Friday, November 18, 2005


We spent our first full weekend back from our honeymoon with my best friend, her husband, and their two sons -- T, who is 3, and N, who's already pushing 5 months. I came to a very satisfying realization this past weekend.

1. I love and adore those boys
2. Nope. Definitely don't want one

I couldn't have been prouder when T took to us immediately, as though he remembered us from our visit when they lived outside Vancouver. Little N seemed to like us lots too -- and what a good baby! Seriously, I've never been around a baby his age for such an extended period of time who was so low-maintenance. ADORABLE!! We played with T, let him show off all his favorite toys. It was a really fun afternoon and exactly what we needed.

But it wasn't T's meltdown that reassured me. Three-year-olds have meltdowns, especially when they're overtired, overstimulated, and not getting their usual amount of attention because mommy and daddy want to talk to their guests. It happens and it's understandable. It's part of the job. And it wasn't that he woke up earlier than anybody wanted to, or that we had to change the channel and watch cartoons with him in the morning. We wanted to do that. It's part of the job.

You see, that's the entire thing. It's a job. It's a full-time, 24/7 job. Their lives revolve around their children. We waited to go out at night so she could feed the baby. Again, not a problem, we didn't mind in the least. But again, the kids were the center of the universe. As they should be, mind you, but A and I felt very secure in the fact that we don't want to live in that universe. It's fun to visit, to play with the kids, to keep them occupied while the parents get stuff accomplished. And we love these kids. But 24/7 seems like a bit much.

It's the same thing when I spend an extended period of time with my niece. I honestly feel like I couldn't love her more if she were my own. I feel protective of her, I want to be with her, I want to be her role-model and I worry about her a lot. I brag about her constantly to people at work and proudly show off new photos. I secretly find it super-cool that she looks a lot like me. BUT, I don't want the commitment of taking care of her full-time, having my life revolve around ANYTHING, even a child.

At the office I hear constantly about parents' weekends dominated by their kids' activities, struggling to figure out which child's event to go to when their schedules conflict. Baby-sitter emergencies ruin date night plans, sick children require vacation days to be drained. It just doesn't sound like fun. Yes, they can look at you with their big eyes like T does, and that makes it worth it... for you. It's just not enough payoff for me.

Friday, September 30, 2005

What Ifs...

I suppose it's always in the back of my mind (nevermind the taunts that "accidents happen!" from those who surround me), but I wonder what would happen if I found myself pregnant. But only in minutes like those I spent waiting in the doctor's office today does it really become sort of real.

I knew I wasn't pregnant. Good grief, I'm only a week late for my Depo shot, but there's still a very potent tension while you're waiting for those test results, starting down the hall, waiting for the nurse to walk out with your prescription in hand. What would I do?

Honestly, the thought of getting pregnant right now terrifies me like nothing else. Who would I call? Who could I call that would understand that "Congratulations!!!!!" would not be an appropriate response? What would I do? Would I continue the pregnancy and live with the consequences? Would I terminate the pregnancy because this is so not what we want? Would I be able to tell my husband, or would I consider keeping it from him out of fear that he would try to change my mind? These are all questions I've asked myself, and while hypothetical, it's an incredibly difficult situation.

I've long said that I believe in a woman's right to an abortion, but I wouldn't be able to go through it myself. Surprisingly, however, the older I get and the more sure I am about remaining childfree, the more I look at abortion as an escape route from a bad situation. Of course I'm conflicted because I don't meet the arbitrary requirements that make an abortion acceptable -- We're financially secure, our relationship is strong, and we're fit, in the general sense, to raise a child.

Now you're going to tell me it'll be different when it's my own child, right? That if that day would come that I find out I'm pregnant, really I'll be overjoyed and these thoughts will *poof* out of my head, right? But do you understand that the idea of being a parent makes me sick to my stomach? Makes my heart ache, my head dizzy. When I picture a child in my life I get panicked and scared and sick... I'm not "normal", I can admit that. I'm 28 years old, practically a newlywed and the thought of babies makes me squeamish like you would not believe. I cannot, even a little, imagine that changing just because "whoooopsies! guess I'm pregnant now!".

Would I have an abortion if I found myself pregnant? Would I try to hide it from A? Probably not and definitely not; we're partners in life now. I believe every child should be a wanted child, but at the same time I know if it came down to it, we'd deal. But it's still something that gets tossed around in my head at moments like these, sitting and waiting for the test results.

Some of the most wonderful children I've known have been "accidents". My niece, my best friend's little brother... hell, *I* was unplanned too. However, that doesn't mean saying something like "accidents happen!" is encouraging. Yes, my mom dealt great with things (twice over, as she raises my niece), but she has a lot of regrets. I don't want a life full of regrets. The fact is, I don't want an accident to happen. And Gods-willing, it won't.

Wednesday, September 28, 2005

An interesting analogy

It came up again at work yesterday. It always comes up at work. There's baby fever here, y'know. According to everyone surrounding me, I'm just not ready for kids yet; once we've been married awhile that will change. We don't really want to remain childless.

And I thought about this, and an interesting analogy popped into my head. It's like when a 6-year-old girl says boys are gross, or vice-versa. Everyone just laughs and says "wait 'til you get older!". I think, because of my age, that's what people write off my CF views as -- I'm just not ready yet, but it's only a matter of time.

