“I always say my biological clock must be digital, because I’ve never heard it ticking.” ~
Having children is something I’ve been thinking about lately.
Not a lot, but more so than usual.
I turn 35 this year. Undeniably into my mid-30s.
And I’m becoming very aware that while to date I’ve been choosing not to have children, it won’t be so very long now before I enter a phase of my life where I probably shouldn’t have children – due to the increased risks – and that this will be quickly followed by an age where conceiving a baby is simply no longer an option that is available to me.
And despite the fact that I have never, at any point, thought that I wanted to have a baby, I’m finding myself feeling increasingly resentful of this. This impending loss of the choice to do so, I mean.
So I’ve been trying to examine whether there’s any underlying reason for this. Since on the surface it doesn’t make a whole lot of sense. To be annoyed that I’m no longer going to have an option open to me that I’ve been resolutely opposed to pursuing for about as long as I can remember.
I’ve been asserting that I didn’t want to either get married or have children since at least the age of five, and despite 30 years of people insisting that would inevitably change my mind, I’ve never wavered in that conviction.
With regards to the children anyway.
I’ve flirted with the idea of getting married, but have never been sufficiently inclined to get on with it to overcome my overwhelming apathy at the prospect of having to arrange a wedding.
And so, probably because of the three decades of other people insisting that they knew me and my wants better than I knew myself, I got a little bit worried that maybe all those people were actually right, and maybe, deep down, I actually did want a family after all.
But it turns out that they weren’t, and I didn’t. Don’t, actually.
And I’ve found recently that I’ve had almost the exact same resentful feeling about realising that my next pair of glasses are probably going to have to be some kind of varifocals – because I’m starting to have problems with my close vision as well as my distance vision.
Turns out that my resentment is just about the aging process in general and not related to my fertility specifically. I knew that my body would start to function less effectively as I got older, but I hadn’t been expecting the decline to set in this soon. I’d thought that it’d start to kick in as approached 50. So now I feel as though I’ve been cheated out of an extra decade of youthfulness.
I also, semi-recently, went through a period where people kept talking to me about the prospect of having children and asking me about whether Raj and I were going to have any. At the time it was beginning to feel like there was a lot of expectation about that we should be getting married and having babies.
But it turned out it was just that a lot of our friends were becoming pregnant but still in the period where you’re not supposed to announce it yet. So, this massive thing was happening in their lives, and understandably occupying a lot of their thoughts, and they really wanted to talk about it; but since they couldn’t explicitly tell us about it, we just ended up having a lot of generalised conversations about babies and potential babies instead.
But, yeah, there are a lot of reasons I’m not going to have children.
Chief amongst them being that when Raj and I talked about it, neither of us were actually opposed to the idea, but not being opposed to the idea doesn’t seem like a good enough reason to go inventing a whole new human being.
And, to be honest, I really can’t imagine what a sufficiently good reason to create a whole new human being would be – not for me anyway.
And I think it’s more important to have a really good reason to have a child than it is to be able to justify not having one. Because nothing changes if you don’t have one. Whereas having one is a huge, huge thing.
None of my friends who have been pregnant have sold me on the experience. They’ve all hated it. Most of them have had truly horrible experiences with it. Which is worrying to me if I imagine myself going through it, as I have increased health risks. Both mental and physical. In fact, until recently, if someone had some of my physical problems they were advised that they just couldn’t have children. While that’s no longer the case, it’s still not an ideal scenario, and I’m frankly not convinced that the health system is up to supporting me through it.
And in my case pre-eclampsia is an almost certainty. My mom, my aunts, and all my cousins had it with all of their pregnancies.
Speaking of my mom and my aunts – and my dad and my uncles, they’re a pretty big factor weighing in favour of my not having a child when I’m ambivalent about it. They had me, my sister, and my cousins because that’s what they were supposed to do, rather than because it was what they actually wanted to do – my grandma as well – and they all more or less sucked at parenting.
And I don’t think I would magically become the family exception if I just go ahead and have one in the blind hope that I’d feel differently once the baby arrived.
While I enjoy spending time with my friends and their children, or even just with my friends’ children, I also find myself thinking how I’m glad that isn’t my life. That I’m glad my name isn’t ‘Mommy’. That I don’t need to spend any more time than I do already around children or taking an interest in children.
I can think of a great many things I would like to do with and achieve in my life in the future; having a child, being a mother, or even planning a children’s party have never occurred to me as being any of them.
And I think you always have to plan for the worst case scenario if you’re going to do something so life changing – or in the baby’s case, life creating – as to start a family. Because there are no guarantees that things will turn out for the best.
So to start off with I think you have to consider, even if you’re in what you feel is a solid relationship, whether you’d be willing to parent your hypothetical child alone. You need to bear in mind that you can’t plan for infidelity, or sudden accidents, or terminal illnesses, but you need to have an idea that you’d be able to cope as a single parent should they happen to occur.
A friend from school tragically died in an RTA earlier this year, and left behind a one year old who won’t even remember her, and a husband who now has to raise the child alone.
This probably won’t happen to the vast majority of people. But it might. And if you couldn’t manage your way through it, it’s better to know that before it even has the potential to happen.
And with my health stuff I know that I couldn’t manage to parent a child without a supportive co-parent to help. There are days when I physically can’t get out of bed. I’d need to know for certain that on those days there’d be someone else there to take care of the kid.
The other thing that you have to consider is that you might not have a problem free pregnancy that results in the birth of a healthy baby.
I don’t think my mental health would survive the loss of a child. And I think I could probably just about manage my own disabilities and a child who was also disabled, but it would be exceedingly difficult, and I’m not willing to accept the possibility of that becoming my life.
Ultimately, I like the life that I have. I like my relationship, I like our home, I like the way we organise our time. It’s taken a long time and a lot of hard work to get here, and I want to continue to enjoy it, rather than gamble our happiness on a risk I’ve never been inclined to take.
And if that doesn’t sound like sufficient justification to remain childless to you then that’s good. It’s not supposed to be one. This is my own reasoning for my own decision, or lack thereof, about how I’m going to live my own life.
It doesn’t need to work for anyone else. They can do whatever they want with their lives. And, as my psychiatrist finally managed to convince me, I’m allowed to arrange mine in the way that best suits me.