no regrets: why i don’t want children
I immediately shot my hand up to write about Mother’s Day and then, a few minutes later, I thought, ‘why?’ What exactly excited me so profoundly that I said yes in the blink of an eye without even thinking of what I might, you know, actually write about?
I think I did it because motherhood is such a strange phenomenon to me. I have, over my life, struggled incessantly with the knowledge that I do not have a maternal instinct in my body. Not a single one. If these instincts are such an inherent inclination, so supposedly innate, why had I never felt them? I love children and enjoy very much being around them, but I do not desire in any way to play incubator to their alien forms. My loins do not ache when I hold them, despite always being informed that they would, and the cries of babies make me want to gouge out my own ears with knitting needles, not goo and gaa into the very source of the din. I have railed against the countless fortune tellers – your average person who, all of a sudden, can glimpse my crystal-clear future with ease as soon as the phrase ‘me no want baby’ is uttered – who have always scoffed or baulked or laughed away my vow that I never, ever want to produce any squirming spawn of my very own.
‘Oh, but you’d make such a good Mother!’ they lament, or sometimes squeal in unison.
Well, I know that, thank you. I’m loving and compassionate and have a great knack for reading in interesting voices just like Noni Hazlehurst, and I’m pretty sure my kisses contain the magical healing properties mothers’ do. Well, you might have to ask my ex-boyfriends for a fact check on that one but still, I’m pretty much certain they do. That doesn’t change the fact that the fundamental drive to give birth just is not there for me.
At 22 I went to the GP and defiantly asked to have a tubal ligation. I was proud to make a definitive decision about my future, and relieved at the prospect of never needing the inevitable abortion should an accident occur. I wanted to have sex without being afraid of something future me might have to deal with. I wanted to be in control. I was already one of the only women I knew who hadn’t had an abortion, or in the least a scare, and I knew the undue stress it would pile on top of me was simply never going to be worth it, knowing already how I felt about pregnancy.
In the doctor’s office I was told in no uncertain terms that, unless I wanted a tubal ligation to prevent me from dying, then I was simply not allowed to have one. Point blank. No. I was told I was not in charge of my body because the Australian government wants me to wait for my baby making hormones to kick in at 33 (different sources quote different ages, but I was told at the time that it would not be performed before 33), where all rationality would cease and I would become desperate to be fertilised by the closest willing participant. A picture was painted very clearly for me: I would forever despair over my deliberate barrenness if I somehow met “Mr Right” and could not produce tiny moving versions of “our love” on cue –wouldn’t I be tortured beyond repair? Who would look after me when i grew into a frail old witch who would have no friends left and no strength to answer the phone (not that there would be anyone to call anyway) or put a fork in my mouth? Who would wipe the drool from my chin or keep plucking my eyebrows so I didn’t end up looking like Hagar when I could no longer lift my forearms above chest height? In short, wasn’t I AFRAID, that as a woman in a thinly veiled religio-centric culture where it is understood I function as a piece of property, and that my property’s value declines rapidly year by year along with hemlines and my boobs, and that unless I had children who were forced to love me or to trap the man of my DREAMS into staying with us, that I would die ALONE?
Well, I am not afraid of those things. Nope.
It is unfathomable to me that as a person (not a woman, a person, understand?) in a supposedly democratic society, that I am still not allowed to make these decisions for myself. A society where a teenager can pump their tits full of saline or scrape the very bones off their face in the name of beauty, I cannot be deemed rationally sane or able enough to deduce if I want to bring another life into this world? Give. Me. A Break. Please.
I am responsible, rational and intelligent enough to know that I do not need to have a child to feel fulfilled, or like a “real” woman. I don’t listen to the rhetoric on ageing passed down lovingly from Big Pharma and the government, with one eye on my womb and one on the economy, so I have absolutely no fear of getting older. I’m not afraid of being alone as I age, as I live my life with compassion and love, so I know I will always have friendship. Because I believe this, I choose not to breed people that are forced by genetics to (supposedly) love me forever.
