I have a confession to make. I am childfree, and I love it.
Go ahead. Gasp in shock. Blink at the screen. Ask yourself, and everyone around you, if I really just said that, if I mean it, and if I’m crazy.
I will give you a minute.
Okay, still with me? I guess that means that either you are more open-minded than others I know, or you care enough about me to give me a chance to explain myself. Thanks for that.
If I am going to explain how it is that I have come to this place in my life, I need to give some background information about me. So here we go.
When I was a child, the best possible career, in my mind, was to be a wife and mother. I watched my mother, with her loving husband and three children. She was always so happy. I don’t remember fights between her and Dad until I was much older. As a child I thought that meant they never fought. As an adult, I realize now it’s because they never fought in front of us. United front and all that jazz.
I knew that I wanted what she had. I wanted to be at home, baking cookies by dozens of dozens, putting the local bakeries to shame. I wanted to have my kids walk in after school, see a table a foot deep with cookies, and see the delight on their faces. I wanted to have my husband come home from work, kiss me on the cheek, and ask how my day was.
I wanted nothing else in the world but to have all of that.
But, to quote one of my favourite songs, life is what happens when you’re busy making other plans.
When I was 17, I was out for coffee with my best friend and my boyfriend. I was expecting my period, so the cramps that started up did not really surprise me. By the time we were done with our drinks and snacks, I really just wanted to go home and go to bed. We left the restaurant, and by the time we made it to the intersection where we would turn right to take Brit home, we were turning left to take me home instead. The pain was growing with red hot intensity. I cannot remember having ever felt that much pain, before or since.
Long story short, I had experienced an ectopic pregnancy. The zygote had attached itself to the lining of my fallopian tube, and when it reached a certain size, it ruptured the tube, causing severe internal bleeding and a lot of damage.
I nearly died.
I remember the day when I finally realized what it all meant. It was about a week later, and I was at home recuperating. And I suddenly realized that I had been pregnant. A baby had been inside me.
I still cry when I think of the tremendous sense of loss and betrayal I felt. How could I, who wanted nothing more than to be a mother, fail so miserably at it?
Of course, teenaged me did not understand that it was a situation that I had absolutely NO control over. I think that it’s part of the reason the next part of my story occurred.
Because I did not even have a period before I was pregnant again.
I’m not going to get too deep into this pregnancy. That is for another blog post. What I will say is this: if I could have raised a child on love alone, we would not be having this conversation. I would be instead telling you of the trials and tribulations of raising a 19 year old geek.
My 18 year old brain did one thing right – it took into consideration the needs of the tiny life growing inside of me, put aside all of the childish desires I had regarding my own future, and made a decision that I have never, nor will I ever, regret to this day: I went to Social Services and arranged to give this beautiful baby boy to a couple who wanted nothing more than to give a loving home to a child who needed one.
Best Decision Ever.
To say that I showed maturity beyond my years would be somewhat of an overstatement. I suppose that, in that one decision, that is the case. But that was the only decision that I made in my early adult years that would qualify as mature.
We’ll skip over all the stupid decisions I made in my late teens and early twenties. After all, that’s only human nature, and really has little to do with this post. I suppose one could argue I only got married because the only life goal I had in those years was to get married and have a family. But really, the truth is that I got married because everyone told me it wouldn’t work and I wanted to prove them wrong. This is what I get for being both German and Scottish. Damn fucking stubborn.
So much of my early adulthood revolved around my “goal.” I defined myself by my ability to attract a mate and have a family. I determined that I was an utter failure because I was not yet a wife (again) or a mother.
Looking back, I was not ready to be either of those things.
On September 10, 2004, something happened that turned my life around and changed things forever. I ended up in the intensive care unit at the Battlefords’ Union Hospital. I had been sent for chest x-rays because I was having troubles breathing at night. What they found instead of possible pneumonia was a heart that was three times larger than it should be. I was in the midst of Congestive Heart Failure due to Dilated Cardiomyopathy.
Those are a lot of big words that basically mean that my heart had grown too large and could no longer pump my blood as it should. During the day, the fluids gathering in my chest cavity would follow gravity and pool around my stomach. But at night? That is a very different story. The fluids would gather around my lungs, and the lungs, being the giant sponges they are, would soak up all of that fluid and then I could not breathe. I was drowning and I wasn’t even in any water.
I remember very little of my hospital stay. And it’s not really important to this story anyways. Perhaps I’ll discuss it more in depth in another post.
In the months that followed, I had a lot of changes to make. I was put onto CPP (Canadian Pension Plan for my non-Canadian readers – all two of you) disability, and spent the next five years recovering.
By June of the following year, I was starting to get anxious. I had no future that I could see. I was 29 years old, and likely to spend the rest of my parent’s lives living in their basement. My dreams of being a wife and mother were a distant memory. All I really wanted was to find a way not to rely on my parents.
