Monday, March 29, 2010

Baby Proofing - Childless and Happy

So a few weeks ago my mom sent me an article that ran in Self Magazine about a 30-something lady who claimed to not have the "baby" gene. The article started great and I immediately related to it fully until...it led to her undergoing multiple fertility treatments and eventual Momdom.

You could say, she lost me at stirrups.

I thought - hey, finally, an article from my point of view - refreshing! So many articles start that way but end "as I rocked my beautiful bundle of joy to sleep, I couldn't possibly imagine life without her/him and I too drifted to sleep". (EYE ROLL.)

Defeated again, I vowed to write a blog entry from the "Childless and Happy" - or at least doing just fine, thanks - point of view - just in case there happens to be even one other person out there in my shoes.

As a married person in her early 30s, there is quite a lot of pressure to have a "family". (As if my husband and I don't count as one - our own holiday celebrations, fulfilling careers and large circle of friends and extended family not withstanding.) You may have seen my response in Redbook recently regarding their article "What is the Right-Size Family". Not one childless couple was included, and so - you know me! - I wrote in and lo and behold they printed my letter.

The pressure comes from everywhere - not just friends and family. The media, complete strangers, co-workers, you name it. There is even a weird internal pressure - like later in life I'll regret it...but at the moment - and still with some time on my side (albeit it dwindling) we have put the "trying to start a family" thing on pause. But it doesn't stop people from asking and then reacting with such disdain and rudeness when we say we might not ever have kids. "Ever?" No, we don't think so. "EVER?" No, we just don't think so right now. "You will. You're just frustrated. Have you tried Dr. Such and Such? Standing up? Elevating your hips after sex?" You know random lady at the airport...it's none of your business!!!!

See, a while back we thought we'd try. And so we did. Very quickly it became obvious it was not nearly as easy to get pregnant as our junior high gym coach led us to believe. Both of us have minor "equipment" problems, and therefore, if we were to proceed, it would most likely require scientific intervention. The initial poking and prodding was enough to beg the question - perhaps this is not meant to be?

If I have to force it so much - maybe it's not in the cards. We aren't wealthy enough to try everything under the sun, plus I don't know if I'm strong enough to endure what some women gladly do for even a slim chance at a baby.

So, instead of trying, lately we've been playing around with the idea of getting use to not having any kids - and are tentatively finding that it may suit us better. As a matter of fact, a calmness and sort of comforting resignation has settled in.

It's not that we really dislike kids. We are completely surrounded by kids in our condo building - all of them adorable and fun to play with and watch grow. But.....in such close quarters we have also realized that children, even really well-behaved ones, are loud, needy, use tons of crap that would not compliment our current decor, and constantly require attention. Since I already demand these things, it doesn't seem fair to my husband to double that annoyance. Nor does it seem fair to bring a child into a home where we might...dare I say it? Resent it, even a little.

I know, that there may eventually be a different ending to this story for us - perhaps we'll adopt a few years from now, which is an amazing thing to do - and could be an even more fulfilling experience for us. However, then we'll have to go through such a rigorous process to be deemed "acceptable"parents that it too, seems like a lot to deal with.

What if we just didn't - wouldn't that be okay too? What is a family anyway?

Here is a short list of Pros and Cons that run through my head on shuffle constantly:

Pros:
When we get old they (might) take care of us.
I suppose car trips and vacations might be fun.
Baby Boden.
Christmas would be a lot more fun.
Feel like you're leaving a mark on the world.
Payback for the neighbors (just kidding!) Okay, just kidding a little. Okay, not kidding really at all. PAYBACK.
(More) grandchildren for our parents.
Funny dinner conversations, inside jokes, stories.
Finally, a use for my boobs.
More love.

Cons:
General stickiness.
Cost.
Have I mentioned that I lost nearly 40 pounds recently?
Won't have someone to teach what we know (that for a little while, thinks we're the best at it.)
No more going to St. Martin a week before Christmas.
They leave marks on everything.
I'm an actor and improviser - how would that work?
No more fancy dinners.
Having to serve macaroni and cheese with hot dogs cut up in it alongside sushi.
Stretch marks.

If you're out there - this is an open invitation to connect! What are you stories and thoughts about not having kids?

6 comments:

  1. I guess I knew I always wanted kids either because I'm from a large family, I'm Catholic or I have "the gene." As a teenager (long before having a steady boyfriend much less sex) I sensed something was wrong. I tried in college to get my ob-gyn to do a small amount of investigating because I had found THE GUY and he was older (Michelle, stop laughing!:)) and I didn't want him to waste a chance on me. Because I wasn't married, the doctor refused to take me seriously. A few months into our marriage I had what the doctor strongly suspected was a miscarriage. Then a few months later, after a very scary incident, it was discovered that, well, my anatomy was causing me a) not to get pregnant and b) to miscarry when I was pregnant. I suffered another much later miscarriage before insurance let me get the surgery I needed to correct this issue. Just a week before my surgery my brother-in-law and sister-in-law announced they were pregnant. She was in her early forties, had been on birth control since she was 19 and got pregnant the first month of trying. How was that for justice?

    It still took five months after surgery to get pregnant (oh an MRI revealed I had as many as 10 miscarriage in addition to the two documented). And when I took the test, it was so I would see it was negative and get on with my life. Now I have to try not to get pregnant. With me, fertility seems to be feast or famine!

