Wednesday, August 17, 2016

Motherhood. The Other Side. Chapter I

Motherhood(ing) away from it.

Saying No to the Essential.

For the longest of times I wanted to be a mom. So much so that somehow in my mind, ever since I was a young girl, children meant more to me than the father, the marriage, the household. More than me. It was and still is so deeply rooted in my being that there are times (sometimes a whole friggin’ year!) where I miss their presence in my life enormously. Not wanting to have children has never crossed my mind. I always believed that marriage by default implies having children. I always believed that if the times are right and I have the maturity, proper environment and financial power to have a baby, I’d do it in a blink of an eye.

Babies to me are the quintessence of life. The unbreakable bond. The ultimate legacy. They are my greatest achievement because I believe they will be great and amazing. And most importantly, the one single creation that I leave behind of endless worth and value. I have no clue whether I’m going to be a good mom or not. I hope I will. I love them right now so much and I don’t even have them. And God knows I fear the responsibility as much as any other girl. There’s no manual on how to do this, yet many do it on a daily basis.

Still I have friends who even though great with children, have never really found it a priority in their lives. If it happens, fine. If it doesn’t happen, they won’t necessarily miss it. And yes, some feel guilty for not wanting it as badly as many of us.

Is there something wrong with them? Women who choose not to have kids have been referred to as "shallow" and "self-absorbed," and even the pope has said the decision not to procreate is fundamentally "selfish."

Meanwhile, I did a bit of a research and found a few interesting articles about the reasons why women don’t embrace motherhood. Or perhaps as much as they used to. So keep an open mind and read through them and then tell me what you think.

