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.


Julie said...

Stasha--You are not alone! I've enjoyed reading your blog--it helps to know that others feel the same way I do. I just started a blog on the same topic if you'd like to visit:

Karen said...

I just stumbled onto your blog and I'm glad to see there is another woman out there who feels the same "twinges". You wrote most eloquently about this experience. Thanks!

Katethegreat said...

I have just discovered your blog and I love it!
Being a 20 year old woman in university (hoping to become a lawayer some day) with parents who are still miserably married because of me, the prospect of children is not a happy one. I have long felt that someday I will have them, just like someday I will die. Get married, work for a while then pop a kid out before it's too late then try and get back into work as soon as possible etc. But then I started thinking of my life WITHOUT the child and it was like this wonderful savannah of free time and money stretched out in front of me, waiting to be filled with travelling, new experiences, time with my partner, spending money on what I wanted and advancing my career and self. It suddenly made sense to me; I can't stand kids anyway and would rather keep my body that go through labour, keep my money than spend it on a baby, keep my partner than let a baby ruin our relationship and keep my life than let it come second to anyone elses.
Puppies on the otherhand...I have all the time and money in the world for them!!

Scots Wife said...

When I read your first post on the Baby Rabies, I wasn't sure I completely understood it. "I've never had a twinge" I thought "I know I don't want children." Then I thought about it some more. I realised that I do have twinges but I have been fighting so hard to supress and deny them, I haven't let myself acknowledge that they exist. Twinges are no bad thing, I would liken the feeling to the same kind of twinge I get when I think "I'll never live in a house in Blackett (v. exclusive area in my home city)" or "I wish I had learned to play the piano". These are things that could have happened - or may still do on another life/career path - but the fact that they are now inaccessible to me is fine. "What if" is healthy!

This was brought home to me yesterday as we were spending the day with OH's brother's family. They have the cutest, most amazing kids. The kind that give you twinges. The kind of twinge that says - if the kid turned out like them we might be able to make things work. But then reality kicks in. "Our kid" probably won't be like them. Pregnancy and bringing human life into the world should have no attached disclaimers and most importantly - given my feelings, which I am likely to project onto any baby I bear, there is a good chance that he/she will not turn out happy and well-adjusted like his cousins.

Then the clincher. We stopped at a starbucks on the way home. Kids, running, screaming and generally being kids everywhere. Running full pelt into folk carrying hot drinks whilst stressed parents were powerless to stop or discipline them. We couldn't hear ourselves talk or think. We looked at each other and in an instant both knew we were thinking the same thing... Happier than ever to lie in the bed which we have made for ourselves!

sara star said...

I just try to enjoy those moments. When I see a baby and it warms my heart. I don't feel a twinge of wanting to have my own baby, I just want to hold that baby then and there. And if I can, I do. I hold the baby and cuddle it and feel all the good warm maternal feelings. Its kinda nice while it lasts.

* Valerie * said...

My friend recently got pregnant, and I'm almost sure it's related to baby rabies and not an actual, thought-out decision. She has been anti-kids for years and had a bad time when she stayed with her husband's sister and her kids, saying the house was like a circus and she'd wait a long time before deciding to have kids.

Then, two of our friends have cute newborns late last year, and she tells me "I want to have a baby!" Two months later, she tells me she is pregnant. Damnit.

FatSoSarah said...

Hey there, I started a weight loss blog, which I know that has nothing to do with what you write, lol. But I came across your post and felt compelled to comment.

I recently became a mom I have a 9 month old son, but for the longest time of my life I never wanted kids. I felt the way you feel now. I loved children, as long as they belonged to someone else. I could get my daily dose of baby, then when I was done I could just go.

I'm 30 now and in the last couple of years, I just decided to change my mind. I wanted a baby, maybe I just let the 'twinges' get the better of me, but it was a good decision for me. I don't miss who I was without him. But it doesn't work like that for everyone.

The truth is you're going to be fine with or without kids. In some ways I think it's much easier for those who do not have kids, because it's hard to miss what you never knew, but with having kids you remember who you were before them, if that makes sense?

