Wednesday, September 07, 2011

My Time, Our Time

The shine has worn off of the jealousy I felt about my friend's new baby when she first came into the world. At first I viewed her experience through the rose-colored glasses that accompany new motherhood, but seeing the reality of her new world has convinced me more than ever that I don't want what she has. But it's not just her.

There's the friends with toddlers who haven't gone to the conventions that my husband and I love so much in the years since their children were born. There's the couple who has spent the four years since their son was born doing things only separately so the other could care for him since they don't have family nearby. Most of the burden has fallen on the mother. "When he was born, my life changed completely; R's life has hardly changed at all." Granted, this is a problem in their marriage, that they're not working together, but it's just so sad to me.

"You'll know if it's what you want. If you don't know, don't do it," she said to me.

But my dear friend with her newborn is providing the biggest confirmation that I don't want to do that job. Mom was a colicky baby herself, and her daughter is… well, while she's beautiful in many ways she's also a nightmare. She never stops crying. Never. If she is awake, she is not just crying, she's screaming bloody murder, wailing inconsolably.

The day I spent with Mom and baby was impossibly stressful. After awhile the wailing became white noise, sort of, but every visit since has been increasingly difficult, especially since Mom and Dad are becoming increasingly frayed. They love their daughter but being unable to console her is causing incredible tension between them. I'm encouraged that they're able to admit that this is really, really hard and think things would be even harder for them if they felt the pressure to say everything's perfect at all times, but it's hard to see them struggling so much.

She said to me "the baby eats ALL OF MY TIME" and it became so real. She has no time to be herself. When baby was first born she had time for her hobbies, but that was before she went back to work. Baking, cooking, writing, gaming, all of it's falling by the wayside so she can devote her time to her daughter.

I've talked about how important my time is to me, and how important time with my husband is, but once again I see this reinforced by watching my friends in their parenting adventures. I want to go to concerts, travel, or go to conventions, but I want to do it with my husband. Raising a child wouldn't just sacrifice my time. Sacrificing my time is sacrificing my life and who I am. It just doesn't sound worth it to me.

Saturday, August 20, 2011


Apparently this is a thing among (many?) women who dream all their lives of being mothers. They have a list of names all picked out for their future children. I know if my childhood best friend ends up with a fourth (FOURTH!) girl, the plan is to name her after me. Friends have names picked out long before they even get pregnant and, even though it often changes, they daydream about the named child all the time.

Yeah, I don't have names. Like anybody, I say things like "that's a nice name." I was listening to Within Temptation and the song "Jillian" came on and I thought that would be a nice name, but it's a fleeting thought and mostly on my mind because of this discussion I had with a friend about baby names.

I've never really had that name thing happening. I wouldn't have the slightest clue about what I'd name a child and the thought of it freaks me out because it's so much pressure. I love naming my characters for the games we play, or for stories I write, but I've never had that list of names picked out. But that's fun because it doesn't matter.

Naming a child is a gargantuan responsibility, and one I've seen friends and family members make both excellent and questionable choices, in my opinion. And that's just it. Add that to the long list of items that you'll be judged for as a parent forever. And we know how well I deal with being judged. (hint: not well)

It was an interesting tidbit that I grabbed from a conversation with a new friend, the parent of a four-year-old, who also said, "Don't do it. If you're on the fence at all, don't do it. It will change your life completely and you will know if it's what you want. If you're not sure, then you don't want to be a parent." Words to live by, I think.

Monday, July 18, 2011

Much Ado About Nothing

Since I crossed back into feeling better about my choice, I've been worried that meeting Newbaby would drop me right back into the midst of the rabies. Thankfully, when I visited my friends and their daughter this weekend, it couldn't have been better.

I think this was the first baby I've ever held without anyone uttering the words "don't you want one, even just a little?" and the first time the mother hasn't been convinced I was going to accidentally break the child. This comfort and ease made the visit something awesome. We laughed, we all sat and watched movies and chilled and took turns holding her, handing her back to Mom or Dad when she fussed.