That was when Dante entered my life. He was amazing – intelligent, funny, geeky, and cute. He showered me with attention, and made me forget my troubles. I fell hard for him.
The following February my parents and I made the trek down to Omaha Nebraska, where Dante lived with his parents, to meet him. In person he was even more than he seemed online and over the phone. On the trip back, I’m almost ashamed to say, my mom and I spent the time dreaming up wedding plans and how we could get him into Canada legally.
The next step, for me, was to talk to my cardiologist about children.
I honestly don’t know why it hit me that bearing a child might be an issue. I do vaguely recall the cardiologists asking me, while I was in the hospital, if I had ever been pregnant. When I said yes and the child was 10 years old, they said that it was unlikely that the pregnancy caused the condition then, as it should have manifested much earlier had it been caused by that pregnancy.
I guess that must have twigged in my brain, so I brought up pregnancy when I next saw my cardiologist. He said that this condition is not common in women my age, and he had no personal experience with it. He would look into it and get back to me.
When he did get back to me, the diagnosis was not good.
Best case scenario: I would only worsen a bit, and my child would only have a couple of health problems.
Worst case scenario: neither the child, nor myself, would survive pregnancy.
And worse yet, chances of the worst case scenario happening were higher than the chances of best case scenario happening.
And there you have it – my body, once again fighting my only real dream.
And yes, I know, I can adopt. I know this. I relied on that as an option as I dealt with the fact that I would never again bear a child of my own.
Dante was amazing through this period. Adoption was a perfectly fine option. He didn’t care as long as I was happy. And so I could put off dealing with the pain of this for a while.
Right up until things started to get really serious on my part. Once again, I won’t go too into depth on the situation. Needless to say, I started to get rather pushy about my future with Dante, and he got severely cold feet.
In March of 2008, my relationship with Dante ended. Rather abruptly from my point of view, though looking back, I really should have seen it coming.
Since then, I have had to search my heart on a lot of things. I have come to many conclusions about what I want out of life, many of which are a direct opposite of my childhood dreams.
- I AM a career woman. I have worked very hard to get to where I am. I clawed my way out of my parent’s basement into a life in which I am very happy. I have recently been promoted to Human Resources Manager, giving me a nice salary and a position with a lot of responsibility. I love my job and the people I work with. I love what my job means most of all. True, I live in a tiny apartment, but it frees up my money to do other things – like go to conventions and meet like-minded people, or travel down to Texas because I can. My career comes first now. All decisions I have made in the last two years have been to further my career.
- I am perfectly happy on my own. This was a tough one to come to. I have spent so much of my life defining myself by my relationship status. But one day, waking up in my big bed all by myself, I realized I had been living for over a year by myself, and NOTHING BAD HAD HAPPENED. It would be okay to never have anyone in my life. I would be fine. Though I’m not opposed to someone coming into my life, as recent developments would show…
- Finally, IT IS PERFECTLY ALRIGHT TO NOT HAVE CHILDREN. This is the point of this post, and I know I have got somewhat sidetracked in getting here. But not being a parent does not, in fact, make me less of a person. Not having children does not make me a failure. All not having children means is that I am somewhat of an oddity in our society. And that, my dear readers, is something that I am very used to being.
So here we are. After years of defining myself by relationship status and viewing my lack of children as a failure on my part, my life has come to a turning point. This is where I proudly declare that, though the decision was thrust upon me, I am perfectly happy knowing no one will ever call me “Mommy.”
To everyone who is really shocked that a grown ass woman would declare such an awful thing, think on this. I came to this conclusion through a real trial by fire. My life has been heading in this direction for as long as I can remember. This journey has nearly killed me. Twice. But it has also brought happiness and made my family something truly unique and wonderful. I would not trade the life I have led so far for anything in this world.
I am at a point in my life where I can make decisions like “I want to go on a trip this winter,” and I don’t have to worry about if the other people in my family care. I don’t have to say “will the kids enjoy this?” because I don’t have kids. At most I only have to worry that it’s at a time of year that I am not needed at work, and that someone will look after my hamster.
I do not want children in my life. I like not being responsible for anyone but me. Is that selfish? Sure. Of course it is. I fully admit to being selfish. And you know what? That’s probably reason enough RIGHT THERE to NOT have kids. Selfish people shouldn’t have children, because children require more self-sacrifice than anything else in this world.
So I am declaring right here and now – just because you have children, and you feel they are the best thing to ever happen to you, doesn’t mean that they would be the best thing to happen to me. Don’t tell me I’d feel different if I had them. What happens if I don’t? Do you really think a household where the mother resents her children is a good place for children to be? I sure as hell don’t. Let the people who truly want and will truly love those children have them.
I was childless by circumstance for so long. Now I am childless by choice. And it feels fantastic.