I’m selfish enough to know I want to be selfish forever. I love who I am and I don’t want to give up the world I’ve painstakingly created over the years for someone else, even if they did come out of my very own insides.
Some women do, of course, want children, and I say good for them. I totally get it; I applaud them even! We need the ladies like you to keep the lineage pumping! Yet when they offer such insights into their own private desires, I do not scowl, mouth agape, or ask with a voice dripping with concern what will happen to them if they change their minds later on, or how dreadful it would be to have a baby and then realise you’d never actually wanted one.
Hardly anybody thinks that’s a polite thing to suggest to someone.
But well, why not? Why is it acceptable to ask a woman who has chosen to spend the rest of her days doing whatever the hell she pleases if she isn’t making a terrible mistake, but rude when the roles are reversed? Women who decide not to or can’t have children are no more ‘barren,’ than women who do have them are nurturing ‘earth Goddesses.’
I cried reading this recent article by Isabella Dutton because I had finally found someone who echoed the sentiments that had often led me to believe I was “unnatural”. Dutton was brave enough to cop the torrents of anticipated abuse and admit that while she still loved the children she’d borne, she viewed motherhood as a terrible mistake. It felt like I was reading a confession written by future, un-tubes tied me. I had a refreshed anger at why, six years later and mind firmly unchanged, I am still deemed not fit enough to look into my own future and make a decision for the wellbeing of both myself, and the children I might mistakenly, regrettably bear.
So, this is where my ‘yes please! I’ll write about Mother’s Day!’ went…
Truly, I wish a happy Mother’s Day to every Mother out there. I hope you love your children and cherish them like nothing else and that they love you back equally. I hope you weren’t coerced into having them by a society that told you that’s what you were made for and nothing else, or by a partner who connived to ensnare you or who sought to sire heirs, or a family bound in tradition, or your own fear that nobody would take care of you when you got old and wrinkled and simply sagged a little in the middle, but were still the same you. I hope you aren’t silently regretting it now, and are reading this smugly thinking ‘she’ll never feel the joy of motherhood that I’ve felt – she doesn’t know what she’s talking about.’
Because you know what? I truly hope I never do. Let’s leave each other to our own private vices and joys in peace, for who knows what the future holds.
I’m a mother and quite enjoyed your article and understood where you were coming from until….until your 2nd last paragraph which I found offensive, immature and too black and white.
Wow, your feelings about motherhood (and reasons for not wanting to undertake it) echo mine so closely it’s eerie. Isn’t it crazy that we live in a society that will allow you to get pregnant, have abortions, get STIs (which could render you infertile) – all of which are your choice, but not allow you to be responsible for your own fertility when it comes to making a permanent decision. Maybe go and visit a family planning clinic – they should have doctors there who will respect your decision and give you a referral. If you’re determined, there’s no law stopping you from having this procedure.
I do want children. I’m pregnant with my first at the moment. I haven’t always wanted them – I was quite ambivalent when I was younger but in the last couple of years that changed quite suddenly (I’m 28).
This is a great article – I really think that if you don’t want kids, you shouldn’t have them. It’s a brave thing to make that call and it’s great that you know your own mind so well. You’ve made an intelligent and fully informed decision and I think it must be hugely frustrating to be constantly told by other people that they know what you want better than you do.
I think it’s a hangover from the old patriarchal attitudes about women; this idea that they can’t make decisions by themselves because they are too delicate and weak and stupid. If that’s what you want, you should be allowed to have your tubes tied at any age (over 18) like other life-altering medical procedures.
I don’t mind your second-last paragraph, as a matter of interest – I thought it was a brutally honest look at some of the reasons people have children. They’re not my reasons, but I do know people who decided to have a child for some of reasons which you outline. No doubt there are people out there who regret making that decision or who feel that they were too young or they felt coerced into it or they wish they’d done it differently.
Good on you for having the self-assuredness to make this decision. I hope it all works out for you.