They handled Newbaby with ease and grace, even while admitting that in her week in this world she'd already managed to rob them of sleep and frustrate the hell out of them occasionally. And I got to see the immense love they felt for her and how natural and normal it all seemed.

And, I am happy to report, my uterus didn't twinge once.

Through it all, though I loved holding her and cuddling her, I knew I definitely did not want their life. Just the slightest glimpse showed me how 24/7 this job is. They're overjoyed by it all, but all I saw was what I would lose.

I've been told that I'm too focused on the negative side of parenting, but that's the fundamental difference between us and those who want kids. For me, the negatives are overwhelming and always have been. Parenting's a tough job. So's being a doctor or a physicist. And, again, I'll leave it to those who want to do it and I'll watch from afar, grabbing opportunities to babysit on occasion, or make the busy family dinner (as I did this weekend) to help out the people I love, and my life will be far from empty.

Saturday, July 09, 2011

Birth Control Party

Spending the evening at a friend's party that was not closed to kids is the best birth control ever. In one night there was a baby whose parents had to leave early because of his fussing, a curious but well-behaved one-year-old who couldn't stop touching EVERYTHING and opening every drawer, making a huge mess and nearly breaking many things, and a hyperactive three-year-old who acted like she'd done a few lines of cocaine before coming into the room with us. My head still hurts from said 3-year-old's screaming.


My friends all thought this was adorable. "Look how energetic and friendly she is! She isn't afraid of strangers at all!!" I spent the entire time anxious, nervous, and wanting to leave, and now I have a headache.

This is why we do not invite the kids of friends to evening parties. A barbecue, sure. But not an evening party with drinking and booze and grown-ups chatting about things that may not be appropriate. (Don't get mad at us, Mom. We're here to hang out. Don't want her to hear us? Keep her out by your clique of friends)

Actually coming out and saying out loud to my husband what I was feeling and confronting my fear that he'd take my statements and turn it into "let's have a baby" seemingly evaporated every bit of anxiety and babyrabies I was having. My body seems to have settled and is no longer throwing the pangs in my belly at me, and because of that my mind is clear.

Between that and today's kid experience, I'm feeling like myself again. It's a damn good place to be, and it was beautiful to come home to our kidless home and just relax in the peaceful quiet.

Thursday, July 07, 2011

Talking it Over

I love my husband, and one of the reasons is that I can talk to him when I need to (even if sometimes I don't realize it). And tonight, boy did I need to. Tonight I had the most acute case of the rabies that I've ever experienced. It was so bad that I was really questioning myself, asking myself what my motivations were for not wanting children, whether it was something I really wanted or something I was telling myself I wanted. I was terrified to talk to my husband about these feelings because deep down I feared his response would be "well, maybe we should think about trying." So I clammed up.

But tonight, with talk of the new baby everywhere, the pictures, the stories, knowing that for the next forever the baby is going to be the center of my friend's world, it was all too much. I cried a lot tonight. I was furious at my body, for tying my stomach in knots and hurting my heart when I looked at the baby and tried to reconcile never having that. I was furious that my arguments were getting batted back in a horrible internal dialogue that questioned everything I believe. But my husband, who I had to talk into childfreedom when we got engaged nearly 7 years ago, took my hand and squeezed it, looking at me very seriously.

"If I believed this is what you wanted, I'd say we'll adapt, but this isn't what you want. This isn't you talking. I don't know if it's hormones or what, but this isn't you. So right now, even if you do want kids in this moment, I'm telling you this: I don't."

And he was right. So we talked. We talked about the good stuff we'll be missing out on. We acknowledged that it sucks that we can't have that without the long list of things we don't want. As we started talking the list felt good, and I started snapping out of it. And then it felt great. And then it felt fucking comical.