When I went for my last depo provera shot, my doctor and I were discussing nobaby options. She made a number of suggestions for less reliable means of contraception, and i told her I wasn't comfortable with a reliability rate of only 85%. "Well, you're getting married, so getting pregnant wouldn't really be a bad thing, right?" she said with a smile.

"No," I told her, "we're choosing not to have children."
She laughed. "Okay, so we'll stick with the Depo... for now. You're still young. hahaha!"

I suspect it's a similar thing to what gay people go through -- everyone says it's just a phase until, finally, it becomes clear that this isn't changing. I've referred to the decision to tell our families as "coming out"; maybe the similarity of the two situations is stronger than I think? I don't know... it's all just so frustrating.

I'm really starting to wonder at what age I'll have to be when people start believing we're serious about this...

Thursday, September 22, 2005

So... it's a baby I guess

"What is wrong with you?! Lauren's here with her baby and you don't want to see it!"

Nope. Don't really care. Insisting I was really busy wasn't working, so I went anyway.

Lauren, one of my now former co-workers, left about 2 months ago when she had her baby. Of course, she decided not to come back to work. Her former position is a stressful one, and one I wouldn't want even without a newborn at home, but she insisted to the very last moment that she would be coming back in a couple weeks.

But she returned to visit us today, her new baby boy in tow. And, of course, all the women in my office rushed like crazy to see the fresh new baby.

Yup, that's a baby alright. A six-week-old, with his giant little head cocked to the side and fuschia skin all... there. Maybe it's bias or attachment working its magic, but my best friend's new baby is ADORABLE; this was just kind of a baby. Sleeping, in his carseat. Just a baby. Nothing special. So I left after seeing the baby, making the appropriate "what a cutie" comments, and went back to my desk.

I don't get it, the fascination with newborn babies. Everyone wanted to smell him. They all stood in a circle and smiled and stared. I just don't get it. Yes, I was fascinated with my best friend's baby, but that's because he's the child of someone I love, and I want to be a part of his life. This was just random baby #257. Without the emotional attachment, babies are a big nothing to me.

Yes, of course, that's what will make the difference *when* I have my own children, I'll have more tolerance and like them more, etc. etc. etc. I don't doubt that if I had kids I would love them completely, that I would experience whatever it is that mothers feel for their offspring. The difference is, I'm perfectly fulfilled without that, thank you. I'll keep my life of convenience.

Monday, September 19, 2005

Omens (and guilt)

M, the "other girl" in my office, announced on Monday that she is pregnant. This, to any normal couple, would be great and happy news. The problem is, her husband is an asshole. Certifiable asshat. They've been together for two years, and are celebrating their 1-year anniversary next week... they've already spent the last four months in counseling. "But I'm sure when we have kids he'll be better," she says. Sure, he'll control his temper and stop throwing things, he'll stop buying cars you can't afford and he'll sell his new 2006 Corvette that you definitely can't afford when you have kids. Counseling is a good thing; if couples are having trouble, I think they should go. It helps people. But I think (a) if you're in counseling in the first year because your spouse "totally changed" and developed a violent temper overnight, you should reevaluate the relationship and (b) if "a" is the case, you have no business having babies. Babies don't magically make bad marriages better. Regardless of my personal stance on having children myself, I'm sorry, I just can't believe that M bringing a baby into that relationship right now could possibly be a good thing for her. I say this because I care about her. We may not be "hang out after work" buddies, but I spend more time with her than I do A, and yes, I care about what happens to her.

That's why today, when she started crying at her desk, I tried to comfort her. She thinks she may be having a miscarriage. She left work half an hour ago to go to her doctor, who wants her to come in. She's devastated, although she still doesn't know what's going on. She told EVERYONE that she's pregnant, and she's only 6 weeks along, so she's also really embarrassed. I didn't know what to say, so I just told her not to panic until after her doctor's appointment. But really, with her symptoms, it doesn't look good.

And all I could think is "maybe this is the gods telling you that maybe you two aren't ready to have kids yet." Of course, I didn't tell this to her face, but I still feel bad for thinking it. I don't know why, because that's what I believe. Her husband has already been yelling at her on the phone because her first instinct wasn't to leave work and go to the doctor when her symptoms started this morning, which of course made her even more upset. I keep wondering if he's going to blame her if she miscarries, make her feel even worse. Because he's that much of a jackass. I wondered if their marriage could survive a baby; I'm not sure it can survive her miscarrying.

I don't know, I guess I just feel kind of terrible about thinking bad thoughts about M's pregnancy; maybe a little guilty -- not like "this is my fault" guilty, but I just feel for her. This has to be just awful to go through. I still do believe that maybe this is some sort of omen that maybe they should get their personal relationship figured out before they walk down this path, but still... Poor M.

Wednesday, September 14, 2005

Another One Bites the Dust

I lost an important sista in my childfree circle today. Not completely; it's not like she's pregnant or plans to be anytime soon, but she's crossed over to the other side. Jeanine wants babies... not now, but someday. She wants little Danish babies with Scandinavian names to go with her boyfriend's funny last name when they finally decide to get married.

This isn't a bad thing, mind you. I speak in jest about her "crossing over"... and there I go again with the disclaimers. In all seriousness, I'm just shocked overall. Jeanine, who was childfree before I was, who freaks out at the mere thought of EVER being pregnant, and can't stand babies... or couldn't. It's just strange to me that someone I thought of as completely and thoroughly childfree has fallen victim to the taunt I hear all the time... she's "changed her mind".

