Countdown To Tubal: What Childfree Means To Me
15 days left before my tubal ligation!
Normally, I find it difficult to make major, long-term decisions. I’m often indecisive by nature, unable to determine which option is best. Sometimes I just don’t know what to do. Other times, I don’t make decisions not because it’s hard but rather because I really just don’t much care and would rather take life as it comes to me.
But that isn’t always the case. There is one (ok, a few) decision that I’ve made that I have always been firm about for as far back into my youth as I can remember. It’s one that I’m absolutely certain about and have never even for a moment doubted. It was an easy decision, a no-brainer, and one I intend to stick to and know that I will never regret.
My decision is to never breed. I don’t want kids, especially not from my own body. I never have had even the slightest desire to carry a pregnancy or to parent, and I never will. Therefore, I’ve sensibly chosen not to breed any kids. Not now. Not ever.
I’ve always found it odd when people ask me why I don’t want kids. That’s like asking my why I’m happy with my life, implying that I shouldn’t be. Sure, I have plenty of reasons I don’t want kids, but I don’t think that any of that should matter. For me to make such a drastic and permanent life change, and one that not only affects my life but also those of the people around me and the person I would hypothetically create, I have to have a very good reason to have kids. Having thought about it at length, I haven’t been able to come up with a single one.
Some might call me childless. While that’s not technically inaccurate, it’s not a label I identify with. The problem is that the word implies that I’m missing something, that I’m some deviation from the default, or that mine is a temporary state and one I should seek to remedy. None of that is true for me.
I’m not missing anything, or not anything that I want, anyway. Furthermore, I contend that not having kids, while less common as a permanent lifestyle, is the default as no one is born with kids and they don’t just appear on their own but through action.
Additionally, people tend to think of sad, infertile people when they see the word childless. They think of pitiable people who want kids but can’t have them, at least not naturally. I don’t want kids and have chosen not to have any and my insurance company will soon be paying good money to make me happily infertile.
With all this considered, I prefer the term “childfree.” I’m not lacking children, I’m free of them. The only thing bugging me now is the idea that such a decision would require a name at all.
To illustrate what I mean, consider horses. I’ve spent a few weeks working with horses this summer, and I’ve found them to be magnificent animals that I quite enjoy spending time with. But I don’t intend to own any. They’re expensive and a lot of work, although still not nearly as much as a human child. Yet no one calls me horseless with pity or disdainfully accuses me of being a horse-hater and I’ve never felt the need to refer to myself as horse-free. Why is that?
Most people never own horses, or even seriously consider doing so. As a result, they don’t assume other people do, pity those who don’t, or insist that people who never do will regret it. If I told someone, even a horse-owner, that I do not want a horse, I’m most likely to be answered with something like, “So? Don’t have one. Why even mention it?”
Having children, on the other hand, is a much more popular thing to do (and at a dangerous level too.) It’s therefore assumed that I want and will have children, especially since I’m female, often without regard to any statement I make to the contrary. When I say that “I don’t want kids,” people often refuse to accept that and simply choose to believe that there must be something wrong with me.
The most common reaction I’m met with is disbelief combined with dismissal. It comes in many forms. I’ll change my mind. I’m too young to know what I want. I’m just saying that for attention. It’s just a phase. It’s just hyper-feminist backlash against a traditional female gender role. I’ll regret it some day.
Then come the accusations. I hate kids. I’m selfish. I had a bad childhood. I’m an angry, mean person. I’m secretly jealous of the childed. I’m bitter. I’m cold-hearted and joyless.
My experience with these sort of encounters is not even unique. Many other CF people report being occasionally faced with the same thing from family, friends, partners, co-workers, and even strangers. There’s been much discussion as to why others feel the need to do this.
Maybe some are honestly concerned. Maybe some have their own motives (desire for grandchildren, as an example.) Maybe some are jealous because they want kids but can’t have them. Maybe some have kids, and are jealous of my freedom from that lifestyle.
I have my own suspicion. I think that some (not all) people who engage in bingo-ing do so because they feel threatened. This too, comes in different forms.
There’s the misogynist that thinks that a woman’s purpose in life is nothing more to be a breeding machine and home-maker. Such a person’s sexist view is threatened by the idea that women can do and want more in life than that. Such women are harder to control, after all. Rather than change their perception when faced with this reality, it’s easier for the prejudiced person to simply vilify all rejection of this gender role. I’m not sure if something similar is often faced by CF men.
