I recently watched a television show that I’m a fan of that follows the (fictional) lives of three young women. I enjoy the show because it doesn’t follow the typical storyline. The show is diverse, inclusive, progressive, and is not afraid to dive into very vulnerable, sensitive, real life topics. Like the decision to have a child. Or not to have a child. The latest episode that featured the latter is what spurred this post.
This particular episode moved me and I felt extremely understood. Definitely less alone. Later, when a snippet of the show containing the moment one of the characters tells her husband she does not want to have children was posted to social media, I was interested in the comments that followed. Most people wondered why the character and her husband hadn’t talked in depth about kids before they got married. The commenters’ viewpoints were valid and true to their beliefs and experiences. Of course, that is probably the “ideal” order of things for most people. But being a person who completely related to the character and the events that unfolded, I saw the situation very differently and wished I could have responded to everyone that choosing not to have children isn’t always a cut and dry decision for everyone.
I was raised with this saying on repeat:
“First comes love, then comes marriage, then comes baby in a baby carriage.”
So many of us heard this, recited this, believed this. Especially as the words became real and we watched it happen to the people around us as we grew up. This order of events starts to feel like a given. A truth. The roadmap to becoming an adult and creating a family when you are younger. At least for me it was.
Joel and I honestly did not talk a lot about the things you’re supposed to talk about before getting married. We are very much a day-by-day couple. We were in love, we were creating a life we were happy in together, and that’s all that mattered before and after we tied the knot. I think both of us assumed that kids would become part of our story. Until they didn’t.
I thought I’d eventually get a feeling. A desire to have a child. It never came. Our nephews and nieces came along. I thought, “holding them will give me ‘that feeling.’” I instantly loved them each beyond words, and am in awe of their mothers, but I still didn’t want one of my own. I would take prenatal vitamins and buy baby books and start baby Pinterest boards and talk to my family about having a baby. Not once did it feel authentic. Not once. I felt like I was doing and saying things just because I was supposed to. I almost felt like a robot spewing off words that I was programmed to say.
When I began to honor my gut instincts is when things got really hard. Even though Joel and I hadn’t talked about it, so didn’t have any concrete plans about having a baby, the thing that weighed the most on me was letting him down. Because he is an AMAZING man who would make an AMAZING father. When I finally came to terms with how I felt and was confident kids weren’t in the cards for me, for us, I slowly started to let him know where I was at. I don’t think we’ve ever had more difficult conversations. Most ended with me saying, “I completely understand if this is a deal breaker for you. It’s just something I can’t compromise on.” I wanted him to be fulfilled and happy, because he truly deserves that. I didn’t want him to resent me for the rest of our life together.
I had to understand and accept that in making this decision for myself, the results could be devastating to my marriage. That is the honest truth. That’s when I knew that what I was feeling was what I really wanted. I was willing to risk the greatest love I’ve ever had over it.
Fortunately, we navigated our way through and came out on the other side still together, happier with each passing year. I’m beyond lucky to have a partner who loves me in a transcendent way. He was willing to sacrifice any desires he had to have a child to stay in the life the two of us were only beginning to build together.
The reasoning behind my choice is obviously multi-faceted. There is no one reason. The lack of interest in the entire thought of parenthood being the biggest. Along with not wanting to pass down inherited and genetic mental health issues and trauma coming in close second.
I must admit, it’s a strange thing to be a childless woman. Especially a woman who is physically able to have children, but chooses not to. I think it is really hard for a lot of people to understand, and that’s OK. Reactions from others vary. At the end of the day, this decision is one I know I made the right call on. I’m proud of myself for diving deep, facing the uncomfortable, and discovering what I truly wanted, as hard as it was to face.
Life, and marriage specifically, has no roadmap. There are most definitely “ideal” ideas of how things should go, but most times, they don’t go that way. We can’t cast stones at other peoples’ experience. We always need to remember we are all on different paths, going at our own pace, making the best decisions for ourselves as we can.
I wanted to write about this topic, as difficult as it was, so other women having the same thoughts and experiences feel less alone, like the show I watched did for me. I also want young women to know there is another track they can take if they don’t feel that children are something they want. That feelings of not wanting to be a mother are just as natural and important as wanting to be a mother – even if it doesn’t appear that way.
If you choose not to have a child, you are not selfish. You are not lesser than. You are strong, and you are enough. Be brave, own your decision, and share your truth with others. Most importantly, know you can still live a happy and fulfilling life without children. I'm living proof.
Big hugs to all.