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1. Kids aren't always financially feasible — especially if you have student loans.
Whether it's the medical costs of giving birth or the lifetime financial commitment that having a child entails, financial reasons were one of the most popular behind why people didn't want kids. Many respondents also specifically called out their student loans as a reason for not being able to afford kids — a trend that doesn't seem to be going anywhere, if the total student debt of the Class of 2015 is any indication.
"It leaves your body and it costs $20-30K. I've $40K in student loans already taking up the rest of my life. And that's best case scenario. If anything goes wrong, double it."
"I'm pan[sexual] and currently in a relationship with a woman. Having a child biologically would involve a huge medical bill."
"If I can hardly afford to live well now on my income, how can I be expected to give a child the life they deserve?"
2. There's a strong fear of passing down mental health issues.
Those who have struggled with various mental illnesses reported being particularly wary of bringing kids into the world, out of a fear that they would inherit the painful experiences they themselves went through.
"I made up my mind when I had diagnosed with the same mental illness that my mother has. Being raised by my mother who has manic depression was scary. You shouldn't be afraid of your parent."
"I've struggled with depression and if I passed that pain on I would feel horrid for inflicting that sadness and numbing on another human. No one deserves to live like this if it can be prevented."
"I am mentally ill and mental illnesses than mine run in my family, as do autoimmune disorders. I do not want to bring a child into the world knowing that there's a strong chance it will struggle like I have."
3. The population is already out of control.
Some concerned citizens cited overcrowding and environmental concerns as reasons to fear a rapidly growing population. While there's some debate as to whether or not overpopulation is a serious threat to humanity, many millennials see it as a legitimate reason to avoid adding more humans to the equation.
"There are too many unwanted kids on the planet as is, so I don't want to bring more into the world. I'm adopting if I ever decide I want kids. People don't understand how bad having a large population is."
"I joined [the] zero population growth movement a long time ago for environmental reasons."
"I think we need more do-ers and innovators compared to repopulaters."
4. Fertility issues can give a different perspective on the necessity of having kids.
While one might assume that infertility only affects older women, some millennials struggle to naturally conceive as well. In fact, according to 2002 data from the Centers for Disease Control, 11% of married women under 29 have dealt with fertility issues. For some women, this can lead them to reconsider whether they even want a kid in the first place.
"I can't have kids naturally. It's not a sad thing though. A lot of other women get upset when I tell them that, but I just say I really have no right to complain about one gift I didn't receive when I have been given so many to begin with."
5. Pregnancy can take a serious physical toll.
Even in the 21st century, childbirth is a strenuous (not to mention potentially dangerous) physical ordeal. Plenty of women just aren't into the idea of using their uteruses as an "incubator," as one very honest respondent put it.
"I'm completely squicked out by pregnancy and labor. Full-on body horror."
"The physical changes my body would go through with the pain of birth is not appealing at all to me."
"The idea of carrying a child makes me nauseous."
6. With kids comes the pressure to make perfect choices.
Although people who don't want to have kids are often called "selfish," our survey showed they're anything but. If nothing else, our respondents were well aware that the responsibility to be a good parent means consistently putting the child first and making healthy choices for them, and they didn't feel they were up to that challenge.
"It overwhelms me to think that there would be a tiny little person growing inside of me, depending on me to make healthy choices."
"I might fuck them up with horrible parenting."
7. Not all women are preprogrammed with maternal instincts.
Much like comedian Margaret Cho, who once joked that she "ovulates sand," many women told Mic that they simply didn't feel they were born with motherly urges.
"I have personally have never felt the 'motherly instinct' that girls my age who are getting married and pregnant rave about. I have had multiple encounters with children throughout life and it is always an awkward and anxious experience for me."
"Children always have irritated me to no end. The only time I enjoy children is when they are quiet, humble, intelligent beings. Obviously these conditions are unreasonable to expect of the tiny humans, so for me, the logical solution is to not have any of my own."
8. The world isn't always a nice place.
Sometimes the decision to not be a parent is as simple as wanting to spare a child from having to live in a world of jerks. Citing factors like global inequality, bullying or a general discontent with society, many readers don't want their offspring to have to deal with the world's problems.
"I feel we have too many issues recently with law enforcement and government that I do not feel comfortable upbringing kids into this society."
"I was bullied a lot as a child. I know what children are capable of and it scares me. I see all children as a potential future threat, simply because about 70% of people in my year group were bullies, and most of them still are. I wouldn't want a child to have to live in a world where they'll either be bullied, or be the bully. I don't think I could handle seeing my child cry from being made fun of, or being told my own child had made someone else cry for fun."
"Honestly our society is kind of fucked up; I don't need to send someone out into that."
9. Sometimes, career ambitions take priority.
There is research suggesting that the idea of "having it all"—both a family and a kickass career—is something of an unattainable myth. So it's not surprising that a number of our respondents reported they see parenthood vs. career success as an impossible choice to make. Many said they would only view children as possible hindrances to their lofty career goals.
"I don't want to have kids because I am studying to be a surgeon and I don't think I could give them the attention they need with such a demanding job."
"When I imagine my future, I just don't see any [kids]. I love what I'm studying and I want to get the most out of my career. Whether that includes endless overtime, sleepless nights, relocating, and/or travel."
"I have noted from quite a young age that when a man and a women get married and have children — it almost always means the women becomes a housewife (unless the parents both have to work). I have worked hard in school and would love to get married some day, but the idea that I would quit my job that I have worked my whole life to stay home for the next 18+ years does not appeal to me."
10. Children don't fit into every lifestyle.
Even when career goals weren't the primary reason behind the decision, many respondents cited a desire to preserve their already-fulfilling lifestyles as an equally compelling reason why they didn't want kids. These respondents felt that their lives were full (and busy) enough as is, without the added responsibilities that come with having children.
"My dream is to visit all 195 countries in the world (been to 23 so far) and I really don't feel like a child fits into the nomad lifestyle I want to live."
"With the way I want to live my life, kids would get in the way."
"I don't want kids because they're a fuckton of work."
11. Ultimately, a reason shouldn't even be necessary.
One reason stood out among all the others: not needing a reason at all. After all, our personal choice as to what we want to do with our bodies are just that, personal. Many respondents felt they didn't need to provide an explanation one way or the other.
"Sometimes I think that "I just don't want to" isn't enough of a reason to explain the lack of progeny. Then I think, why the hell should the reason matter to anyone other than myself? And I am content with that."
"I don't want kids because I just don't. I shouldn't have to explain my reasoning, or even have a reason at all: my body, my choice."