We were discussing the shower/ribbons situation and my fiancé's grandma's new favorite phrase, "when the baby comes", over coffee when she told me this. We talked about it for awhile when a woman at the table next to us asked me why I didn't want kids. She's probably in her late 30s, maybe early 40s. She never had kids, "but then again, I never got married"; she wanted to know how I came to this decision. It was awkward explaining myself to a stranger, and I was still somewhat in shock over Jeanine's admission that she really does want kids, but we talked for a bit. "I'm 28," I told her, "and I've still never had that insatiable urge for children," among other things. "Yeah, but maybe when you're like 34 or something, right? You're keeping your options open, right?" I may have rolled my eyes before caving, "sure, I might change my mind," more to end the conversation than anything.

I spent my entire drive home wondering what the hell is wrong with me. Why is it so hard for this to just be a decision between my future husband and me? Why can't I make people back off without saying "I might change my mind"? Why is that the only way they garner satisfaction? WHAT THE FUCK IS WRONG WITH ME?

It's not fear that I might change my mind and render all this ridiculous in a sort of "ha ha, told you so" way. It's that I don't want to change my mind. I honestly feel like changing my mind will do all the things I fear -- it'll change my life completely in a way I don't want it to be changed. Why would I change it? Because of the "baby rabies"? Because I can't handle the pressure from family? Why can't I just say "we're not having kids" and have that be okay??

At the shower on Saturday I sat next to Lori, who just got married a couple weeks ago. She stared longingly at baby Nathaniel. "I want one of those so bad it kills me," she said. "I hate that I have to wait 'til I'm done with school." That doesn't happen to me. I stare at the baby and think "oh my god, he's so adorable, so tiny, so soft, so etc. etc. etc.," but any desire to have one is always tempered by what it means to have one, a realization that the sacrifices aren't worth it. FOR ME. Just me.

And again I ask the question, why is this so offensive to people, so hard for them to grasp?? It's not fair. I just want to feel normal.

Tuesday, September 13, 2005

Whose Vacation Time?

It happened again yesterday. E's babysitter called in sick, so she had to leave work early to cover for her. "Whose vacation time is this, anyway," she said to me in an exasperated voice. "I've only used maybe one of my vacation days for myself, and now I'm almost out."

It's true. The days our company has off, her babysitter wants off too. When she calls in, it's because her babysitter is unavailable. And, invariably, she comes in the next day completely worn out and looking exhausted.

She often complains that she's a bad mother because she has to work, but she doesn't do it for the money. Almost her entire salary goes to pay her babysitters. I've said it before, there are people who are just wired to be stay-at-home moms -- she is not one of them. She's fine on the weekends with him, when her husband is usually there, but she freaks out when she has to spend a day alone with her son.

E had babies for an interesting reason: it was time. On her schedule, I mean. Get married by 22, have first child by 24. Check, all of the above. Yet she constantly comments, when A and I do something fun on a weeknight, or take a spur-of-the-moment trip, that she wishes she could do all that. I don't think she was ready for the sacrifice yet. She also talks a lot about how she wishes she had a girl (not diminishing her love for her son), and, well, speaks in a rather juvenile way about him sometimes, as if he's a new gadget or toy to be shown off to others. Not in the same way other people talk about their children, mind you... it's almost as if he's inanimate.

That sounds horrible when I put it in writing; I don't know, she just loves showing him off SO MUCH, loves the idea of him, really. Loves shopping for him, buying him cute things, decorating his bedroom, hanging his photos all over the place. But when it comes down to it... I don't know what I'm trying to say. She loves her son, I believe that wholeheartedly. But, well, she gets SO flustered about spending more than an evening alone with him, gets so upset when she has to use her vacation time to take care of him... I'm not sure what I'm trying to say. I actually kind of applaud her for feeling comfortable enough to express frustration and annoyance with being a parent. I don't know, I guess this just all gets added to the list of things to consider if I ever do start to feel the winds of mind-changin'. There's nothing wrong with her, really. It's just part of being a Mom... the complete sacrifice is the thing that I just can't get on board with; seems like E is still getting used to it.

Sunday, September 11, 2005

Ribbons and Bows

I'm unsure if this is a midwestern thing or if everyone knows about this, but apparently if you break a ribbon at your bridal shower, that = one baby. I had been to a bridal shower where this was the case, but I was hoping it wouldn't extend to my family or my fiancé's... no such luck. I ripped the bow off my first gift and heard hoots and hollers all over. "She broke the ribbon!" "You know what that means, don't you!" "That's ONE!"

This continued throughout the unwrapping. I MacGuyvered my gifts out of their intricately wrapped ribbons, much to the dismay of my future grandma-in-law, who wailed loudly "come on, I need LOTS of grandkids!" One particular gift was wrapped so bizarrely in ribbon that my future mother-in-law and my fiancé's aunt both excitedly snapped photographs before I had at it. Success. Success which was met by a bewildered, "I'm sorry, I tried!" from my aunt. Oh brother.

My best friend brought her two-month-old along, and I got to meet him for the first time. I still can't shake the feeling that she still doesn't understand that my desire to remain childfree has nothing to do with not liking her kids. I couldn't stop touching little Nathaniel's soft tiny head, covered in silky, fuzzy hair. He was just to die for. When I offered to hold him while she was loading up her car, she looked at me like I was Chinese. Me, hold a baby? I might catch "babies!" I just wish I could make her understand... it's like the person I need most desperately to support me in this -- my best friend -- still can't separate this issue from herself. I don't know what to do about it.

