I don’t normally do this on my blog, but for this particular subject, I will add a content warning:
– suicidal thoughts
– societal gender roles
If these topics are triggering to you, please do not read this article.
I decided to write this after watching this wonderful TED Talk.
Please take a moment to watch this before continuing.
I am a 27 year-old female. I have never had children, and I do not plan to. This is not because I have some aversion to motherhood. I like children. I think that I could be a good parent if I ever decided to adopt, but I have no interest in birthing my own child. My reasoning is different from Christen, as I am deciding not to have children because of some health complications that could be life-threatening in pregnancy. I have a pituitary disorder called Panhypopituitarism which causes a litany of health problems. It is not genetic, but even if I were to survive pregnancy, and if the baby itself would survive, the hormonal imbalances in my body and the medications I have no choice but to take in order to stay alive could cause serious birth defects. Giving birth to a child is not an option for me.
Despite that fact, I do have a romantic partner. We have a healthy sex life. The risk of pregnancy in my case is very small, but still a risk nonetheless, and I know that if I were to become pregnant, I would be put in a heartbreaking position where I would have to terminate a pregnancy. I had a scare last year when I thought I might be pregnant. I was torturing myself with the thought that I would have to abort my own child, even though I knew the fetus would not be viable. I was ALWAYS taught that it was the most evil thing that you could do to terminate a pregnancy. It didn’t matter what the situation was. It didn’t matter that I’m an atheist. It wasn’t a religious value to me, just a principle that I was raised with that felt like I had to adhere to as a good human being. The whole time I was worried I might be pregnant, I was torturing myself with the thought that I would have to get an abortion. I hated myself. I was suicidal, even considering forgoing the abortion and allowing the pregnancy to kill me. I would never do that, mind you, but the thought still hovered over me like a suffocating cloud.
When I found out I was not pregnant after all, I was so relieved, but I decided that I did not want to put myself through that fear ever again. I made an appointment with my gynecologist to speak with her about getting a tubal ligation. I didn’t want to risk pregnancy again, but I didn’t want to have a sexless marriage either. I went to my appointment nervous, but sure about the decision. I remember sitting in the exam room waiting to be seen, and the nurse was looking over my file. She asked what I was being seen for. I explained that I was interested in getting a tubal ligation. She looked at me, gave me a smile that I can only describe as pitiful, and she asked how old I was, and if I had any children. I explained to her that pregnancy could be fatal with my health conditions, and she said “okay”, took my blood pressure, and left the room. As I sat there waiting for my gynecologist to come back and talk to me about the procedure, I couldn’t help but remember the look on the face of that nurse, and the tone in her voice when she asked me what my age was, and if I had any children. It felt so condescending, as if I would be making a mistake if I was fertile, like I would be throwing away an integral part of being human. It made me hate my dud of a body even more.
My gynecologist came into the room, and we discussed the procedure. It was decided that considering my health problems, she would not approve it. Surgery itself would be too much of a risk with my adrenal insufficiency and poor immune system. She said that she would not approve of an “elective surgery”, and suggested using condoms instead. (I can’t use birth control because of complications with my treatments for my pituitary disorder) We talked about inserting an IUD, but she decided that the risk of infection with that was too much for me as well. I was disheartened, but I believe she was right. My partner and I have just been practicing safe sex since then, but I still worry about the ineffectiveness of certain safe sex practices. I wish I could just have the surgery once and never have to worry about accidentally becoming pregnant, but there really isn’t anything we can do. Needless to say, the constant worry of becoming pregnant has had a negative impact on my libido, not that I have much of one to begin with with my hormonal deficiencies, but that’s not the point.
On top of everything I have been through, I STILL have to deal with society’s expectations of women as mothers. I am often confronted with the question of “When are you going to have kids?”, and it always makes me feel like a failure when I have to change the topic because I don’t have the heart to turn the conversation awkward by telling the truth, because the truth always breeds (haha pun) the reaction of pity and apologies. The worst thing you can do to a person who tells you they are infertile is apologize. Pity only reinforces the stigma, and makes us feel even worse about being unable to bear children.
Looking through the comments on the TED Talk’s YouTube video page and seeing the occasional ignorant person spewing bullshit about a woman’s purpose as a breeder makes me feel like my purpose here on earth is nothing. I can’t have children, so what good am I?
I’ll answer that for you. “What good am I”?
– I am an artist.
– I am a volunteer in my community.
– I provide love and care for my partner, and he does the same for me in return.
– I have rescued two kittens off the street who are now my spoiled furchildren.
– I have rescued a few other animals who were given to no-kill shelters or loving homes.
– I organize events in my town to raise money to build homeless shelters.
– I am an active advocate and educator for chronic invisible illnesses, and my videos on my rare pituitary disorder has helped other patients, and brought us together.
That is “what good I am”. My worth is not in my body, but in my heart.
That is the same for all women, regardless of their fertility, regardless of whether or not they decide to mother children, so stop asking when people are going to have children. It’s none of your business, and for some people like myself, it brings up some seriously uncomfortable emotions.
I didn’t write this to shame anyone who has asked me this question, and I harbor no grudges from those awkward moments when I have been put in that situation, but watching this talk really inspired me to share my own experiences. If everyone avoided this topic because of how uncomfortable it is, nobody would know why it can be so painful for some. Instead of feeling awkward about the topic, learn from it. Thank you.