I come from a big family. In fact, I am the 11th born and so when I say I come from a big family, I mean it in the literal sense. Since I became old enough to understand sexual and reproductive health, however, I have struggled with the idea of motherhood.
I know that for many women who come from where I come from, being a wife and mother has always been a part of who they will become, and sure, I have had the conversation about kids with past love interests and gone as far as naming my kids with the first person I fell in love with when I was 15 or so but even in those moments, it had always felt like I was discussing someone else’s life and not mine. There was never any emotional connection between my talking about having children and an actual desire to have them.
Have I gotten pregnant before? Yes, more than once. I have miscarried and had an abortion and while those two scenarios seem to be at two extreme ends of the spectrum, I can honestly say that the running theme in both scenarios is that I was not happy being pregnant. Granted, in one of those situations, I was in a relationship with a violent man, and having a child with someone like that would have been less than ideal but even in a loving relationship, pregnancy seemed to me like the end of the world.
The sheer panic of going through pregnancy, the sickness, carrying an alien inside me for 9 months, and then being responsible for them for another 18 years or so just fills me with panic. It always has and probably always will.
Now do not think I have anything against being a mother or indeed, children. As stated above, I come from a big family- that means I have nephews and nieces (some of whom I have not met given geographical restraints) whom I absolutely adore and will do anything for. I love playing with and having conversations with the children my friends have and I am known to be the cool/sometimes embarrassing aunt to some of them but there is always the relief at the back of my mind knowing that I get to give them back at the end of the day.
So why don’t I want to have kids?
The ‘maternal instinct’ is a social construct.
Hear me out here. As far as I can remember, whenever I told people I had no interest in bearing children, I have been told that the maternal instinct will kick in when I am older. Well… at 38, I am somewhat clued in on the fact that this maternal instinct people speak of does not actually exist. Women do not have a timer in their bodies that suddenly goes off and then ding! I am ready to have children. This is just another patriarchal ideal to measure womanhood by one’s ability to carry the burden of child-rearing.
Unresolved childhood trauma
Does this really come as a surprise? Maybe, it does. For many people, reconciling their childhood trauma is something that they can hardly imagine happening. It is even hard to tell if these issues are thought about, much less connected to how they behave as adults but for me, the opposite is the case. I spent some time in therapy so, I have an idea of what my triggers are and how they shape some of the decisions I make about life. For instance, I have anger, not anger issues, just anger. I am angry that as a child, I had to deal with being sexually molested by people I trusted and not getting the protection I needed from the people who were supposed to care for me. I am angry that my primary school teacher used to cane me on the backs of my legs and that when I was in boarding school, I was bullied as a rite of passage.
All that anger has stayed in me, and it scares me that I will have a child and because of internalised trauma, I will treat them carelessly because after all, I turned out alright, right? To avoid that, I think that it is better to be childless than test these boundaries and I am completely at peace with that decision.
Children don’t fit into my life’s plan
I am a late bloomer. Yes, really! I spent my twenties and the first couple of years of my thirties just living in a daze; surviving but not really anchored. Unsure of what I wanted to do with my life, I tried a bit of this and that, went to university a couple of times and dropped out, picked up an accounting course, went halfway and dropped it because it wasn’t my passion and then I finally decided what I wanted to be when I grow up!
While I take conscious and deliberate steps towards this plan (world domination, anyone?) I see the idea of having children as an unnecessary distraction and something I find inherently unfulfilling. I finally have a plan for my life and children just do not fit into that and that is perfectly fine.
Surprisingly, even at my age, I still get the old ‘’you will make up your mind when you get pregnant or when you find the right man’’ speech from people when I announce my decision to remain childless. This gets tiring quickly and often I get annoyed at statements like that. I don’t get annoyed because these people annoy me, I know, for the most part, it is coming from a well-meaning place, but we know the road to hell is paved with good intentions!
I get annoyed because as women, we are not expected to own our bodies and make decisions that are best for us. We are always expected to be the passive actors in our own stories. Waiting for a man to provide ‘stability’ and make decisions about what we get to do with our own uteruses for us.
The number of times I have been asked: so, what if you meet a man and he wants to have kids? I mean, not wanting kids is pretty much a standard first date topic for me so if I meet a man who wants to have kids, I don’t pursue the relationship further. This is non-negotiable for me. And I absolutely cannot stand the idea of waiting for a man before I make decisions about reproduction.
Oh, but what if your mother had chosen not to have you? Well, I love my mother and respect her a lot. I believe that my mother’s body is hers and her choices regarding her body are hers and hers alone so if she had chosen not to have me, it would have been in her best interest, and I love that for her. Also, what would I care? I would not be alive to have an opinion about it.