I’m Not Having A Baby

Woops!
Image via gatewaywomen.com

The advertising that arrived in my letterbox today announced that it is ‘Baby Week’ at my local supermarket.  Actually it’s enough to make me seriously consider going to another supermarket this week, but then the other one that I frequent had a ‘Mother and Baby Week’ last week, so I really can’t win.  What are they doing?  Selling babies?

Well I won’t be going to buy one.  I don’t have one (or six) of my own, and I hate to think what price they would put on them but it is one more reminder that I am not one of the normal people.  I don’t have children.  And usually it’s just best to leave the subject untouched.

According to Statistics New Zealand 13 per cent of NZ women aged 45-49 years (I’m 46) were childless in 2006, up from 9 percent in 1981.  So if 13 percent of us are childless, I think it’s a pretty safe bet to suggest that I’m not normal.  Especially when we throw around the one in four people with mental illness.  Yes, that’s a whopping 25 percent of us in that camp that are not normal.

Let me be clear that I’m not unhappy about being childless, although I prefer the term child-free.  Childless suggests to me that I had one and lost it somehow, and I definitely haven’t ever had one and I haven’t even been pregnant. Unfortunately I had difficulty finding stats on that particular issue so I just won’t go there.  The stats available only seemed to be about women unable to get pregnant.  I wouldn’t know if I was one of those.  I have no reason to suspect it to be the case though.

The thing is that I still think 13 percent of women childless is quite a substantial amount but I always get the impression people think I have three heads or something when I say I don’t have children.  Actually I think I’m normal, just different and I think that it’s a shame that we almost have to hide away.  People don’t know how to handle childless people.  What do they say?  The question about how many kids we have is followed shortly after by stony silence, and after that it’s just damn uncomfortable to all concerned.

It’s been on my mind for a while to write about why I have no children.  It’s a question that people don’t ask.  So I am going to tell you.  There are a number of reasons, which don’t necessarily relate.  I’m going to work backwards and tie each into the age at which each became relevant.  Hopefully I don’t lose you, and let me say that I’m not looking for sympathy or anything like that.  I just think it is something that is part of my life and so I want to tell you about it.

Reason 1 – 46 years

I’m too old now.  Technically I could possibly have a child but do I want a 13 year old when I’m 60?  No.  Not a chance.

Reason 2 –  37 years

My mother was nearly 38 when she had me (I was her fourth pregnancy).  In the mid-1960’s that was pretty old to be having a baby.  It didn’t worry her that much but by the time I got to school and knew how young my friends mothers were, I was appalled to have such an old mother.  I vowed and declared (as that eight year old) that I was not going to be an old mother.  So when I reached 37 years I knew that I had to stick with my declaration.   And yes, I know that women are having babies later in life now, but I was adamant that nearly 38 years was too old.  Sometimes I can be really stubborn.

Reason 3 – 35 years

I was 35 when I discovered I had the genetic blood disorder Alpha-thalassemia.  As an unrelated aside, it’s really weird that I have this because it is very rare in white-skinned people from my part of the world.  Apparently it is generally found in Asian and Mediterranean countries, so unless my father wasn’t really my father (but I looked like him) I have no idea how it happened to pop up in my bloodstream.

The effect that this has on my child-free status is that if I had a child with someone who also carried this disorder, that child would be likely to die within a year of birth, as a result of the disorder.  I only found out by chance that I had this issue and while it is rare, I simply added it to my list of reasons for just not going there.

Reason 4 – 33 years

By the time I was 33, I had six years of mental illness behind me.  I was labelled as treatment-resistant and had been told that I would be on medication for the rest of my life.  This was the point where I decided the risk of passing on a mental illness (which at that stage still hadn’t been correctly diagnosed) was too great.  I wouldn’t inflict mental illness on anyone, let alone for the reason of having a child to love.  I also accepted that I was not in a state to be a good mother because of my mental illness.  I was fighting for my life, in between attempting to take my life, and how could I bring a child into that?  I could hardly look after myself outside of a hospital without trying to look after a child.  It simply wouldn’t be fair and my worst fear (keep reading) of being a bad mother would be realised.  That said, please don’t take this to mean I think that people with mental illnesses shouldn’t be mothers.  I don’t.  It’s simply that I decided that I wasn’t prepared to do it.

Reason 5 – 28 years

I had just got married, and was also very badly depressed and on a heap of medication.  My (now ex) husband was keen to have a family and we talked even about him looking after those children, and me heading back to work.  I had better earning potential (a nice way of saying more skills) than he did and it just seemed to make sense.  Somehow though I could just never picture it (children) happening.  I knew it was what D wanted, and I had gone along with it.  It’s not that I didn’t want children myself, but I just had so many fears.