I know she's sensitive when I post these things -- that's why it's ending up here and not in my LiveJournal. I feel like if I try to make her feel comfortable that she thinks I'm trying too hard... if I tell her how much I adore her sons, that it's not sincere, or that it's a front. I just wish I had some confirmation that she gets it, but the biggest rift we've ever had was when her first son was born; She was hypersensitive about our friends who didn't want children, I said some things I wish I could take back. But I don't think she's ever gotten past that. I don't think she'll ever be comfortable with my adoration for her children, and I think until I change my mind and decide to have kids of my own, my actions with regards to her sons will always be suspect. I just don't know what I can do about that.

Tuesday, August 23, 2005

Supply and Demand (Interesting Pro-Choice essay)

A friend ran across this on Craigslist and thought it was pretty well written, so she shared it. I enjoyed it as well, although some of it is a little harsh. Still, many good points.

The original post

"So I was walking through campus the other day and there were some kids holding posters in support of Roe V. Wade. 'Bravo,' I thought, as I walked by. Then out of the corner of my ear I heard mockery of the activists in the form of “I’m bored, hey! We should go get abortions this afternoon! That would be fun!” which came from one male pro-life student to another.

Now, I know, I’m preaching to the choir here, but the abortion debate is quite a bit more complex than “baby-killing” versus “choice.” If it were that simple, I don’t believe that the battle over the issue would have been dragged on for this long. And, so, I’m curious as to why the argument, on both sides, has been driven to simplicity.

In case there are a few dip-shits out there reading this, I’m going to go through this comprehensively so as to, perhaps, enhance the debate within the minds of a few.

First and foremost: not a single person on Earth desires an abortion. In this case desire is not interchangeable with demand. Women do not want abortions the way they may want a new car, a warm home, or in the case of my girlfriend: a new pair of shoes.

Goods, services, and subsequent industries begin with demand; supply is purely reactionary. In the case of abortion, the legality of the practice is completely arbitrary. Meaning: demand is unaffected by the government’s administration over the industry sector.

If we create a typical profile of a woman that chooses to undergo the procedure, we paint the picture of someone that is 1) young, 2) lower to mid-middle class, 3) uneducated, 4) a minority and 5) living under social constraints that render un-wed motherhood completely unacceptable. This may be a generalization, but for the purposes of this experiment, we’re going to the peak of the bell curve.

When you think about this, it makes sense. In the animal kingdom, the only reasons a mother abandons her young are 1) the creature is too weak or disabled to keep up and 2) there’s not enough food/resources for the mother to survive and sustain her child.

How then, can the demand for Abortions be addressed and quelled? Also, how do the policies of pro-life proponents address these problems?

Lets just shoot down the list. We’ll use a median-voting pro-life individual to identify the problems with thinking about this problem too simplistically. That individual is: a republican, because lets face it, if you’re die-hard pro-life, you’re a fucking republican.

Since youth isn’t a variable that’s easy to change (and also not a very good reason to get an abortion) we’ll exclude it from the argument.

1) The person is poor. They cannot afford to sustain themselves and a child without adversely affecting the quality of their already shitty lives. The pro-choice left seeks to offer the lower class tax breaks and transfer payments from the upper class. The left increases funding to social welfare programs and public assistance. Republicans burden the poor with taxes while passing tax cuts to the wealthy. Welfare programs are eliminated.

2) The person is uneducated. They aren’t aware of birth-control options that are at their disposal. They are unskilled laborers and therefore have little to no potential to “make-it.” The left seeks to educate high-school students over birth control, offer birth control to teens, and make plan-B available without a prescription. The left supports education by increasing funding to schools. Republicans tend toward the opposite. Children are, with a degree of futility, taught to “wait until marriage” and are fed mis-information that claims birth control can lead to infertility. Public education programs are cut, creating more working class individuals while manufacturing jobs are exported to exploitable regions of the world.

3) The birth is unsupported by friends and family. Meaning the abortion seeker is afraid of alienating themselves from their friends and family, school and workplace, and their entire community. Leftists offer support centers and their families tend to be much more accepting. Right wing nuts threaten the woman with the wrath of god, disown her, or send her to a hospital where the child and mother are nurtured in a concealed and unfit environment.

4) The individual is a minority. Not a lot you can do about this one. However, I wish to point out that pro-life billboards preach that adoption is a viable alternative and that millions of loving couples are waiting to adopt. Here is the problem with the millions of couples that are waiting to adopt: they’re fucking racists. Millions of couples are waiting to adopt white babies while the baby market is flooded with brown ones. Recently, its been brought to the public’s attention that those children are being adopted by foreigners from Canada and Europe. Legislation is being introduced, by republicans, that will prevent those unwanted babies from leaving to other countries, where they are wanted, because they were “born in America and should stay in America.”

Pro-life republicans, while they claim to oppose abortion, create the very environment in which demand for the practice thrives. Pro-choice democrats seek to create an environment in which no one needs an abortion in the first place, while ensuring the practice is safe, sanitary, and performed by a licensed medical practitioner as we, as a society, are still in a transitional period. By eliminating the demand for abortion, practitioners will lose the ability to practice. The supply will cease to exist and the clinic will close. Which seems much more civil than blowing it up or shooting some doctors.