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

Getting pregnant made everything clear.
When I was 27, I got pregnant with a guy I was dating. I wasn’t far along, but I could already feel my body changing. My gums were swollen and bled. My breasts were tender. The guy I was seeing said he would support whatever decision I made, and my mother and sister were just as supportive. It was entirely my decision. On the third day after taking the test, as I woke up to grab my Gatorade (which was the only thing I could stomach) it hit me: I don’t want a child. I don’t want the pregnancy experience. I don’t even like to hold babies, much less give birth to one. Before I got pregnant, I would say I was 98 percent sure I didn’t want kids. When people would ask me, I’d say no — but always follow that up with “you never know, maybe one day.” In that moment, however, it was like, no. Just, no. — Callie, 33, South Carolina

I’ve just always known.
I’ve never wanted children, for as long as I can remember. If I played house with other kids, I was never the mom. I went to a very small Catholic grade school and I vividly remember an assignment for our confirmation classes that asked us where we saw ourselves in five to 10 years. Every girl in my class talked about how they wanted to be married with children, a white picket fence... the whole package. I was literally the only person that said I wanted to live in an apartment in Chicago with a dog. — Katie, 28, Illinois

I realized I don’t want to bring kids into a world like this.
I was always on the fence about having children, but then I started to volunteer as a sexual assault crisis counselor in my mid-20s and that pretty much got rid of my ambivalence. As I worked with more and more women who were survivors of childhood sexual trauma, it became obvious to me that our justice system is not in their favor. They were courageous survivors, but most of them never saw justice as children and battled lives full of PTSD, fear, depression, addiction and anxiety. I quickly realized this is not the type of world I wanted to bring a child into — it simply was not right for me.
I believe I would have come to the same decision if I hadn’t had that experience; however, not as decisively as I did. What I witnessed as a sexual assault crisis counselor was not something I could shake — especially when I thought about bringing my own child into this world. Until we care more about the well being of our children in general, I won’t be in a hurry to have any myself. — Sara, 28, Canada

For no particular reason, I suddenly had my answer.
I’ve known for as long as I can remember that I never wanted kids and I never even thought twice about it until my late 20s. At that point, I went through some real angst over it, wondering how I could look at a baby and feel nothing inside, and trying to talk myself into having a kid or two. A lot of my friends were having kids, and my mom was asking about it. It was almost a daily thing — I’d just be spinning the wheels in my head.
One day something inside of me snapped and I told myself that I was making the decision then and there. I said, there are no new facts to consider. You’re not suddenly going to get some new information that makes this easier, so just go with your gut. In that moment, I knew the answer was I didn’t want kids — and then I instantly felt so relieved. I haven’t looked back since. (I have a lot of weird epiphanies, like, I can tell you the exact moment I began liking bell peppers.) I don’t know what it was about that particular moment; it was just... time. It’s like being at a restaurant and not being able to chose between a salad and a burger. At some point when the waitress comes, you just have to order. — A, 33, Texas

I finally saw a model for what a childfree life looks like.
I’ve never had an interest in children, but it was in college that I decided that I would be childfree. I had a few female professors who did not have kids and who led perfectly fulfilling lives, with books and pets. I spoke to one of my professors about it, and I follow her on Facebook, so I get a lot of updates about her life. I never had a model for it before then, as my entire family is “traditional” — you get married, have kids, that kind of thing. I had never considered the childfree life a “complete” life, having grown up with that, but I knew it was the life I wanted to have. It’s taken a lot of work to accept that it’s not selfish to want what I want. — Jessica, 25, South Carolina

I still have some fears (and that’s natural)
I’ve never wanted kids, I just feel like I don’t have the “mother gene.” The only real regret I have is that I know how badly my own mother wanted grandchildren, and that I never gave her any — she has stage IV colon cancer, so that definitely makes the regret run a little deeper. 
But I don’t think these fears or regrets need to be eased, and they don’t run my life. They are more fleeting thoughts, which I believe are normal — natural. There was no defining moment for me, no a-ha. To this day, kids and babies just make me very uncomfortable. I don’t relate to them. — Niki, 38, Chicago

I’m 39 and still unsure.
I’m 39 and always thought in the back of my mind I might have kids someday, but now I’m ambivalent about it. I have a good job, a house, I travel several times a year and have a lot of freedom. So if kids were to happen now, fine. If not, that’d be fine, too.
I’m surprised by my ambivalence. I always said 35 was my cutoff to have a baby... and then 35 came and went. I was briefly married in my early 20s and figured it would just happen eventually, but then the marriage ended before it even became a topic of conversation. If I met a man I felt would truly make a good father and life partner, I would consider it, though at 39, I am not sure it’s even a reasonable expectation that it would occur naturally. It’s also definitely not a priority in my life. — Kristen, 39, Florida