Another concern was coming off the medication I was on for the duration of the pregnancy.  That didn’t seem a good prospect and I seriously wondered whether I would be dead before the baby came.  I think my staying unwell (particularly anorexic so having no periods) for the duration of our marriage was perhaps convenient to my fear.  For D’s sake I regret that children didn’t come but only because it is something he longed for.   I am pleased for him that he has now remarried and had children.

Around this time that I guess children were most likely I had this fear that I couldn’t bear the thought of another being growing inside me.  It completely freaked me out, although I have never been exactly sure why.  Just the thought was too much.    Actually I have to say that thought of a baby inside me still disturbs me.  Okay, so I’m weird.

Reason 6  – @14 years

Yes, I’ve jumped a long way back to a conversation with my mother.  It was, I suppose, a defining moment for me.  Actually I can’t remember the rest of the conversation, but I suspect it was something to do with puberty, ‘birds and bees’, although I would say that actually I never got that much useful information from Mum on that score.  At 16 I was trying to convince friends that my parents had only had sex four times when I came along, based on four pregnancies (with one miscarriage).  That’s how little I knew and I am mortified as to what my friends made of me when I said that.  They never said.  And I never asked.

But back to 14 and the conversation sitting on the side of my parents bed one afternoon (that’s not that relevant but it is something I remember). Mum told me that she wasn’t a maternal person and neither was my grandmother (Mum’s mother)maternal.  She went on to tell me that this meant that I wouldn’t be either.  What she didn’t do was tell me what she meant by maternal, so I guess I came to my own conclusions based on what I knew of those two women.  I concluded that I would never be a good mother.

For the rest of my life I alternated between feeling condemned as a potential mother so I just should never go there, to occasionally thinking I would prove her wrong.  Unfortunately I veered toward the ‘glass half empty’ mentality and so spent more time telling myself that my mother was right and I would never make a good mother.  Heavy stuff at the age of 14.  Maybe it was her way of preventing teenage pregnancy?  I don’t know.  I probably won’t ever know, but I would like to think she didn’t mean it to have the impact it did.

Only for nieces and nephews!
Image: FreeDigitalPhotos.net 

So there’s six reasons why I never went there.  Interestingly I think the younger I get in the list, the bigger the impact of that reason was.  By far the biggest fear was reason number 6, fear of being a bad mother.  I went on to accumulate a list of my own reasons why I would definitely be a bad mother, and it all made perfect sense to me.  Unfortunately that fear snowballed across the years.  If only it could have been dealt with at age 14, it would have been much easier, but now I can mostly say that therapy saved the day, yet again.

When I was doing some reading on this topic I found that childless women are divided into two camps:  childless by choice and childless by circumstance.  For me?  I think it comes down to both.  I still had the choice (mostly) but circumstances suggested it wasn’t such a great idea.  And of course, fear told me it wasn’t a good idea too.

I’m guessing by now you’re wondering how I feel about all this.  You’re going to have to wait for another post, because otherwise I will have you here all day.  So stay tuned, I will address how I feel about being child-free soon.

Afterthought
One thing I wonder though, and had I done gender papers at university perhaps I’d know the answer, but I wonder why this is only an issue for women?  I don’t see much written about childless men.  Maybe I just haven’t read far enough yet.

**

“But that was life: Nobody got a guided tour to their own theme park. You had to hop on the rides as they presented themselves, never knowing whether you would like the one you were in line for…or if the bastard was going to make you throw up your corn dog and your cotton candy all over the place.” 

―    J.R. Ward,    Crave

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32 thoughts on “I’m Not Having A Baby

  1. I do not like the expectation we have on women to have children. Men do not have the same expectation which is strange because it’s a group effort to make them. Men are just suspected to do nothing for children which is a shame because there are a lot of great fathers and father figures out there!

    I like your term “child free”. I forget where I read it but there is a whole generation of women coming up who do not want to have children. We should always have the choice not to have children. People need to stop the pressure.

    1. I quite agree with you on the men front, and actually it must be in someways even harder for men to deal with if they have regrets and hurts about not having children, because there isn’t really a space for them to talk about it. It’s hard enough as a woman. And yes, you’re right about the generation of women choosing not to have children. It’s interesting how many orgs there are around to support women in this (online anyway). Thanks for your comments.

  2. thanks for sharing. Now days, I look at my daughter and think about whether or not she should have children and I just pray that God’s will would be done. My daughter has BPD and her husband has Asbergers syndrome. Plus, when you have a child or grandchild, You are constantly worried about their safety. I nearly have gone mad, madder than I am lol, with that kind of worry. The world isn’t a really good place now I don’t think, to bring many more children in it. I respect your decision.

    1. Thanks Carla and I agree that it must be a big concern for you with your daughter. I’m sure it’s something each person has to decide for themselves, but part of the difficulty is having the sense (if that’s the right word) to choose well. I hope they do think carefully about what they do.

