone else.) Maybe I won’t. Either way, the freedom to make that decision lies only with me. And if you cannot understand that, you can either keep your opinions to yourself, or shove them in your kids’ soiled diapers and throw them in the trash, where they belong.