People are, in general, pretty fucking stupid. They are, however, programmed to survive. If a woman becomes pregnant, and that pregnancy threatens her economic, social, or political survival, she will resolve her problem by all means at her disposal. The legality of abortion is therefore not the issue and all of you conveniently Christian conservatives that lack the devotion to help the sick and poor should shut your fucking mouths."

Tuesday, August 16, 2005

Quiet Please!

Wanna see something cool?
Wanna see something cool?
Wanna see something cool?

Auntie come watch this!
Auntie come watch this!
Auntie come watch this!

Wanna see something cool?

I love my niece, I adore her. If something were to happen to my brother and parents, I would take her in a second. But OH MY GOD she does not stop talking. And she's a show-off -- just like I was at her age, I hear -- and requires constant attention. She's, basically, a 6-year-old.

A and I spent the weekend with my niece. She joined us at the flower shop and behaved better than Uncle A as we finalized the flower decisions. Later, we took her to her best friend's birthday party. This was taxing. The girls were constantly demanding we watch them do this trick and that, although "this" and "that" were pretty much the same thing. We humored them, we laughed, we congratulated them on their gymnastics skills. It was actually quite cute at first, but it got old. Fast.

Then there were the boys. Oh dear god the boys. One, whom my mom dubbed "tough guy", kept challenging kids to do dangerous stunts on the slide and merry-go-round. The other was "the sand thrower", and he just threw sand at everything. People, dogs, and he coated the slide with it. Where were their parents? In all cases Dad was huddled by the barbeque, Mom was talking exasperatedly with the other moms and shooting annoyed glances at them while saying "stop that" in a nonthreatening voice. There were, of course, no consequences for NOT stopping that.

After we tore her, sobbing, from the birthday party, we went out to the camp site. We blew up the air mattress and she began practicing her gymnastics on it. It was adorable, at first, of course. Auntie, watch me do a flip/summersault/running summersault, which were all, again, pretty much the same thing. A showed her how to do a headstand and she practiced this for awhile. But the moment we stopped paying attention, it was "wanna see something cool?" And, of course we want to see something cool, so she'd do another summersault and say "wasn't that cool!"

After dinner, she let up and we had a really fun game of Yahtzee, which she is frighteningly good at. I think it was because we were actively involved in a game she was playing that she was so, well, not annoying. Now THAT was quality time spent with her. The night ended well, but the next morning it all started up again. "Wanna see something cool?" After I tear down the tent, C. "Watch me do this!" I can't right now, I'm trying to clean up. "Wanna see something cool?"

I just have no patience for her after awhile, and while I love this child more than any other, I was so glad to have grownup time after we left. I can't help but feel like having children is a life-sentence of limited grownup time. Sure, the kids are cute, but after the novelty wears off it just gets irritating. I can't have a dog for the same reason, and sometimes I get so frustrated with my cat's constant cries for attention that I hide under the covers or go so far as to lock him out of the room. How do people DO this??

Tuesday, August 09, 2005

When the baby's born

We dined at my fiancé's grandmother's house last night, and she presented him with a lovely, thoughtful gift: his grandfather's wedding band. It's sort of cheesy in an old-man's band kind of way, but it was a wonderful gesture and she doesn't expect him to wear it as his wedding band, since we purchased ours already.

Then, she looked at me and said "when the baby comes, if it's a girl, she can have my rings," as if I were already pregnant.

She's going to be the hardest one of the bunch, and when I'm with her i just melt. Not in the way that we'd have kids just to please her, or to avoid disappointing her, but in the way that I don't want to tel her we're not having children. Because his only aunt & uncle tried for years with no luck, I don't want to lie and say we ARE trying... y'know, in two years after A finishes school. I don't want to mock the pain they went through as she suffered miscarriages and stillbirths before deciding to stop and remain childfree.

How do you break someone's heart like that, though? How do I look at this poor 80-year-old woman, who's so excited for "when the baby comes", and tell her she will have no great-grandchildren. None. How do I tell her that? It's only in these moments that I feel selfish. Scratch that, it's not the selfishness -- it's that I feel like a bad person.

Yes, this is a selfish decision we're making, but we believe it's no more selfish than having children and expecting to carry on with the same lifestyle we currently have. The weekend trips here or there, the late nights spent gaming or just hanging out with friends, the quiet time alone together. But being selfish does not make us bad people.

Watching his grandmother, seeing how desperately she wants A to have a child, that's when I feel sick to my stomach with guilt because I know I can't give her what she wants. I can see the whole family growing to resent A's selfish wife who won't have kids. He won't get blamed, it'll all be on me, I just know it. I don't know how to prepare myself for that.

Friday, August 05, 2005

Talk Talk About It

I think I'm starting to understand why parents talk so much about their children. The fact is, I'm surprised how much my fiancé and I talk about being childfree with our likeminded friends. It's an issue that's constantly on our minds. It comes up when we're talking about the wedding, about vacations, about our friends, about our families. We talk about children, I dare say, every bit as much as an average parent — NOT the obsessive types whose lives revolve around their kids to the point where they define themselves as ONLY a parent and not a person, but just a regular parent. This seems to be true of all my childfree friends. We talk about it all the time.

There was a time where I wondered if the fact that I'm so interested in identifying myself as childfree, so obsessed with the idea of NOT having children, was masking the fact that I really do want kids. This period bothered me considerably. "Why am I so obsessed wiith this label, this lifestyle?" I'd ask myself. It was a time of great self-doubt.

