as far as i remember having children has always been a given. when i was little i used to play with baby dolls, pretend i was their mom, play house with my friends. i even had a name picked out for my daughter. lily. that was a very nice and cute period of my life. i don’t remember much about it. then i grew up. i turned eleven, which is the after of my life. the before was all innocence and well … growing up. the after was ugly and messy and sad. the after represents my mom’s death. but let’s rewind a little bit. my mom died all of a sudden, in a car crash. she never prepared me for what was to come. puberty, love, boys, sex, life in general. but somehow, she managed to instill in me a very deep seated fear. the fear of getting pregnant. of having children. when i was eleven, she, my aunt and me were casually talking about periods, and my mom, very gently explained to me what was going to happen to me, to my body, how it happened for her and her sister, and that it would make me a « woman ». (i do not agree with this statement), this was a burden i never wanted. i understood a bit. and got over it. and then my mom died.
in retrospect, i’m glad we had this conversation, because it then led me to ask her questions about her sexuality, like the fact that she got pregnant with me when she was only 15, what it entailed to have sex with a boy and other innocent questions. i think, if i were to look for the source of my desire to not have children, this moment is it. this is what made up my mind, long before i realized it.
i got my period a year later, and my mom wasn’t there to help me get through the shock of it. i cried, i panicked. i was then living with my grandma and she wasn’t home. so i went to my neighbor’s, crying all the water i had in my body. fortunately, the neighbor’s daughter who was three years older than me, answered the door and was there for me. i thought i ought to feel different. but i wasn’t. all i saw was the emptiness in me, the mom shaped hole that had crawled its way into my heart, and my mind. i didn’t feel like a woman then, and i still don’t feel like one now. i do identify as female. but i’m just a girl. being a woman entails too many responsibilities, too many things i am not able or do not want to shoulder.
my teenage years came, and with it, a whole set of new problems. like boys i had crushes on but who only wanted me for my body. it was tough. and i didn’t always understand it, innocent that i was. as i got older, as the years without my mom passed and my brothers grew up, too, i started taking on her place. cooking for them, worrying for them, helping them with their homework. from the moment my mom died, my role as an older sister shifted and became something else, something more. something, that, to this day i still resent. i brought up my brothers like i could, i tried to be good to them, and to love them as much as i could. i remember once being in class and wondering what i’d feed them in the evening. they had changed my life, these two brothers i had so wanted when i was a child and needed companions to play. they turned into my responsibilities. life went on. i met my boyfriend. i was 16. when i got 17, we started dating online, and then things got serious, we met, we were in love, and three years later, we decided to move in together after three years of back and forth between his parent’s place and mine every two weekends. so i left my dad’s. it wasn’t a difficult decision to make. by then, our relationship had soured with resentment and lack of affection. my oldest brother was (still is) manipulative, and used to take advantage of my naiveté and good intentions to get what he wanted. the younger one, poor thing, had to follow in his footsteps or bear the grunt of his anger. i had my whole life ahead of me, r. (my boyfriend) and i imagined a future for ourselves, it involved having children, getting married, me becoming an english teacher and so on.
i moved out, and started living, for the first time since my mom’s death. i was breathing again, and i found i didn’t miss being home. i still called my family, and i missed them somehow, but they had broken me beyond repair, and i was glad to be out of their grasp. a year after moving in with my boyfriend, he was affected to a new place for his job. somewhere that took us 800km from both our families. the news came as a relief to me. people always tell me « ooh poor thing, being so far away from your family, you must miss your dad and brothers so much». but the thing is, i don’t. not really. i feel free.
i’ve been gone for eight years now. and during this time, i’ve had the chance to grow into the person i am today. i changed a lot, in a lot of ways in the last 8 years. and one thing that changed (or maybe it never did, i don’t really know) is my desire to have children. i do not feel the desire to have children. i do not feel the desire to have something growing in my womb. sure, it’d be funny to see tiny people who look like my boyfriend, and i love him so much that hypothetically i’d be happy to bear his children. but the thing is, i do not want to. we are very happy as we are. the thing i realized, with the distance i put between myself and my family, is how much i am more me since i’ve been gone, how much i miss my mom, and how much it must have been scary to be 16 with a little babe. i have so many questions i want to ask her.
as my relationship with my boyfriend grew, people started asking us the famous question: « when will you have a child? oooh you’re not drinking alcohol, are you pregnant? do you want children? but what about r.? do you realize how egoistic you are to deprive him of this wonderful thing? what will you do when he tells you it’s time to make babies? you know he’ll leave you? and what about when you get older? who will take care of you if you don’t have children? what about money? and your estate? who will inherit your things? ah don’t worry you’re too young to know your own mind. aah, you’ll change your mind, just you wait » the thing is, they always turned to me when asking these questions. that my boyfriend agrees with me and does not want children either does not matter. the fact that my womb is empty, and will probably always be, seems to be a concern for everyone. even people who are not family. it seems everyone has an opinion on what i do with my life, or my body. especially my body.
