All of my life, when I have envisioned “happiness” on a grand scale, children were never really a part of that picture. In my late teens, when I was diagnosed with a disorder that severely altered the course of my life, it cemented the notion for me that I could never, in good conscious, chance that my offspring would end up with the same illness. To me, gambling with the fate of an innocent child, trying to explain to them why I pulled them into a life of suffering without a reliable cure in sight – I couldn’t take that chance, and felt it was beyond selfish.
Then I found out from my peers who knew nothing about me that I was a fool – that I was being selfish because I refused to reproduce.
This reaction has always floored me, but I am numb to it at this point, after over a decade of being subjected to it by acquaintances, co-workers – even family who know what I have gone through. Somehow everyone, particularly other females, knows what is best for me. Forget about my very legitimate fears that I wouldn’t be fit to care for a growing child with my condition, and the embarrassment of explaining this intimate flaw. I hate to think of what women in my position, who actually want to reproduce but choose not to, must feel like when bombarded by the prying questions, open pity, and derisive condescension that we clearly don’t know what we are missing.
There are many reasons why people, regardless of sex, aren’t attracted to procreation – ranging from personal disinterest to ethical concerns given the current state of the planet. What’s most frustrating is that no matter where you lie on that spectrum, there’s no way to be candid about your beliefs given the long-standing veneration reproduction of the species has held for religious and social reasons. Everyone is allowed to have opinions on how many children per family is enough, or what kind of people should be having children, but it’s been my experience this liberty doesn’t extend to believing people shouldn’t wantonly reproduce, no matter the logic behind the stance. One can be offended by the existence of women who refuse to rent their wombs to babies, yet the same negative reaction to pregnancy is tantamount to high heresy, especially if you’re female. Instead, the most many of us can hope for is to label ourselves “childfree” and leave it at that, knowing the majority won’t hear or respect why this is the case (unless, of course, you’re sterile, then it isn’t your fault that you’re suffering an heirless existence). If this term is confusing or somehow offensive to you, those in my position have to make this distinction so that “well-meaning” women don’t confuse our situations with “childless” – further grounds to lecture us on the many ways to make sure our eggs don’t go to waste.
It feels like no matter what I say or do, even when I mention becoming a parent in the future through adoption, I can’t win. Something must be wrong with me not to want my own babies, and it is another woman’s mission to remind me of that. It doesn’t matter that not having my own offspring puts me in a position to better benefit their family in the big picture – I need to join the baby club anyways. Maybe they are right, maybe I, and millions of others, have something wrong with us to weigh what we can offer offspring and the assumption that children will better our lives, take care of us in our old age, and turn out to be good people when you love them and give them your all. But that’s entirely our business. Not theirs. I already have a family that I love dearly, and as far as I’m concerned, we’re complete for now. If that makes me selfish, then so be it.