Seriously, everything I looked at in our amazing house reminded me of why I love my life, and all I'd have to sacrifice to make raising a child possible. My workaholic's workload. The laundry that's piling up and the litterbox that is overdue for a cleaning. The fact that we got them gravity feeders and a water fountain so we don't have to bother with feeding and watering the cats every day. Our pretty things. Our fragile pretty things. My gourmet kitchen. All of it. I don't want kids. I want to feel the joy of holding my child in my arms, but you want me to hold it for the next couple years? You want me to have this child as a constant tag-along to wherever I go, listening to kids' music instead of blaring industrial on a summer's day, and to another birthday party, or a kid-friendly event that will fill the room with dozens of children? Have you met me? How could you possibly think I'd want that life?

There are women who dream of this. There are women who want to be the nurturers. What I'm wanting right now is a moment, and it's a moment I realized, after talking with my husband, I can live without, even if it's going to be hard while I watch newbaby rack up the milestones.

It feels liberating, really, and I feel like me again. But this is exactly why we childfree DO talk about it so much. Because sometimes we are at odds with bodies and hormones and peer pressure that messes with our heads so much we get lost like I got lost. And sometimes we need someone to say "you don't sound like you. What's wrong? Let's talk this over." It's really invaluable.

The Magic of Babies

This is not actually a cynical post. I just laid eyes on a photo of my dearest friend's freshly baked daughter and I'm sort of overwhelmed by the magic of it all. I'm always reminded of the Onion article, "Miracle of Birth Occurs for 83 Billionth Time", but with this couple, this baby, it feels a little more special.

Maybe it's because her mother didn't treat me like a freak when I was interested in hearing about her experience being pregnant with her first child. Perhaps it's because nothing changed when she got pregnant and even though things will necessarily change in some ways now that the little one is here and healthy and beautiful I know she values my friendship and respects my choices. Whatever the case, I already adore this baby. I watched her mom struggle to get pregnant, saw her joy when she finally did and waited on pins and needles for 9 months praying she was healthy, and I feel connected to her.

I just can't get over that this little piece of both of them was in my friend's belly when we were at their house over the holiday weekend fully cooked and ready to be born. For the first time I really feel like I'm allowed to find this exceptionally cool without anybody getting all up in my face about my own choices. I just want to love this little girl and now I can.

She may not be a miracle in the strictest sense, but this baby girl is really special and I feel blessed to have her and her family in my life. They're the family I choose, and I'm so unbelievably happy for them.

Friday, July 01, 2011

Who Am I Trying to Convince?

Is there a more condescending statement out there? This hits a nerve because it was a sticking point in my relationship with friends I've since lost, but I'm going to indulge the Anonymous poster who insists I think about my childfreedom too much.

Is it self-indulgent to blog about the times I feel conflict? Sure, I suppose, but this is the stuff that, when I started this blog 6 years ago I wish was available. Back then I needed someone saying something that other "Fuck kids! Kids suck!" as their reason for not having children. I needed someone to counter the insistence from people I cared about that I was broken, that I should seek therapy because I didn't want kids. And I needed people who admitted that it's not always easy. I didn't find that in 2005.

Do I obsess over this? Hell no, but when it's on my mind I talk about it, sometimes at length. Lately, while my best friend is due (today, in fact) to have her first child and while nearly all my other friends are trying to conceive it is on my mind a lot. I'm at the age where this is something that I'm thinking about because if I am to change my mind that window is closing and that's a big emotional deal.

Am I trying to convince anyone? My readers? Myself? Dear Anonymous, you've made up your mind about me and my motives, but I assure you that's not what this blog is about.

This blog is about sharing my experiences, just like Mommy blogs are about sharing theirs. Do I go to their blogs and ask them, when they gush about how amazing their lives are, who they're trying to convince? When they spew "it's the toughest job you'll ever love", do I ask who they're trying to convince? Of course not. Because it would be condescending and insulting to do so.

I journal for myself, to think things through, and I share it because I get letters every week from people who are thankful someone understands the conflict they're going through. When I started the blog it's something I really needed, and over the years I come back to it a few times a year when it's on my mind.

You don't get worked up when someone questions your life choices, Anonymous? Good for you, and I mean that. I wish I could just brush it aside. Some of us are sensitive. Some of us do take to heart what others say and when someone implies we're defective we go out seeking answers and wonder seriously whether we are. People seek support and kinship and validation online. I've found it in my readers, and they find it in me, and there's value in that.

