Making the decision not to have children has been the most life-altering choice I’ve ever made. Upon making my decision I didn’t feel the need to fly it as a flag of pride and empowerment- in fact, I felt anything but empowered! It has been f*&king hard, and I’ve lost a lot because of it. I just hope that by sharing my experience, it helps other women if they are struggling with the decision, or are scared to make it public.
I had always assumed I’d want kids, though I wasn’t entirely sure when. The prospect of eventual pregnancy and parenthood seemed sometime ‘in the future’ ‘at the right moment’. But the future sometimes approaches more quickly than we expect. While the vague idea of motherhood had always seemed natural, the reality as it approached only filled me with dread, and I discovered nothing within me cried out for a baby.
It took me a long time to be honest with myself about it, and as a result I denied my own truth out of fear.I am glad to say I haven’t had to deal with a lot of the negative reactions many women have had to deal with, and I am very thankful that for the most part my friends and family have all been extremely supportive. The most common response I received- mostly older women- was that when they had kids they didn’t think much of it, it was just the natural progression.It has been suggested to me that I reconsider or delay my decision, and I have had to deal with subtle suggestions like ‘See, you’re really good with kids!’ ‘You’d make a great mother!’ even when the person knew how I felt about the topic. I even had to face questioning as to why I hadn’t come clean about the truth sooner.There have been a lot of confusing feelings, a lot around my self worth, and I’ve certainly doubted whether I made the right choice. But I know I have.If any of my friends ever feel like they need to talk about this topic, I’m always open if you’d like to talk, whether for advice or just to listen.
Dear Hypothetical Child,
I write this to you, the object of my grief and despair. This may sound unkind, but you are the reason your father and I are splitting up. We would be perfect together if it weren’t for you. After all we’ve been through, ten years of good and bad, it has come down to one decision: he wants you, and I don’t.
I was only twenty when we met, and didn’t consider ‘deal breakers’ at the time. Over the years I matured and learned about myself, and at some point I just knew. For a long time I was too scared to tell him I didn’t want children out of fear it would end the relationship. My fear was right.
It mightn’t be so heartbreaking if we didn’t still love each other so much. The hardest thing I have ever had to do is grieve the loss of someone who is still alive. Why would the tapestry of life sow us together, to fall so deeply in love, when a deal breaker like you would ultimately divide us?
I’ve lost so much because of you- the relationship, the friends, the family, the home he and I shared. All because I did not want to sacrifice my body to create you, or set aside my own aspirations to nurture yours. I am his present, but you are his future. I am here now, in the flesh, but I alone am not enough. We are breaking up over you, a hypothetical human that may never actually exist. But who am I to ask him to sacrifice his dream of you? The dream of you means more to him.
Deciding not to have children has been the most life-defining choice I have ever made, and I have not been without my doubts as to whether it was the right one. In the depths of my grief I have considered going back on my choice; maybe I would grow to love being your mother, if it meant I could still be with your father. He told me I’d be good at it, especially when he saw me with other people’s children. He so desperately wanted me to be the mother of his child, projecting his own dreams of parenthood onto me. But parenthood is not something I want to enter into with any degree of uncertainty. It is not fair on anyone, including you.
The time has come to be honest; I must be humble in my heartache and accept defeat. I must let him go, to find your mother, the one who wants you just as much as he does. I must get out of the way of the womb that will connect you both. My loss is your gain, little one. I am devastated, but I know with confidence that you will be so lucky to have him as your Dad.