I would be lying if I said I never wondered what it would be like to have kids with my fiancé. Of course I have. I've wondered what they'd look like, whose personality traits they'd pick up, all of that stuff. But it's never been in the way that a lot of my parent friends have thought about it. Sure, I've thought long and hard on whether I'd regret this decision in the future, wondered what it would mean if we did change our minds in ten, fifteen years. Would I be letting this "movement", this label I'm attaching to myself, down? I would be one of those breeders who changed their mind, who was never actually childfree in the first place as some sites argue.

I honestly think anyone who claims they've never EVER considered kids is kidding themselves. We all arrived at this decision through consideration. I know that while I'm not terribly fond of the babies of strangers and I remain unmoved when "A Baby Story" comes on TV, I still look at my niece and wonder what it would be like to have a kid just like her. My maternal instinct is remarkably weak, though, I've noticed through the years as my niece grows up and my friends start having babies. I don't oogle over teeny tiny shoes and socks, or have the need to see and hold every baby that crosses my path. My instinct is still to flee. I honestly was never able to see a day when someone would call me "Mom". It's just not me.

The thing is, when I latch onto stories of kids, I'm of course moved and touched by the sweet or funny stories. But the ones that stick with me, unlike my parent friends and the parents-to-be, are the negatives. I love hearing the fun stories, but I can't get past the complaints of "I want my life back" or "when you have kids, you won't have time for that" or "I miss my husband", etc. These stories are much more powerful to me, and when I imagine myself in such a position I feel paralyzed. It makes me sick.

But because children are such a huge part of the lives of the people with whom I surround myself, being childfree is justifiably a huge part of mine. Every time I defend my position I feel a little better. I still feel sick when I consider coming out to my future in-laws and know that it's going to be incredibly difficult, but I'm strong in my resolve. Luckily I have the support of a wonderful, like-minded man, many like-minded friends and a handful of respectful disagree-ers to help me through.

Thursday, August 04, 2005

On Traveling

"I need a vacation from my vacations," said an exhausted Megan walking into my office yesterday morning. It was her first day back from her weeklong family vacation with 6-year-old Lilly and 3-year-old Griffen. This week was spent as their vacations are often spent — visiting family who lives out of state. Grammy can't fly, so every summer she and her husband take the 10-hour roadtrip (which is "pure hell", in her own words) to Grammy's "museum" of the house. Grammy believes that "you don't move things, you teach your kids not to touch them." This is unwise. In the three days they spent at Grammy's house, Griffen managed to break an antique vase, a candle-holder and a glass. Grammy was on edge the whole vacation. Lilly, on the other hand, suffered from incredible boredom. Grammy's house isn't exactly built for children, Megan explained. And, because of the not-moving-stuff rule, their activities were limited to a small portion of the house, unless they wanted to go elsewhere. This would have been the best solution, but Grammy wanted to kids to stay there. "You've come all this way, and now you don't want to see me!" she'd squeal. So they stayed. And were bored. Then they left, another day-long drive in pure hell. "I just want a grown-up vacation," she whines. They'll surely return next year.


"We never go anywhere!" My officemate constantly complains that she and her husband haven't had a vacation since she became pregnant with 1-year-old Michael. Whenever talk of my upcoming honeymoon arises, or whenever someone drops by our office to talk about their recent trip, she sighs. "I need a vacation."

So far this year, a full week of her vacation time has been spent covering for sick or vacationing babysitters — she and her husband hire an in-home sitter for their son. Now, as my company ramps up for our busiest season (when taking more than one day off at a time is virtually impossible), she's planning her vacation. Here's the problem.

The whole reason she wants to take a vacation is to be closer to her husband. She wants a vacation from being Mommy. And, yet, she's terrified of leaving little Michael with her mother for more than a night at a time. So they keep scheduling their long weekends and cancelling them because she doesn't want to leave Michael.

I appreciate the sacrifice she's making and how hard it must be to leave her child in the hands of anyone, even the child's own grandmother, but then she should stop whining about how she can never go anywhere. If you want a vacation from being Mommy, I say, then take the vacation. "But I feel like such a bad Mom, taking a vacation without my son," she whines. In that case, I throw up my hands.

If you give yourself this break, I tell her, you'll be a better mom for it, and you'll be able to get over this resentment that you feel for him, to get over the feeling that he's keeping you from what you want to do. It's healthy to leave him. So just do it. She cancelled another vacation today. I'm sure tomorrow the cycle will begin again.


We spent the weekend with my fiancé's family at their family reunion and were wonderfully reassured in our decision to remain childfree. We were surrounded by his nephews, and nieces, all laughing, playing, and causing mischief. There are so many children in our life, it felt good to see that we wouldn't be leaving a void by not having kids. His family will see it differently, but that's another story.

What we also did this weekend was watch the parents closely, and we noticed something. Not once, for the entire three day weekend at his aunt's gorgeous lake house, did one of these people STOP being a parent. They never played the role of husband, wife, lover. The couples didn't take the time to enjoy a quiet, romantic walk around the wooded lot together, they didn't take out a paddleboat or a waverunner together — they didn't appear to take any time to just enjoy the beautiful area, or to enjoy each other. In fact, the only time they spoke to each other seemed to be when reporting something or other that the children had gotten into.