Decide what is best for you and your lifestyle and go with that. And go have fun with your husband, lol!

Anonymous said...

Thank you - you've put into words what I've been feeling lately. It's particularly strange and uncomfortable for me, since I've gone 30 years without ever experiencing these "twinges." I think it's partly age and partly the fact that ALL of my friends are pregnant or new mothers. And yet somehow, these twinges exist with a deep, gut-level sense that I do not want to have children.

Sometimes I see families (though it's rare) that make me think, for an instant, "If I could *guarantee* things would turn out like they did for them - then maybe it would be an okay life." But as you mentioned, there are no guarantees. And I'm still unconvinced even the best case scenario could match up to my satisfaction in my childfree life.

But it's confusing and making me question my identity and assumptions in a way I never have before. :-P

Anonymous said...

I feel incredibly relieved and emotional to read your blog. My husband and I do not want children, we LOVE children but Its just not for us. We love eachother too much to lose that. But those damn twinges will get the better of you. I recently waited a whole extra day to receive my monthly "you're not pregnant reminder" (a whole day, is torture for me!) And for a brief moment I thought... I can do this, if it happens it's God's gift to us and I can handle it. And within about 45 seconds I wanted to throw up. Those twinges remind me that i'm human and that I simply love children. Part of me wants to know what those speical moments would be like. But forever? It's a terribly long time to take care of someone and be responsible for someone. And you truly can't pick how your children will turn out. I don't want to be miserable because my child makes crappy decisions in their life. I love my husband more than anything and I married him to spend my life with HIM. I didn't marry him to have children. We have also been looking into essure, the thought of never having to worry about it seems incredible. But at 25, no doctor will perform it. And then when I think about talking to someone else about it, I freak. What if I change my mind? It's not my plan to change my mind, but what if in 10 years I do? Will my husband then resent the fact that we can't have our own children? But if I accidently get pregnant now, will we always resent eachother because we don't want children? I'm on the childfree side of the fence, but it's a hard stand to take. I will definitely continue reading your blog, I need to be reminded i'm not defective because I don't want kids!

Jess said...

I could have wrote that myself, I almost cried reading it LOL! That is EXACTLY how I feel and why I have always called myself a "fence sitter" and not CF. I thought to be CF you didn't have those twinges and urges....I'm 27 and I went through a huge battle with it this winter. I know I do not want the lifestyle of a parent and to be responsible for another human being for the rest of my life, but I do love babies and small children. One thing that helps me is to look at all those lippy 12 year olds yapping off at their parents, and that immediately seemse to stop the baby rabies in me.

Anonymous said...

Oh, Stasha, thank you so much for responding to my question re: body vs. mind on babies. Even though I don't feel those twinges you describe, I do agree that the hardest part about committing to a childfree life is acknowledging we'll be missing out on experiences that most people consider primal, even in the face of all our rationalizations.

I hope you keep blogging!

Childfree Travel said...

Do you have nieces and nephews? I too have the twinges (and yes, my mate takes it that I'm not REALLY serious about not having kids - which isn't true. Thankfully he's good either way). Anyway, whenever I feel the twinges I just borrow a kid! I'll take my young god daughter to a movie or I have tons of nieces, nephews and some godchildren to choose from. My 15 years old niece was just out for her Spring Break and we had such a good time! Don't tell me parents get all the fun, while driving home from getting our hair done she turned to me and told me how much she loved me. Later she told my mate that she wants to grow up to be just like me. They were amazing moments (and good enough for me!)

Every 3 years I take the kids in my family who are 12/13 (it just works that every 3 years a few kids hit those ages) and we go on a "family vacation" just me and the kids. The first time I was single and I took 3 of them to Grand Teton and Yellowstone. This time my mate is involved and we have planned a New England road trip with 5 kids. I'm SO excited. It's all the fun with none of the true parental responsibilities. I highly recommend the "rent a kid" approach!

If that is not feasible for youm then you can volunteer with kids, helping them after school or becoming a "Big Sister". You know the old adage "It takes a village to raise a child?" You don't have to be a parent to be part of that village!