To those of you who've provided support and encouragement, thank you. And to those who suggest that talking about our childfreedom is uncalled for, or symptomatic of us being broken? Well, there are some things you don't say in polite company.

Wednesday, June 29, 2011


Is it possible to be jealous of something you don't really want? Because that's the emotion that I'm dealing with as I wait with bated breath for one of my best friends to go into labor with her first little girl.

Most days its easy to be childfree. Today's not one of those days. The twinges and the baby rabies have calmed considerably in the last few weeks to being pretty much gone, but tonight they're here hardcore and more upsetting than it's ever been.

I'm going through all the names I've been called. Cold, selfish, you name it, and feeling a little broken down because of it. I'm sort of wishing I wanted parenthood as a part of my life and tonight I'm feeling angry and even a little resentful that it's not something I want. It's got me feeling a little defective and it's hard to face that.

Ironically, this is coming after having a rant-filled conversation about how little I can tolerate children just hours ago after being surrounded by kids downtown during a "family fun fair". It's not the kids I want. Again, it's the kodak moments.

I want the emotion that she's going to feel when she gets to hold her daughter for the first time. I want to know that love and I'm curious about the change people say takes place when they become parents. And yeah, I *am* curious if having kids would make me change how I feel about kids in general. It's also something that I'm completely uncomfortable banking on because right now, as a rule, spending time with kids is about the LAST thing I want to do.

but right now, while she's waiting for her daughter to be born any day now, she's feeling emotions that I won't ever know. Her life is about to change in ways I never want to experience and in ways I wish I could experience. And she's just days away from holding a child that she grew in her body that's a perfect little piece of her and her husband, and I don't care what people say, that's pretty fucking amazing.

This year I'll be 34, and the finality of the decision to remain childfree is starting to really get to me. I know I'm going to be one of those women who wonders "what if", but I don't think that's the same as regret. I don't regret that I deviated from the journalism career path in favor of marketing, though I wonder often what would have happened if I'd stuck with college the first time and focused on my writing. I don't regret not kissing the boy I really liked at an office party in '97, but occasionally I look at Facebook and wonder what my life would've been like if we'd both acted on the crush we had on each other but were too shy to acknowledge, and I don't regret not studying abroad though I wonder how a year or two in Spain might have changed my life.

I think that's the difference. We can wonder what our lives would be like and we can be jealous of others' experiences, but it's possible to do that while still being content in our own lives… even if it means a night or two of being really sad and conflicted. If we're true to ourselves, it'll work itself out.

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Hypocrisy and Respect

It's something I see a lot in the childfree world, and it bothers me a lot. We scream and cry and say "don't judge me", "don't assume X about me", but then in the same breath someone will say something nice about parenthood and immediately the shackles get raised, or they'll say "I was childfree until I changed my mind" and the twitching starts.

Many childfree people find solace in the stories of parents who regret their decision. We look at the woman who resents her children and feel validation, seeing our biggest fears about parenthood happening. And, if we're human, we feel incredible sympathy. If we're not, we go "HA HA HA! Stupid parents" to their faces.

I'm not hopping up on a high horse here. I'm horrified constantly by situations that make me think parenthood should require some sort of licensing process. I get angry at people whose children misbehave and have zero tolerance once normal conversation about what we love and hate about our lives turns into preaching or, worse, accusations about our character. I make judgments all the time about people who I don't think have any business procreating. I have a very low tolerance for misbehavior; I'm highly sensitive, easily annoyed and overwhelmed and because of it I have a really hard time being around kids for more than a couple hours at a time. Sometimes I lose my cool. I bitch a lot to like-minded friends. I'm certainly not perfect.

My issue comes in with over-generalizations, the same ones that we get so angry about. The word "breeders" used as a slur makes me angry, as do many of the vulgar phrases used to describe children at some childfree blogs and communities.