      1. my daughter knows that it may be something that would be hard for her to handle but her husband wants them to have one child at least and she thinks she might some day do it for him. But to be honest, I don’t know if she is physically able to become pregnant. She went through a really wild phase for a while as a teen. She never used birth control. I even took her and got her on the pill but she never would take it. Anyway, she had a lot of chances to get pregnant and never did. So, maybe she won’t.

  3. Dorothy

    I think you’ve been very smart and responsible thinking about another life and how you can care for her/him and how hings in the world are. My kids are the the same way. Older daughter doesn’t want children because she has bipolar disorder whereas younger doesn’t think she will but I think when the right man comes along and she has settled down she might. It will be there decision though. I don’t judge people on whether they have kids or not. Isn’t there something better for them to worry about?

  4. colineagle

    I’ve always wanted to have kids, but lately i’ve been changing my mind… Mostly for some of the same reasons you had, like being a bad parent or passing on my mental illness, but also because of somethings I’ve been learning in college. Things like “humans most agressive stage of their lives is childhood, such isn’t noticed because it’s when we’re most weak” and such… I don’t know what to say about this subject anymore. But I believe it’s really a heavier subject for woman, being childless.

  5. I didn’t know that and I’ve forgotten what you’re studying? Psychology? Actually I think when I was studying social work it put me off parenting too but I only just thought of it. There are way too many things that can go wrong/different/whatever you choose to call it. I think you’re right that it is a heavier subject for women, but I’m not convinced that society should continue to ignore men on this front.

    1. colineagle

      Yes, I study Psychology(kind of ironic…), and I think you’re right, it really seems that there isn’t much about childless men. Maybe because not long ago it was always considered the woman’s fault when a couple couldn’t have a baby, or just because single and childless men have been more accepted, but times have changed, that certainly could be an interesting topic for a study.

      1. And hey, isn’t everything the woman’s fault… to some people? LOL.

        I say good on you for doing Psych. That’s where I started but the Stats got to me. No good with figures so I changed to Social Work. And actually my worst ever mark at university was for Abnormal Psych. That just said it all to me. LOL. 🙂

  6. I’m not sure if I ever want children . . . I don’t think I do. I’m afraid I would be a bad mother. I’m terrible with kids. I’m from the Southern US, so when I tell people I don’t think I want to have kids ever, they look at me like I’m crazy. They also say things like . . . oh, you say that now, but you’ll want to in the future! Because obviously all women want children! I’ve read enough to know that’s not true. I’m not good with kids . . . they tell me it’ll come naturally if I have my own, but again, I’ve read enough to know that’s not necessarily true. I just don’t think I would be a good mother.

    1. I’m the same and it so annoys me when people make those sorts of comments. There are some people who shouldn’t be parents and also some for whom it just isn’t right. I guess if I had gone down the track I would have been able to provide the basics but I just don’t think I would give those children what they deserved. Unfortunately there is no convincing some people and I tend to keep it to myself. But all it ends up doing is hurting because it makes my difference seem worse. I think the worst thing we can do is have children just because that is what society expects us to do. I totally support you in going on your gut instinct. You will still be a good and worthwhile person without children. 🙂

  7. I decided years ago I didn’t want a baby (I’m 32 now). People kept saying you’ll change your mind when you’re older. Well, I haven’t yet :). I’m looking forward to being an aunt in August though!

  8. I have never even to begun to think that an adult without children was somehow “not normal.” Plenty of normal people don’t have children, for plenty of normal (and not so normal) reasons.

    1. You’re quite right and I’m glad to hear you saying it. Unfortujnately there are people who still think it’s a woman’s prime role in life. That makes it a bit hard if you can’t, let alone if you choose not to. Thanks for your comments. 🙂

  9. I am surprised that there are people out there that look at “child-free” women as if they have three heads. I know several women who are in their 40’s and dont have kids and I dont think any differently of them. Most of them are single now, which may be partly why they dont, but what is the big deal.
    I am child-free mainly by choice, Ive never really had the urge, I dont really like the idea of bringing a child into the world in the state it is in, but also having depression, anxiety and panic attack issues. My mother and sister having similar issues, and now my sisters kids also have depression issues and my bf doesnt want kids either.
    I dont there is anything abnormal about a woman with no kids. It is personal choice.
    You are definately not abnormal for your choice.
    I personally prefer furry kids. I love my furry kids.

    1. Thank you. It’s always good to know I’m normal. 🙂 I think it depends on the circles you mix in sometimes. I used to be involved in churches and there it was really weird to choose not to have kids. It’s one of the reasons I’m not involved anymore.

      And I quite agree on the furry kids. A whole heap better. Thanks for commenting. 😀

      1. I know a couple of couples who are church goers and they dont seem to think anything of it and they have at least three kids or will have when theyre finished. Theyre friends seem nice and have lots of kids, but the subject never came up. Im not particularly worried if they think it weird. We are happy the way we are.

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