Anonymous said...

it is kind of sucks admitting it, but sometimes i feel the twinges too. too bad i'm still 20...of course people will yap at me 'oh you eventually change your mind and now you do'. in fact, i'm actually randomly browsing on childfree topic to find the answer to the question 'am i not a childfree anymore because i have these feelings?' then i stumbled upon this article on your blog.
i've been not wanting kids as long as i can remember. i happily declared myself as childfree, based on logical decision how having kids of my own will entirely ruin my life plan: to be a research engineer and professional painter. also largely based on how my twisted gut instinct has been telling me 'not in this lifetime'. most likely the decision is irreversible, just like my decision to leave my parents' faith. growing as an only child, i'm not good with kids, but sometimes seeing angelic little kids smiling at me, or simply saying thank you to me...makes me twinge. again, i'm not good with kids, but they are human with feelings too, they can be both evil and nice, and they say the darnest things. twinge!
reading your article validates my rational mind though: if i want the presence of the kids, i can always volunteer at the orphanage. i will have the money to pay the education of some unfortunate kids (because i don't have kids of my own) i can be the aunt to a bunch of theoretical nieces and nephews, taking them to the mountain to hike and camp...
i have to admit that i have a lot of love to be shared to everyone, including kids. one fact that still makes me a childfree weirdo: those kids don't have to be my own, and i'm FAR more interested in educating kids who have already been here rather than creating carbon copy of my future partner and me to be educated.

*twinges gone*

Charlotte said...

My husband and I had a serious CF talk last night. I grew up feeling like I would never want children, and to this day I have never spent time with children where I felt relaxed or at ease. Around the age of 25 I started getting what I called "baby fever". I spoke with someone who told me about the love they felt at their child's birth and the twinges started. Being with children always turns them right off again but the idea of children turns them right back on. Baby clothes-twinge, baby rooms-twinge, the baby having my husband's eyes-twings, thinking up names-twinge... But do I want a baby? Or is it just my biological clock? There has to be a reason why I can't stand other people's children and want to spend every selfish second with my husband alone, right? Sorry for the rambling...I just found your blog and it's really giving me food for thought. XO

Anonymous said...


Thank you.

One week ago I went online to see if the internet had some answers to my confusion regarding the choice to have children. I'm unsure and leaning towards no, but I was wondering if I am asking myself the right questions. The first site I clicked on was yours.
I have spent the last week reading through all of your posts and other people's comments. Your journey has been amazing to read because you are describing the process of questioning yourself.

This was the post that had the most significant impact on me.
Thank you for putting into words the discrepancy between my head and heart. I had tried to explain this a few times to friends who look at me in horror and say 'how can you listen to your head when your heart is telling you to have kids?'.

I'm not sure this will ever be resolved for me. All I can hope is that I give myself the time to grieve for what could have been if I choose to not have children.

After reading your blog you have cemented for me that I should see a counsellor (a nicer one than the ones you have seen) to ensure I'm asking the right questions and start the grieving process. I always wanted children. I have surprised myself in the last two years that it is now that I am choosing not to have children when I am in an amazing relationship with someone who would make a beautiful father.

I am all ears if anyone else has advice for someone who has always wanted kids but now realises that there are other things in life they would like to put their energy towards. I am looking for help on how to feel more comfortable with my decision.

Thank you again!

Your writing is beautiful.

Anonymous said...

If a baby human took 4 years to grow up and then be gone... I could see wanting to have kids.

Too bad its more like 20 or 24 years.

Having kids is a bigger commitment than marriage. But most people I know that have kids, got pregnant 'on accident.'

Anonymous said...

I know how you feel. There is a lot of pressure to be "childfree enough". I get self-doubts and I, too, feel reluctance towards permanent birth control. Some people think this doesn't make you "really childfree" and it's hard to admit it. A lot of childfree people go through twinges and pangs but it's hard to admit them out of fear of being accused of a fake childfree. Thank you for your honesty about your feelings.