CW // pregnancy; chronic illness; childbirth; miscarriage
“You’ll change your mind when you meet someone.”
“Your mum would love to be a grandparent!”
These are just some of the things that have been said to me about having children. Whether these comments come from family and friends or total strangers in passing, or whether they are meant to be well-meaning or judgemental, it seems to be a question that people with uteruses can’t avoid. It becomes tiresome. As a single pansexual woman in her mid-twenties, dealing with issues and stresses related to PCOS – I’m still being asked when I’m settling down and having kids.
Parenthood doesn’t suit everyone. Some of us can’t wait to procreate. Others can’t thing of anything worse. And, while it’s not just women who can become pregnant and go on to give birth, cisgender women are typically on the receiving end of more unwanted opinions about their reproductive futures than cisgender men. Meanwhile, LGBTQ+ people are still fighting legal battles and stigma for the right to become parents. Personally, I have known that parenthood wasn’t something I envisioned in my future since I was a teenager. I don’t see myself being a parent unless it is to an adorable bunch of cats and dogs that are obsessed with me. Stress? Responsibility? Lack of sleep? I have those already!
The common misconception is that all cisgender women want children. Unwanted questions about something as intimate as fertility plans can not only be uncomfortable and annoying, but in cases where people may have health conditions which impact their fertility or previous experience with pregnancy can also be traumatic. It also assumes that pregnancy, childbirth and parenting is the goal for everyone when it isn’t for lots of people. It can leave the recipient feeling inadequate and like nothing we have accomplished is worthwhile since we don’t have a tiny human on our hip.
Celebrities like Miley Cyrus, Jennifer Aniston, Kim Cattrall, and Tracee Ellis Ross are successful without children. Tracee Ellis Ross talks about living for herself in her 40s in her speech at Glamour’s 2017 Women of the Year Summit. Something that people of all ages can take from her speech are the words, “My life is mine”.
In many parts of the world, we are no longer living through times when women are forced to stay at home and take care of children while their husbands go to work. Likewise, recent opposition to the gender binary has empowered many people to move beyond the reductive thought processes which assume only women become pregnant and give birth. While some people including women choose to be stay-at-home parents, others do not. Others, regardless of their gender, choose not to have children at all.
For many younger generations, kids are just not financially feasible. Child-rearing requires time and money which many younger people do not have in a climate of stagnant wages and job insecurity. While some also point towards the Climate Crisis for their decision not to have children, as population growth is associated with increased emissions and impact on the planet, people are entitled to procreate and should not be criticised for this choice when 100 companies are responsible for 71 per cent of emissions.
Furthermore, pregnancy and childbirth isn’t a medical option for everyone. Chronic illnesses, fertility issues, access to surgery and more can also influence people’s decision to become or not become a parent.
Choosing not to have children doesn’t make someone more or less of a woman. For people of marginalised genders, their decision to become pregnant and give birth also doesn’t remove from their gender identity. Am I less of a person if I don’t have children? Is it selfish for me not to imagine my life with children in it? When I look at children, I don’t feel that gravitational pull; I don’t think kids are for me. Sure, they are cute (sometimes) but I can’t envision myself having them. Personally, I enjoy my freedom and I value my independence and, if that makes me selfish, I can live with that.
We don’t owe anyone an explanation as to why we do or do not want children. It doesn’t matter if we’re 20, 30, or 40 years old. Our choices are ours and our life belongs to us. People don’t need children to feel accomplished. Despite advances in gender equality in recent decades, cisgender women are still judged for their decisions more than their male counterparts. Childbirth is a personal choice that doesn’t require an outsider’s opinion. We should be able to decide without others’ pressure or judgement.
My body. My choice. My life is mine.
Image courtesy of Javier Allegue Barr