I don't want you to presume I hate all, and specifically your children, but I owe it to you to not call you names. My desire to make the childfree choice a respected one involves respect on both sides.

This also includes not presuming all parents who love parenthood are delusional. I think a lot of people tell themselves little lies to make the hard situations in their life easier to deal with. I think many parents idealize their experience, and I think a lot of childfree women lie to themselves when they say they never think that elements of parenthood are kind of cool. But for every childfree woman who loves her childfree life and knows motherhood isn't for her, I promise you there are a dozen who were born to be mothers. It's an evolutionary fact. Those of us who choose not to have children ARE unusual, and the fact is it will take people some time to get used to us.

But let's try something new. Let's try not getting upset and uppity when someone presumes we're eventually going to have children. It's natural for that to be the assumption. Don't flip your shit when someone pushes the the beginning. If they continue to push boundaries, explain, calmly, your feelings but don't get bitchy and accusatory about it. Reserve your anger for when people really cross the line and actually intend to hurt. The more bitter childfree people parents meet, the more they'll be able to believe that we're horrible, soulless and defective.

Additionally, don't freak out when someone says they were childfree and they changed their mind, or they suggest that when you're older, when your circumstances change, etc., you'll change your mind too. Again, if they make the comment it's one thing; if they push, it's another entirely. NEWSFLASH: Many, if not most childfree people DO change their minds. I know I'm *gasp* not supposed to talk about it, but come on. It's a fact. Many of my friends who are currently trying to conceive were formerly my sisters in childfreedom. It happens. Blame it on hormones, blame it on societal pressure, blame it on maturity, but getting angry about a fact of life is just silly. Because of this I think it's acceptable that people presume we will change our minds, as annoying as it is. Yes, you can and should be offended when people are entirely dismissive, or they push the issue or are disrespectful. But be realistic, and especially to the formerly childfree who changed their minds: be respectful.

Lastly, don't be afraid to admit that there are things you're going to miss out on by not being parents. Don't be afraid to admit that this is sometimes hard. This is a lifestyle choice (although in many ways it doesn't feel like a choice because it's so natural and as much a part of who we are as parenthood can be for others). But we're never going to know just how it feels to watch a child of ours grow, and it doesn't make you a bad childfree person to admit there's a sadness to that.

As I've said in my post, The Rules: Open a dialogue. Don't lecture. Don't judge. There are still things that we'd like to be off-limits, but what I don't address in that passionate post is that we often need to adjust our expectation when someone breaks The Rules and educate people how to treat us respectfully. Part of mutual respect is understanding their prejudices and that those prejudices are normal, and working through conversation, not confrontation, to educate people.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

And so it begins…

Nearly all of my childless friends are now either actively trying to conceive or actually pregnant. It's getting lonely on this side of the fence and I'm having a hard time deciding how I feel about that.

I knew it would only be a matter of time before this happened, and it's just happening later for me than for most. We're all in our 30s, with a couple friends finally decided to try for kids after 35, which brings up all my ethical issues regarding infertility treatments, to be honest. It's all taking on the air of that exclusive club I'm not invited to.

Because of my body's current revolt against my childfree choice, paired with all of my friends switching gears all at once, I've made a lot of mental lists. It's all left me feeling sort of deficient, which I haven't felt in a long time. My usual confidence is being tested more than usual.

But then I ask a friend if she'll be at a concert that I know we both desperately want to go to, but she can't come because her sitter isn't available that night. I see the very girlfriends who are switching gears into baby mode either scrambling to get in the travel they want to do before they get knocked up, or freaking out about how stretched they will be financially when their babies that are on the way get here, and I think my god, that's not something I have to worry about. Fears about what it means for their careers, or whether it's worth it to put an infant in daycare and I thank my lucky stars that I'm not in their place.

And the thing is, when I see them journaling about what they'll miss, how their lives will change, I see that they're struggling with the same questions I'm dealing with. They're just seeing it from the other side of the fence. They're still looking at what they'll miss out on if they make this lifechanging decision, while I'm thinking about what I'll miss out on if I don't.

