Tuesday, October 5, 2010

My journey to peace in Childfreedom

Today may finally be the day when I feel totally at peace with my decision to remain child-free. I reserve the right to change my mind, of course. ;) But I really don't think I will.

Heretofore my reasons for wanting to have children have been inadequate and erroneous. At first it was thoughtless--isn't that what people do?, my adolescent mind thought. Then as a late teen I came to believe (as I had been brainwashed) that children were a requirement, the sole purpose of marriage and that any form of contraception is mortally sinful. This idea was slightly crushing as I'm a natural romantic and oodles of noisy child withy snotty faces and poopy diapers pretty much killed the mood. Still, I've always had fun with kids and I resolved to soldier on and make everything work somehow. When I married at age 19 (big mistake) I temporarily resolved the problem by avoiding sex as much as possible, then eventually resorting to Natural Family Planning--a natural method of pregnancy avoidance sanctioned by the Catholic church only if used under grave circumstances. My circumstances were certainly not grave, but I justified it by promising God I would have kids, just not yet.

Fast forward two years: I was horrified to find out I had become pregnant. Even though NFP is allowable to a Catholic the fact that I did not have any "grave" circumstances would have meant that for me to have attended formal NFP classes would have caused a rather juicy scandal in our traditional families, so I never did. I self-educated and read as much as I could. NFP is very effective but of course there is still a chance of pregnancy; whether or not I incorrectly practiced it or I fell under the umbrella of the unlucky few destined to get pregnant, I'll never know. Looking back, I don't know why I just didn't get on the damn Pill. Sure, the phrase "the Pill" had been whispered like a dirty word in my family, and I had been told repeatedly that birth control forced spouses to view each other as sexual objects...even so, I myself never felt opposed to it but I refrained from it because I believed I had to.

Those early days of pregnancy were hell for me. I was severely depressed, and it wasn't because of hormones. It was because I was not ready. I felt like my life was over before it had begun. How was I supposed to finish college now? My grandmother-in-law asked me once, "Well honey, are you excited?" And I had to be honest--"No." I had married not only too young before I even knew who in the hell I was, but I couldn't have chosen husband more wrong for me. Not a bad person, but we were oil and water in practically every way. So with the pregnancy, now I was stuck with him, forever. As wrong as I felt it was, I suddenly understood why women considered abortion, though in my inexperience I had always judged them as selfish, evil pricks.

Eventually I came to accept my pregnancy and tried to find ways to look forward to it, and had made up my mind that after the baby was born, no matter what there would not be another child for many years. I had lost some of my freedom but I would never willingly lose any more of it. As I got farther along, I enjoyed the maternity clothes and the attention from strangers (I was darn cute), but I still hated being pregnant. I wanted my body back. The fact that there was a living being inside of me completely freaked me out! Some women cherish that, but I felt severely uneasy about it, like an alien had deposited its slimy green young in me and there was no way of getting it out. The farther along I got, the happier I became because I knew it would be over soon. The end came sooner than I expected, though. At 27 weeks I found out that my son had passed away, and 36 hours later I gave birth to my stillborn baby boy.

It was very sad, and it was very hard. The mystery of his death will forever bother me and I wouldn't wish that journey on anyone. It was and is very painful, and I can't imagine the pain experienced by women in that situation who were happy to be pregnant. In the anonymity of the internet, I can confess that despite my grief I felt an immense, peaceful relief. I could start over. I had a second chance. On my first checkup my doctor said to me, "In about six more weeks you will be healthy enough that you can start trying again for another one." All I could think of was, "Why in the heck would I want to?!" But I suppose in her experience many women nowadays are pregnant because they wanted to be, and since I was a stable, married, healthy young woman, I must have wanted a baby.

A year later my husband and I went our separate ways, and it was the first right decision I made in my adult life. For the first time, I was reaching beyond my little closeted religious prison and asking the big questions that were never even suggested to me during my upbringing. Who am I? What do I love? What do I hate? What do I want? What are my passions? Where is my originality and individuality? These questions will sound selfish to the religious mind. We are told over and over that our purpose in life is to know, love and serve God (thanks, Baltimore Catechism). See, kid? Your future is all figured out, your role planned. My own mother, an independent woman with a Masters degree, founder of a quality, private high school once mused on the pointlessness of educating girls, since they were destined to be (1) nuns or (2) stay-at-home mothers. Don't even get me started...

You see, my road to childfreedom is deeply intertwined with my road to agnosticism and atheism. But I will try not to go into the rest of the story for now. Just know that after finally asking the bigger questions, I've come to understand who I am a little bit more. I love kids, and I feel very strongly about volunteering with and promoting adoption for abused children, but I personally am not mother material. I love my life as it is, and I know my limitations. I like peace and quiet. I like to be able to sleep in. I like a clean house. I like to save my money. I like my freedom to build my businesses. I like to have date night every night and not have to scramble to find a babysitter. I like being able to travel, or even just make a random trip to the grocery store. I really like not having to carry a diaper bag. I like being able to have sex wherever, whenever and as loud as I want in my own house. I like not having to potty train. I like my babyless body. I like not having to pay college tuition.

I could go on and on. Call me selfish if you like, but I will stand proudly and tell you that at least I am thinking through my decision and not randomly procreating because I can't think of anything better to do, or because I am a religious nut who won't use contraception. I'm an informed, intelligent adult. There are things that I know I will miss out on, like Kodak moments or hopefully giving my child a better upbringing than I had. But when I really get to the heart of the issue, those things don't matter to me so much. On a practical level, I will be a million percent more prepared for retirement with the money I save, enough to buy myself a cushy nursing home stay or in-home care. Having kids as insurance is a shitty thing to do, and grossly unfair to your offspring. On an emotional level, when I look around me I have dozens of deep, fulfilling relationships, from a wonderful man whom I love deeply, to friends and relatives, to the children of my friends who call me Aunt. As I get older these relationships will only deepen and grow, and new and wonderful ones will be formed along the way. Those Thanksgiving dinners in the future may not include my offspring, but there will be amazing people who are just as much in my heart.

So do I need a googly-eyed young'un to come out of my vajayjay for my life to be meaningful and fulfilling? No, not I. Freedom, adventure, charity and creativity are what I need in my life.

-- BadSec

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