Of course, children will be children. That's what they do. That's why it's so much better to watch from afar. I don't want that kind of grief when I'm on vacation. I don't want to spend my evening searching the great room for Uncle Frank's antique wooden checkers that one of the eight kids — no one will come forward, however, for fear of getting in some well-deserved trouble — hid somewhere. Nobody knows who did it, nobody knows where. I want to go on vacation to the lake house to spend time with the man I love, to enjoy some quiet time together, away from our hectic life in the city. And that's what we did. We relaxed, we took romantic walks, we rode together on the waverunner, and we felt sorry for the couples who couldn't seem to even carry on a conversation with one another unless it was about the kids.

Tuesday, August 02, 2005

End of the line

In a little over two months I will be changing my name. In doing so, I will become the last new addition to my groom's family. My fiancé is an only child and already we've been pressured, poked and prodded to unveil the date when we'll begin the process of carrying on the family name. They're going to have to deal with this... whenever we decide to tell them.

There are a number of reasons why we have yet to declare our upcoming marriage a childfree one. The wedding tops that list. We'd rather this decision NOT be the focus on our wedding day.

For now, it's easy enough when confronted with the "when you two have kids" comments to just smile, giggle, and act uncomfortable. It usually makes people go away, or at least drop the subject. My family has pretty much accepted this reality, although they hope I'll somehow change my mind, bringing my groom along with me. His family, however, will be devastated.

I don't think that word is an overstatement.

My fiancé is the only child of an only child; my future father-in-law can't wait for us to have kids, and he can't wait to tell me so. He's the only grandson of a woman whose daughter (my fiancé's mother) is deceased and whose other child's wife is barren; she speaks of it constantly. My fiancé is under a lot of pressure to reproduce. We feel it at every family gathering, every other phone call, you name it. It's intimidating, frustrating and heartbreaking.

We'll be breaking their hearts when we announce our plans to remain childfree.

My fiancé has toyed with the idea of claiming that I'm barren, or that he's shooting blanks. But I don't want to be pushed into emotional discussions with his aunt, who had two stillborn babies and a miscarriage before deciding to call it quits, or his stepsister who is desperate to have a child but can't seem to conceive, about how hard it is wanting something so badly and being unable to have it. It's disrespectful of their suffering, and I won't do it. Nevermind that I don't want to lie, period. I don't want endless discussions about fertility treatments, etc. I can't pretend like that. But he REALLY doesn't want to go there with his family.

I simply don't know how to handle this. I want to get it out of the way, although I'm all for doing it AFTER the wedding, but I'm terrified. I don't want to alienate his family, I don't want to disappoint his father and grandmother. But the fact is, we don't want kids. We love the children in our lives and feel that we have plenty. We want our careers, we want to travel, we want freedom, and we don't want the responsibility of raising children.

Someday in the months to come, we'll be asked outright and forced to answer. I've already told him that if someone pushes and requires a response stronger than silence, it's time. Before or after the wedding, the news will come out. We'll deal with the tears, the pleading, the pressure... It's a day I equally anticipate and dread.

Wednesday, July 20, 2005

Growing tired of disclaimers...

I need this to stop. The addition of the phrase "who knows, we could change our minds eventually" or "maybe in a few years we'll be ready" is beginning to make me sick. The more I say it, the more it nauseates me, because it's a lie.

We're not having children. We are comfortable with this decision. Please stop trying to convince me that I'll regret it.

This is not because:
We hate children. We don't. Yes, we have a low misbehaving tolerance, but we adore our nieces, nephews and the younglings of friends. It gives us great pride to be called Auntie and Uncle. I'm honored when people assume that, for example, my niece is my own child, because I know what a great kid she is. We love the kids in our lives. What we like even more is giving them back at the end of the hour/day/whathaveyou.

We fear losing our independence. I'd be lying if I said this was 100%, but we know that it's possible to live a fun, social life while raising kids. We have friends that do it. We know the birth of a child isn't the social death sentence that it was for our parents. The parents we know get a babysitter or have company at their house, raising their children with half a dozen honorary Aunts and Uncles. I think that's pretty special and helps create a rich environment for a child, filled with role models and, of course, enthusiastic babysitters.

My parents never had friends when my brother and I were growing up. The only time we'd have a babysitter was New Year's Eve, when my mom and dad would go out with their siblings. I know my mom loves me, my brother, and my 6-year-old niece, but she has openly told me she wishes she could hit the do-over button and find out what her life would be like without kids, without my dad. I do not take offense to this because I know it is an issue completely separate from her love for me.

We think we'd make terrible parents. On the contrary. We'd make fantastic parents. We'd read to our kids every night, and give them a life rich with social and educational experiences. We'd take them camping with us and teach them how to fish; we'd take them to historical and cultural places as well as DisneyWorld and the local playgroup. We'd learn all about disciplining our kids and sure, we'd maybe lose our tempers once in awhile, get irritated during the "why" stages, etc. but we could make it through it. We just have no desire to.

There are a thousand reasons that we are making this choice. I am leary to list these reasons, though, for fear of those with kids and the many who want kids accusing me of making generalizations. This is, after all, a public forum and I'm opening myself up to the criticism that I face constantly at work when I show disinterest in the baby stories of strangers (not the people I work closely with -- I like their stories), or when I don't want to hold the baby that's been brought in for show and tell. "SHE doesn't want kids," a co-worker will say in a tone that cannot possibly be conveyed in type but is much like an eight-year-old tattling on her classmate, opening the classmate up for immediate ridicule. The conversation inevitably shifts, usually to trying to talk me out of the decision by bringing up one of the three aforementioned points.