It's a way that, in a perfect world, we could connect. But I'm terrified to talk about it with them for fear of turning people off as I have in the past. So I clam up for now. Maybe we'll talk about it at some point, but for now I'm just observing from afar and dealing with my issues on my own.

Friday, March 11, 2011

More on the Baby Rabies

Someone wanted to hear more about the conflict that having a body that wants a baby and a rational mind that knows I don't.

The feelings I get are very internal. I'm not the only person I know who's described it as a twinge, but it's like a little twisting or spasm in my uterus or my heart when I see a newborn, or a child doing something cute, and it's entirely bizarre. I'll feel it when I'm watching someone with a child, or holding my cousin's twins, or smelling their hair, or just talking about this.

It's like this incredible feeling of "what if" that inspires the smallest inklings of doubt. It's the literal tugging I feel inside when I read the Essure website and start weighing my options for a permanent birth control solution. It's the tugging that makes me unable to make the final decision to remove all possibility that I will get pregnant.

It's like there's a disconnect in my mind over the concept of having a baby and what a baby means. My mind goes to different places when my body starts wanting the baby. I say things to myself like "it wouldn't be that bad" and my rational brain chimes in immediately with "of course it would!" I don't know if other childfree folk feel this, but for me it's quite plainly an internal struggle. "But BABIES..." "...require every last moment of your attention and energy that you don't have to give." "But, but BABIES!" "…mean the end of your life as you know it and having a constant tag-along who you will resent, and you know you will." The argument rages in my mind and it's frustrating, and I can't talk to anyone about it.

Why? Because it immediately means that I'm really changing my mind, that I'm clinging to this "childfree" label but really I want children. Really, I'm NORMAL. Nothing I can say will make people believe it is not the case. I've tried to explain it. Even in these moments when my uterus is twitching and my stomach is churning and my heart aches, I couldn't begin to list for you the reasons why having a child would be the right thing for me. I can't even throw together a "we would adapt" spiel. Even in these moments the thought of being pregnant frightens me to the core because I think "I'm too old to have an abortion. Too mature and financially secure to live with that decision." I cannot even fathom the idea of bringing a child into this world to live under my care. I don't want that. But like any grass that's sometimes greener, there are aspects that are, of course, appealing.

I do want a little of that joy. I want to know that feeling of watching the ultrasound and holding my breath as the nurse determines whether I'm having a boy or a girl. (twinge). I want to know how it feels to hold my child for the first time (twinge). I want to feel that incomparable love that parents always talk about, that immense satisfaction that I made that. I want that intangible knowledge that my husband and I created a life together, that this child is alive and awesome because of us, and it has my eyes and his smile. (twinge twinge twinge)

But there's a difference between wanting that and wanting years on-end of being responsible for a child's every waking moment, of knowing the only traveling we'll be doing is to Disneyland, if we can even afford that at all. I can't have all those things and still have my hobbies, my work, my peace and quiet and my life as I know it. Being a parent is hard work, and it's hard work that would make me miserable. Me being miserable would make me a terrible, resentful, short-fused, easily annoyed parent and an even worse wife and partner.

I'm at a crossroads in my life right now, but I am 100% sure that I will go through life without knowing what it's like to be a mother. And I'm going to admit what a lot of childfree women will never admit: That kind of sucks. But I'm also going to have a life full of rich experiences with my husband. We'll get to be fully in love as we grow old together, as we travel and experience the world together. We'll never deal with the pitfalls of parenting. We'll never have the heartbreak of having our child proclaim that we're awful and she hates us. We'll never stay up nights worried about the thousands of things parents have to worry about. Our life won't be free from cares, but it will be free from parental cares, and there's value in that.

Mothers and fathers wonder all the time what their lives would have been like if they didn't have children and many come to the conclusion that it wouldn't be worth it because they wouldn't have their child in their life. Well, we look at the decision too, and when we start weighing things, yeah, maybe we'd be pretty great parents, but then we'd lose us in the process, and that just wouldn't be worth it.