    I love my three (and no, we're not done yet)and could not imagine my life without them, BUT the reason I write this is that I could not afford expensive fertility treatments. My surgery was only approved after a doctor submitted a family history of gynecological issues not relating to pregnancy. And we were flat out told by several agencies that because of our 17 year age difference we were not going to be considered for adoption. And the pressure still was on. As badly as I wanted children (and I can't tell you how many months I cried myself to sleep while I watched all my friends get pregnant)I was resigning myself that our family might just be the two of us. (And if it hadn't been an anatomical anomaly that was the cause, it probably still would be just the two of us.)Unfortunately, our families, our friends, no one would let us believe that. Maybe that was a good thing, but if we hadn't been able to get pregnant, I know I would get really tired of explaining that we were "done" trying.

    I read an excellent essay by Dale Paul (a woman, despite the name) while in college called "Without Child" that talked about a couple who was without children. Paul talks about how she didn't realize she wanted them until she couldn't have them (of course, I know, eye-rolling here). But it brought to the forefront of my mind the issue of infertility in our culture. Infertility is still a taboo. So is not wanting children. I just try and listen when someone is upset about people's reactions to either, because I have lived them myself. I don't have advice. What I do have is empathy. If you want children really badly (as I did) and find out you can't have them, well, you should be allowed to grieve that loss (which was the point Paul was making in her essay)and then live your life as you choose to live it. (Can I tell you how much I hated hearing, "well, you could always adopt!" we tried. They said no.) If you decide you do not want children for whatever reason, people need to respect that. And shut up about it already. This turned into an essay, I apologize. But I totally know where you are coming from even though I am at a much different point in my life. I have two adorable boys and a sweet girl you are always welcome to borrow if you feel the need to see white furniture turn a rainbow of surprise colors you didn't know existed, but you won't here from me, (most obnoxious Long Island accent ala Seinfeld) "You gotta have a bay-bay."

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  2. 以簡單的行為愉悅他人的心靈,勝過千人低頭禱告。........................................

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  3. Part 1
    I was 24 living in Miami and on a clearly defined path- law school, political work, and then a life of lobbying for health care appropriations benefitting women and children- when I discovered I was pregnant. I was not in a real relationship with the man with whom I conceived said child, I didn't have the time or desire for such a relationship, so I laid in bed for almost 2 weeks trying to decide what to do.
    I know this sounds horribly selfish and disgusting, but after 2 weeks I knew I still did not want children, but I also knew I would never have an abortion- this is not the Catholic in me (sorry Dad), it's just what I believe. So I left with 2 choices, adoption or keeping the child.
    I finally told me brothers about my 'situation' (as my family began to refer to it shortly after I told them) and then my parents. Best Friend already knew since someone had to check and recheck the 7 pregnancy tests I took. After much discussion with people I knew and trusted and tons of soul-searching (as corny as that may sound, there isn’t a better description for what I did), I decided I would keep the child.
    I could not stand the thought of giving 'it' up for adoption to parents who might possibly abuse, neglect or otherwise destroy this life- there was no guarantee I would make the right choice in adoption and I knew it would haunt me for the rest of my life. But here's the catch, I also knew keeping the child would 'haunt' me the rest of my life. I didn't want a child. I don't mean I didn't want a child when I was 24 and unmarried, I mean I didn't want any children period. I knew I would frequently regret my decision...and I do.
    As ugly as that statement might be, and believe me I know how bad it is, it's true. I'm not sure I made the right decision. I'm not a patient, kind, loving, nurturing person. I don't beam from ear to ear and pull out a wallet full of photos every time someone asks me about Cy (Olivia Cy Nash was born 8.18.05), I haven't recorded her every moment and displayed them on YouTube for the world to see. I do however, lose my patience frequently, I yell and stomp my foot when it is probably very unnecessary. I scare my child (and myself) with my anger and impatience over silly, small things because my personality pre-child was to worry, over-analyze and be a control freak and surprisingly enough it didn't magically change the moment the nurse put her in my arms.
    Not a week goes by that I don't wish I made a different decision. But not a week goes by that I don't laugh and cry over something Cy says or does. Last week she told me she learned about Jesus and His Recycles in her Wednesday night little kids' church. And when I asked her, "Recycle?" she looked at me with no patience, like I was an idiot and said, "RecycleS, mama- there were a bunch of them." Every morning I go into her room and half asleep she climbs into my lap, puts her arms around my neck and says, "I love you Mommy."
    While I know that the above is funny and heart-warming, I also know I doubt myself and my abilities every day and I know deep in my soul, words that no one wants to hear will always live. I did not want any children and I still do not.

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  4. Part 2
    The decision to have or not to have a child is your own. It is a choice that will forever define who you are to the rest of the world and, more importantly, who you are to yourself. I am happy and healthy with a beautiful, bright-eyed, toe-headed little cuss who brings immeasurable joy to more people than I can count and often I am among those people, but, no, not always.
    The reality of my life is harsh when I acknowledge my feelings. I will forever mourn the life I wanted and could have known, but do not have because of the choice I made to have and keep my child. I will try each day to be a better mother and hopefully, in many years a friend and confidant to this child who puts all of her faith, trust and love in me and seek a peace in the decision I made that I'm not sure I will ever find.

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  5. Catherine - I am speechless. Thank you so much for sharing. Honesty is such a rare and beautiful quality, and yours has really touched me.

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  6. Michelle,
    Truthfully- that was very hard for me to write. I had to read your original post 4 or 5 times before I worked up the nerve to write my thoughts, but I felt compelled to offer you another perspective. Thank you for your response.

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