"It's the toughest job you'll ever love," Eddie, the man going through the nasty divorce tells me. This same man who readily admits that his marriage began going downhill upon the birth of their twins, bringing the grand total to three kids. He resents his wife for insisting on putting her career as an international flight attendant before the kids, putting him last in line for her attention and affection. After the twins were born, he tells me, she took more flights than ever and she'd be gone several days a week. It was as if, he says, she was running from their family. I don't think there are any "as ifs" about it.

"You have such nice things," said my fiancé's stepsister. "You'll have to get rid of it all when you have children." She told this to me without a hint of humor. "I can't have nice things anymore. I traded all that for my kids." Her kids are three holy hellion boys. No, I take that back. Her firstborn is actually a nice kid. It's his little brother -- the middle one -- who's the troublemaker. He gets his attention the hard way -- he breaks things, or he just screams. The third and youngest child seems to be following, of course, in the middle boy's evil little footsteps.

Is this a parenting issue? Of course it is. But when I saw her in this rare moment without her children, speaking openly about how exhausted she always was, how tired she was of yelling all the time, how impossible these boys are to control and how this wasn't what she signed up for when she became a mother, I feel sorry for her. When she says "I never looked past that little baby, and how beautiful having that little baby would be. I never thought it would be this much work," she's not talking me out of having children, but she is reinforcing one of the big reasons why I've made this decision: I already have a job. I love what I do. I want to keep doing it. She is miserable since she quit her career to be a stay-at-home mom because financially it was more expensive, with three children, for her to work than to stay home. Some people are wired to be stay-at-home moms and I respect and envy their temperament. She is not one of these women. Neither am I. But at least I know that now before jumping into having kids.

"You guys have so much fun together," says Mike, my coworker who has two children, one of whom has severe ADHD. "That's because you don't have children." He whines about how we see all the good movies yet he, a huge sci-fi buff, only this weekend finally saw Revenge of the Sith. "You two so need to have children," he says enthusiastically. "You'd be the coolest parents ever." He says this immediately after a story about how his hyperactive daughter's overcommitted schedule eliminates all time for fun in their household. This past weekend, Madeleine's ice skating instructor is on vacation, which left him a rare moment to catch the film. Usually he'll come in on Monday, exhausted, talking of the two birthday parties, flute lessons and four hours of ice-skating preliminaries that he did in one weekend. "That sounds great," I'll tell him. "We're going to have kids right now." I do this because he's the worst of them, the ones who insist I'll be the best mom ever. It used to be cute, a funny game between us and I usually don't mind that particular tactic. I'm usually flattered by it. His tone has changed, though, putting a little too much emphasis on "accidents happen!" and "you two are doing the world a disservice by not breeding" (his actual words), and so too must mine. Listen to me very carefully, Michael. THAT IS NOT WHAT WE WANT.

"I want my life back," my friend Lisa has said a number of times. She was much like me two years or so ago, upwardly mobile in her career with a clear vision of her future that didn't involve children. She was in the middle of planning her wedding when she found out she was pregnant. They moved up the wedding date so she wouldn't be showing too much on her wedding day, and eventually came a gorgeous little girl. First she was forced to give up a sales position that involved quite a bit of traveling for a local one -- one she didn't want. Determined not to let motherhood get in the way of her career, she enrolled her 2-month-old daughter in daycare. "It's a no-win situation," she tells me. "Either I stay home and become miserable because I'm not working, or I put her in day care and I'm home all the time because she's sick." Her daughter spent the winter in a constant state of illness, going back to daycare for a day only to come home two later with another cold. She and her new husband had to cancel their delayed honeymoon because they used all their vacation time over the winter staying home for a sick little girl whom daycare wouldn't allow through the door. Lisa and her husband got sick too, a result of the lack of sleep caused by a sick, collicky baby. "I love her, I really do," she'll say. All she ever wanted was to meet the man of her dreams and marry him. "I just want to enjoy my life now, and enjoy my husband. I feel like a terrible mom and a worse wife." I don't doubt that she loves her daughter. She lights up when she talks about her, about her milestones, and when she shares her latest pictures. But Lisa might be the only parent I know who discourages me, for the sake of, at the very least, my career, from having children.


I like when people tell me about their kids. I love stories about how cute they are, and I'm empathetic when the stories turn to how rough a job being a good parent is. I genuinely care about people, about their relationships and their children. It hurts my feelings when people assume we're childhaters and anti-family. When I first met my fiancé, he said he wanted four kids. Seeing how Joy's family has changed since our relationship began has been a huge motivator in changing his mind, especially hearing her talk so frankly about how hard it is, and how hard it's been on her relationship with her husband. Of course there may be three happy marriages for every one that's changed for the worse with the addition of children. Of course many of you are thrilled about the idea of starting your families or enjoying your children you already have. WE BOTH KNOW THIS.

I would love to discuss this with people. Tell me how much you love your families, tell me how happy you are and how your life has changed since you've had children -- I want to hear it. But tell me because you want to share your joy, not because you want to convince me I'm making a grave mistake. And please, for god's sake, don't ask me what I'm going to do when I'm 45 and childless and wishing I'd had kids. (this is what brought on this post). I have strong feeling I'll have no regrets.

Now I just need to practice declaring my upcoming marriage a childfree one to parents-in-law convinced that we must carry on the family name. And I need to learn to deal with the tears, and with hearing the same things I always hear: "It's the toughest job you'll ever love." Thanks, but, as a good friend is fond of saying, if I want a tough job to love, I'll join the Peace Corps.