Spending a lot of time around kids gave me my answer.
When I was a child, I thought I would get married and have four kids. Then I became a teacher and realized that I really like children, but I don’t really like them after 4 p.m., Monday through Friday. It was a sudden realization. I would think to myself, “How could I go home and deal with more kids, even if they were my own?”
I have a niece and a nephew who I helped take care of when they were babies, which was a pleasure, but when their mother or father came to get them, I was elated. I realized that I just don’t have that thing, that factor, to be the type of mother I’d want to be — the kind that gets on the ground and plays, is patient when they’re moody. I just... don’t. I hear all the time, “You’re so good with kids!” People just assume that if you’re a nurturing person, you should automatically have children, but I don’t have that desire. — Andi, 33, Texas

I don’t want to go off my medication.
I have always loved children — I love being around them, listening to the things they have to say. How they perceive the world is magical to me. When I was younger, I thought that I would have lots of babies, but now at 25 I have a feeling in my very core that I’m not meant to. I have been taking Paxil, the anti-anxiety medication, since I was 12, and it has been linked to birth defects. I’ve tried to get off the medication, but every withdrawal has been filled with cold sweats, vomiting, dizziness, chronic fatigue and weight loss. The thought of going through nine months of withdrawal while pregnant is something that terrifies me. The stress it would put on the baby and myself wouldn’t make for a healthy pregnancy. I know that I will probably never be able to carry a child. Call it instinct. — Samantha, 25, Florida

I feel ill just thinking about pregnancy, but I worry about regret.
I’d always planned that I’d get married and then have kids by the time I was 30. I was engaged at 21, but realized I didn’t want to spend the rest of my life with my husband. Then I was in a relationship with a guy for seven years who was a terrible father to his kids already, and I left him. Since then, I’ve traveled. I volunteered in Africa for two years.
I’m 36 and I really don’t know if I want kids or not — I’ve cried over the fact that I may well now be too late (I’m not sure I have enough time to find someone and bring kids into the world with him) and at the same time, I’m not sure that I actually want to go through pregnancy at all. I love the freedom I have, and the fact I have a well-paid job with plenty of time to travel; however, I’m scared from everybody’s hype that one day I’ll wake up and regret not having kids.
To be really certain that I want to have kids, I’d have to meet the right guy, and know that he wants to have kids also and that we’d continue adventuring together. But then I read an article about pregnancy and childbirth and I think no again... I feel nauseous just thinking about pregnancy and childbirth. — Kayley, 36, UK

When I got my tubes tied, I finally felt ‘“childfree.”
I remember telling my mother when I was about 5 years old that I never intended to have children. Of course, she brushed me off and gave me the usual, “Oh, you’re young. You will change your mind.” As I grew older I wavered — not because I was unsure, but because of the pressures of society. But when I was 25, I decided to be loud and proud about my childfree status — that was the year that I became pregnant while on birth control. My boyfriend and I were terrified at the thought of being parents. We decided that if my pregnancy was viable, we would go through with an abortion. Lucky for us, it turned out to be ectopic so no other action was needed on our part.
I don’t think I needed the pregnancy to make things clear for me about where I stood, but I do think I needed it to make things clear to others. After the ectopic pregnancy, I decided to actively pursue getting a tubal ligation. It was performed in April, 2014 and that was the first moment that I truly felt childfree and in control of my reproductive health. — Ulonda, 27, US

I’m fed up of being told that I’ll change my mind when I meet the right man. The right man for me won’t want kids either! And if the hormones kick in and I have a complete change or heart – that’s my prerogative, not anybody else’s.

As far as I'm concerned, each to their own. You cannot force someone into having babies when they don't want it. It will mean sufferance for both mother and child. At the end of the day we all play a role in this world, that's why we're different. Asking someone who wants to have children to give up their wish sounds cruel. Yet calling a woman "selfish" for not wanting to have them is not. Really?

 Just think about it.

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