Is Expecting Women to Have Babies Because of Their Anatomy the Most Sexist Thing Yet?
I was 22 when I married the love of my life. We met when I was at college and it was instant connection; we were into all the same things and shared the same values – he was and still is my person, and I could never imagine my life without him.
So why when we find the one, and the dynamic that works, do we focus so much on trying to change things? I’m talking about introducing children into the picture. Don’t get me wrong; I believe that children are a blessing and truly brings joy to the lives of their parents, I just don’t see myself being one of those people. Ever. We’ve thought it over individually, as a couple and spoken about it at length and that is truly how we feel. Not how we both feel right now, but how we feel permanently. Yet, when the topic comes up around family and friends, I still feel pretty sheepish about my decision. Probably one of the biggest decisions I’ve ever had to make in my lifetime, and it’s one I feel really confident about. So why do I still have this enormous guilt hanging over my shoulders for saying no to kids?
I think we as a society put so much pressure on women to have children, that the thought of not having kids or even not being able to have kids, automatically makes us feel like less of a wife, less of a woman.
Luckily, I’m at the point where I don’t really care what other people think anymore, but it took me a while to get here.
Getting pregnant was a lot of work.
I too was one of the many women out there brooding for a little person to call my own. Her name would be Ruby, and she already had the raddest pair of Iron Fist pumps waiting for her for her 3rd birthday. Because somewhere, hidden in my parent’s home, I have a box of things that I collected and saved for when the time would come when I would have my first child. I was raised in a culture where having kids after getting married was the natural progression, the circle of life. And so, that’s what I planned for.
But the truth no one tells you about getting pregnant is that it doesn’t always happen as easily as you think. We struggled to get pregnant for three whole years. It was the worst three years of my life, because every day left me feeling even more defeated. We were both healthy, so doctors couldn’t really give us an answer or a solution except for the standard “keep trying” line. Every month when my period was a little late I thought this was it, it’s finally happening, but it wasn’t. I spent hours in and out of clinics, hospitals and specialist doctor’s rooms trying to fix me… because that’s honestly what it felt like… like I was broken and have failed as a wife. I changed my diet, I quit Bikram yoga (which I loved) and started taking pre-natal vitamins but nothing worked. The constant waiting and disappointment caused a strain between my husband and I. And I honestly felt like I’ve put my life on hold to focus on having a baby. So if you’re struggling with infertility right now and thinking how dare I make the conscious decision to not have a baby, you can rest assured that I’ve been there, exactly where you are right now.
Why I decided to stop trying
Even the phrase “stop trying” makes it sound like you’ve failed at something. The decision to not want to be a mother wasn’t something I’ve taken lightly. It also didn’t occur to me that clearly at a very distinct moment. I think we just decided to stop trying, and start living again, start to remember all the reasons why we connected in the first place. And in those moments, I realised something, I didn’t want a child because I truly wanted to be a mother (that part has never fully appealed to me). I wanted a child because I wanted us to be a family, to share something we’ve created together. And once I got over that narcissistic idea, everything else just fell into place. Because once we said ‘I Do’ we already became family.
And as a family, we got to do some pretty epic things together. Things that I honestly think we would not be able to do if we had a baby. We’ve moved to a different country to build a new life together, taken spontaneous weekend breaks to places I never thought I would ever see myself in, stayed out all night just because we can, also slept in all day just because we can and started two successful businesses in the span of 3 months of each other.
I still get told by various people “I also went through the selfish phase, but when you have children your life truly has meaning,” That is an ignorant and insensitive thing to say to anyone. Because you’re assuming that because we are childless, our lives are less than and does not have meaning.
I think as a species, we’ve evolved from that single-minded focus that a woman’s purpose in life is to be barefoot in the kitchen with a baby on her hips. So really, in today’s day and age expecting women to have babies just because of our anatomical make up is the most sexist thing to believe. And we as women need to be more supportive of each other. Let’s stop making each other feel guilty for not wanting to have children, and let’s stop putting mothers down for choosing to have children. Here’s to a female-empowered future.