Then, there’s the unimaginative person who mindlessly cling to the “life script,” believing that they MUST marry and breed, often without putting much thought into it or realizing they could have chosen to live any other way. A CF person might represent a lifestyle that the bingo-er could have chosen, but didn’t, or didn’t realize that they even could have chosen. This is especially true if the bingo-er is unhappy as a parent. The existence of CF people makes the bingoer examine their own decision. Maybe such people bingo to make themselves feel better, that they’re not really missing anything. They imagine that the CF person secretly wishes they’d chosen to have kids, and/or is miserable without them.
The last group is the people who want/ chose to have kids, and might hold very pro-natalist and conventional family centric views. They may even consider having kids as the greatest thing they ever have or will achieve. Such a person is shocked and outraged that someone doesn’t validate their views by sharing them. To them, having kids (not always parenting) is so important that they can’t imagine a person having different priorities and goals in life. I think bingo-ers from this group are the ones who feel the most threatened by CF people. To them, when I say “I don’t want kids,” I may as well be saying “I eat babies is my stew, then draw dirty pictures on playground equipment, every sabbath.” Being childfree represents a direct opposition to their views. I am someone who rejects their lifestyle, their values. Who am I to live differently?
It’s not all bad news though. Most people, parents or not, have the sense to realize that not everyone is interested in breeding, and we’re not devil-worshippers for it. Most people are supportive, or at least just mind their own reproductive business.
But it’s the bingo-ers that stand out. Being obnoxious does that. Some CF people have complained that CF is the new gay, or even more extreme, the most oppressed minority group. I don’t think that’s the case. Sure, the bingos are irritating, and there’s a disturbing amount of obstruction to reproductive healthcare (which isn’t strictly a CF issue,) but as far as I know, CF people have never been rounded up and forced into slavery, falsely diagnosed with a mental disorder and sent to be “cured,” lynched in large groups just for being CF, or denied marriage rights. Yes, CF people face discrimination (I can’t think of any other decision that I’ve ever made that elicits such outrage,) and no amount is acceptable, but please, we are NOT the new gay or black or anything else. Let’s have some perspective, people.
Getting back to my decision, the choice to be childfree is not one I’ve found any difficulty making. I’ve never wanted kids. The only difference now is that I have a name for it. It follows that I’ve also decided to be sterilized. This too brought about different reactions, as well as a lot more attention that I expected or wanted. Sure, there were a few bingos, which I’m used to. I don’t expect to hear the last of those even after the procedure.
However, I’ve found those easy to simply ignore. I’ve received far more positive reactions, being congratulated and on person on twitter suggested a “virtual anti-baby shower.” For anyone concerned about the label “anti-baby,” don’t be alarmed, I’m not about to gather pitchforks and torches and lead an angry mob to the nearest hospital nursery (but seriously, don’t ask me to babysit.) I’m only against me having a baby. And really, what else do you call a “shower” (really just people saying congratulations,) celebrating the fact that I do not and will never have a baby?
So, very mixed reactions, but mostly positive. It’s all about who you tell I guess.
I don’t see me being sterile as a big deal. Sure, the tubal ligation procedure has me a bit nervous and excited, but not actually being sterile. For me, infertility isn’t a life-changing event. The way that I live and think won’t change one bit apart from me not needing to be paranoid about my contraceptive failing. After recovery, I expect to go on with my life the same as I have been with nary a thought about my voluntary sterility. It will be a non-issue for me. And that’s the point.
See, I like my life more or less how it is. I get to enjoy being active, being lazy, being spontaneous, being alone, and being with my boyfriend. I live by my own terms (mostly) and it’s a life I would simply not be able to maintain if I had kids. I like my life and for me, having kids would just absolutely ruin it. I wouldn’t be happy, and neither would Hypothetica or Imagigary be. So I’m getting my tubal to protect the life that I have. The only difference between my life before and my life after my tubal will be that afterwards I can be secure in my knowledge that I will get to keep my life as I wish to live it unchilded. I will have one less thing to worry about and get on enjoying my life.
That’s what being childfree means to me. My life isn’t worry-free or without responsibilities and sacrifices nor is it free from the judgments of others. But I have one less worry, one less major expense, one less burden. I’m without kids. Not only that, but despite what some bingoers wish to convince themselves, I’m planning to stay that way permanently. And, most damningly, I’m perfectly happy about it.
Posted on 2011/06/27, in childfree, Countdown To Tubal, Feminism, Prochoice, Sexism and tagged childfree, countdown to tubal, diary, pro-choice, prochoice, sterilization, tubal, tubal ligation. Bookmark the permalink. 6 Comments.