This may come as a shock to some people who are full of biological
tickings, but I genuinely don't want kids. I just can't picture myself
either pregnant or a parent and to have kids you have to do at least one
of those things. At the age of 33, I've never felt any desire for a
baby. A good friend had her first daughter in March and she's brilliant.
I've spent a few lovely afternoon rocking this tiny trusting little
thing to sleep and hearing her snuffly little breaths as she succumbs.
I've also handed her back and not felt any yearning to have one of my own. My ovaries haven't
called out to me at all, just lain there as sleepy and undynamic as the
rest of me.
Because that's the thing. I could want babies as hard as I want. I'm not
well enough to have them anyway. My chronic fatigue doesn't really fit
in with the rigours of giving birth or months of broken sleep to feed a
baby in the night and from what I've seen of babies, they are unlikely
to fit my current routine of resting for half an hour each time at 11am
and 2pm and 5pm to prevent the incidence of crashing for days of
exhaustion and pain. They are also hugely incompatible with the
medication I take both as foetuses and breastfeeding infants and having
to come off those for 9 months would leave me exhausted by constant
pain, diarrhoea and nausea. And nausea is a given. I've suffered from it
almost daily for 20 years and take stong prescription anti-emetics
three times a day which don't completely stop the nausea, but have saved
from the social shame of boaking in bins on the street. These drugs are
only allowed for up to 7 days in pregnancy and only for hyperemesis
gravida so I'd be cast adrift with just own gag reflex. The thought of
nine months of my regular queasiness brings tears to my eyes. Adding in
the thought of extra pregnancy related vomitiness and I feel quite
distraught, clutching my pill sleeves to me anxiously.
I thought I was doing quite well coming to terms with the balance
between biology and life. Although I've not had the desire to make
babies so far, I have no idea if it might hit like a tidal wave if I met
someone I wanted to spend the rest of my life with, but I've been
preparing myself what to do if I end up wanting something I just can't
have. I'm probably more in the childfree by choice camp, but I can
relate to the childless team too. I might have reconciled myself not
birthing any babies, but will I be lucky enough to meet a man who feels
the same way or will being ill and unable to have kids cause
disappointment there too? Unlike most things you do frequently, you
don't get any better at being disappointed. Each little drip of dismay
builds a bigger stalagtite of pain. Being ill has already cost me my
educational aspirations, a proper career, any chance of a decent pension
for old age, friends, relationships, social life and self confidence.
It's entirely likely it might make it hard to find someone too, so I
find it's easier to just not let youself desire what you can't have.
So when I read things like this catty little article about 'If Maeve Binchy had kids...'
rammed full of the same smug insinuation that you aren't a proper woman
unless you've had kids, I get a surge of energetic rage. No words
irritate me more than 'you're not a mum, you wouldn't understand'.
Setting aside the fact that insultingly seems to suggest being a dad is
inferior to motherhood, it's also utter horseshit. Some people find that
becoming a parent changes their emotional landscape and they have a
vulnerable side and a sense of feeling they never expected. It's kind of
inevitable that having kids is lifechanging, even just practically. But
it does not give you the monopoly on emotional intelligence and
feelings and it's both wrong and privileged to say it does.
Plenty of people get to understand life and themselves on a higher level
long before they have babies. Some learn from childhood as difficult
but not unheard of things happen like losing a parent or sibling or
grandparent occur. Abuse and bullying teach children an adult view of
the world and their own vulnerability they shouldn't know so early. We
experience commitment and pain and loss and achievement through our
teens as we study, work, fall in love, build friendships and have life
change as we grow up. Adulthood brings more life experiences for most
people as often your role as a child changes to an adult who cares for
other family members and you see their vulnerabilities and needs and
find a way to balance them up with your needs. Life happens with all its
ups and downs and many people have responsiblities for themselves and
others. Divorce, bereavement, family breakdown, ill health, rape and
mental illness has taught me plenty about myself and " the feelings of
intense vulnerability..., passionate love, joy, bewilderment and
exhaustion" women can experience. If you haven't encountered or
thought about these things before you have your first child, I think
you're either having babies far too young or you've lived a emotionally
sterile life and you're the one who knows little.
"No matter what your experience of adult love, there is nothing as
the bond between a mother and a child" says Amanda Craig, missing the
point that most people will have been the child in that mother child
bond before they become parents themselves and must fundamentally know a
fair bit about its power and emotion before they start the bond anew.
For her statement to make sense, she must be prizing the mother part of
the bond more and even then putting the caveat of biological motherhood
to keep out the riff raff who didn't give birth as if that's somekind of
velvet rope we must all clamour to stand behind. To me you cannot exalt
motherhood by leaving out those with maternal instincts. Plenty of women
who haven't given birth to a particular child mother them. There are
legions of grandparents who sacrifice their retirement to help raise
grandchildren, childless aunts, relatives, stepmothers, godmothers,
family friends, adoptive and foster mothers who love the children in
their lives unconditionally and offer huge sacrifice and engagement over
the years despite a lack of a mother child bond borne of birth. These
are the women elbowed out by the change from Mothering Sunday to
Mother's Day and pushed further to the sidelines by women such as Craig
painting such a narrow picture. And that's before we look at the lack of
men in these kids' lives that this diktat creates.
Craig is crass and childish in her article. Not only was it published
the day Maeve Binchy was buried and used as a dig to suggest this warm
wonderful woman known across the world but deeply loved in Ireland was
somehow personally and professionally lacking, it came across as Craig
attempting to show off. The whole thing could be read as 'look what I've
got!' and it is spectacularly charmless. I imagine Craig to be a 'smug mummy'
after reading this, that breed of woman who becomes subsumed in her
children to the point that she no longers functions as a separate
person, relegating everyone else to bit parts and orbiting round her
offspring. I admire the commitment, but in the same way that I question
being zealous elsewhere in life, I don't think it's particularly healthy
and I think that in defining yourself entirely in relation to another
person instead of yourself it is the opposite of "bring[ing] about a
deeper understanding of human nature" but a way to narrow your horizons.
But what would I know? I've never used my womb for anything apart from
storing some hormones and plastic and my ovaries have been on sabbatical
since 2001. Craig insinuates that I and my ilk have achieved nothing
and are silly and shallow. One of my dearest friends is due to give
birth to her first daughter next month and I am ridiculously excited,
planning to fuss over her all her life and show her that love and
support also comes from people who aren't related to you and that its an
achievement and a valuable life skill to be able to charm impress the
majority of the planet you aren't biologically connected to. I won't be
passing comment on her mother's parenting skills and she won't be
passing comment on my lack of them. We'll probably have much more time
to do stuff that way if we join forces instead of trying to split
society like Craig insists on attempting to do....
I started this blog as a way to talk to myself as I worked my way toward rebuilding my life after experiencing two rapes. Then other people started reading it too and I realised talking about myself wasn't enough and expanded it to having an opinion on everything, especially women and sexual violence. I want this to be a safe welcoming space so please assume all posts need a trigger warning for rape, PTSD, general trauma related crappiness and bad jokes. I'm thrilled anyone reads it and want everyone to feel welcome, including men who may have been victims. I talk about rape from a woman's perspective as that's my own experience, but don't want to exclude anyone who doesn't feel their experience is the same. Feel free to browse or make comments. These are moderated so any apologist crap hits the bin, but not to boost my ego. Anonymous comments or pseudonyms are fine by me since I only blog anonymously myself. Thanks for reading. I do reward you with the odd lighthearted post as well...