i remember once, we were back in the south of france for the holidays and we went for dinner with a few friends of my boyfriend. and there was this girl i didn’t know who asked me how long i’d been with r. 5 years i replied. i was 22 then. and she then proceeded to ask me when we’d get working on having children, as if the mere fact of us having sex and making babies was the most important subject in the world. i find this question deeply intimate and cannot understand how people dare ask it. the audacity. i replied i didn’t want kids. i’d been pretty vocal about it when i realized that this feeling that drives people to make babies, this i don’t know what to call it, this instinct, wasn’t present in me. it is extinct. she gasped. and spent the rest of the evening eyeing my boyfriend like some prize winning horse. i felt as if she could give him what i couldn’t. she seemed willing. jealousy bit me, hard. i mentioned it to him, later that evening. i tell him everything. he said he didn’t want kids either. so we’ve always been on the same footing. this is when i realized people would always judge me for my choice. i am now 28, and i was right. things haven’t changed. at all. my grandma still calls to ask if i’m pregnant, my aunt asks from time to time. my brothers and dad know not to ask. and they couldn’t care less. i guess my younger brother would love to be an uncle to my hypothetical babies, and i wish i could give it to him, but i can’t.
a year ago, the boyfriend and i were talking about our life together, what we wanted from it. we mentioned babies. i said i still didn’t want kids, but that i was open to discussion. i started imagining mini-boyfriends. i started imagining him with our baby, and sure, it warmed my heart. so i stopped the pill. each month i got my period was sad. this lasted four months. four months were i hated myself, and my body, and this curse of mine. this ability to bear life. i hate it. we talked about babies some more, and got to the same conclusion: we don’t want children. and we got lucky we didn’t get pregnant, because it wasn’t the right moment for us. and to this day, i doubt it will come. i still do not want kids. i don’t even understand what happened to me last year when i decided to drop the pill, this is so not me. this is not something i would normally do. the positive thing that came out of it, i think, is that by stoping the pill, i realized i had an hormonal imbalance. i still need to see my doctor for that, but with the current situation it’s complicated.
i still ask my boyfriend if he’s changed his mind about kids. he hasn’t. i haven’t. and we’re happy this way.
the thing is, as a woman in a relationship, i apparently have the responsibility to populate the world. it seems we, people with uteruses, have only one goal in life: being parents. and i feel so unsettled, so sad and furious about this rule. this game is fucked up. i want to be everything, everything but a mom. i don’t want this responsibility. i want to be free. and it is okay. it should be okay for people with uteruses to no want children. it should be normal. just as it is okay for people to want children. i shouldn’t matter less because i am not a mother. sometimes, i really really wish for a tubal ligation. i know this is pretty extreme, but that’s how much i am sure of myself, and my boyfriend. but obviously no doctor would perform on me, as i am childfree. i am sorry if this whole thing is hurting people who want children but who can’t, know that my heart aches for you, really. i have a lot of respect for womxn. i do. but it doesn’t change my mind. i follow a lot of mamas online, i am intrigued by motherhood, i know some things about it out of curiosity, i work with children, i love children, they’re cute and amazing, and i love talking to them and working with them, they bring me so much. but i do not want to have children. and i don’t think i’ll ever change my mind.
What strikes me, is this pressure put on womxn, most of all, to have a family, to embody this ultimate goal that should be all womxn’s wishes: that to be a mother. i find this to be so unfair, not only for me, but for all those people who can’t have babies, those for whom this is a very difficult subject, those who struggle with fertility, those who feel they don’t have a choice, a voice, a right to their very own body. those, who like me, do not want children, or aren’t sure just yet. i feel like womxn have to wear this straightjacket to define themselves. i am not saying motherhood is evil, or anything, it’s just that for me, it feels like an obligation, a duty i apparently owe to the world. obviously a lot of womxn are happy to have children, and i think this should be a requisite, a condition sine qua non for having kids. others don’t really have a choice, maybe because they don’t have access to abortion, maybe they come from a conservative family, there are so many reasons for womxn having babies. i’m only touching the surface, the tip of the iceberg. and it is such a difficult subject. i don’t know if i am legitimate in telling my story. but i’m going to tell it. as i said, my mom got pregnant with me when she was 15. she came from a christian family, and i doubt abortion even crossed her parents mind. 6 months or so later, she was 16 and married to my father. she loved me very much, i know that, and i’ve never doubted it, but in retrospect, i wonder if it wouldn’t have been better for her if i’d never been born. she could have lived her life, free of constraint. at least, that’s what i tell myself. my being born forced her into a relationship that maybe wouldn’t have lasted in the long run had she not gotten pregnant. it forced her, and me, into a toxic relationship with my father. and i have so many feelings about this.
i am sad, that in the 21st century, we are still being judged by our ability to bear offsprings. the injustice of it all chokes me, really, and breaks my heart. how come men, in general, aren’t treated the same way. (also, by men, i mean white cis/het men) why, is a man judged strong, or any other really great adjectives, when they say they don’t want children but womxn are seen as selfish, cold, bitches, worthless. why does the life of an hypothetical being matter much than my own. key word here being hypothetical. i don’t get it. it makes me sick.
one more thing before i go, here’s to all the mamas out there: you rock, and you have all my respect. and to all my fellow childfree womxn: i love you, and i’ve got your back!