Thursday, July 23, 2009

Where Does the Good Go

While on the phone with my favorite mother-friend yesterday, she said some precious words to me: "That's why you don't want children."

I'd been explaining what had happened to me the night before I called her, when another mother-friend I'm very close to needed to take her child in for emergency care. I went along for company and emotional support. L and I were together in the ER for 5 hours, during which said child was almost never silent - he drifted between whimpers and shrieks that caused people to crane their heads around and stare at us. These people were ridiculous, I thought - when a baby is several hours past his bed time and suffering from an injury, what do you expect him to do? Giggle? At least he smiled every once in a while. There was a lengthy period during which he would only settle down if he was being walked in his stroller, so I walked him. A lot. Her second baby is still belly-bound and was causing her undue amounts of pain, so I didn't want her to have to do it.

E, my favorite mother-friend, took in everything I said about the situation and came up with, "That's why you don't want children. That's a mommy's life, every single day, no matter what else you have planned." And she's absolutely right. I don't know if she thought I hadn't figured this out yet, or if she was simply uncovering something about me that she'd been in the dark about - a puzzle piece finally snapped into place - but it was gratifying nonetheless.

I can usually find time during every day to be thankful that I have no children, but there are moments when the relief is almost overwhelming, when I realize everything my closest friends have given up, when I realize how hard I used to think I wanted this.

E also said, "And that's why you have friends who are mommies, so that you get to live the life every once in a while, even when it's bad times."

I'm grateful for every second of it.

Friday, April 17, 2009

Really, it Only Happens on My Period

It was one of those nights I dread from the belly up, when, simply by virtue of mingling with people, I'm forced to spend time with children.

Tonight I attended a dinner party with some of the loveliest ladies on the planet, all of them either pregnant or already well into their careers as full-time parents. 7 children in all, ranging in ages from 3 years old to 12, whooping, hollering and screaming through a house largely fitted with tile.

You would think my overwhelming sense of doom (srsly, I was aware of the theme from Jaws) had more to do with the amount of noise than anything else - that's what I used to think when I walked away from these situations with a sour taste in my mouth - but for me, it's all about the contrast.

Someone's son or daughter will inevitably wander out to the adult realm and say something so hilarious that even I'm laughing. Tonight, a little girl who was fascinated with dinosaurs reminded me of myself at her age, and I had a conversation with her. I've never had a conversation with a child.

After that, there were some explosions. Children colliding with walls like they'd been shot from itty-bitty cannons. Screaming, squealing, laughing, toy-throwing chaos that had me digging my nails into the faded green fabric of a formula-stained armchair. That's the contrast. The harsh, ugly, unpleasant reality of multiple-child households that sends me crashing down from the momentary high of finding a youngster that I connect with on any level.

Situations like this give me reason to consider whether I'm making the right decision, and even though I always land on "yes" every time, it's still apparent that it's not without some obvious sacrifice that I choose this lifestyle.

It's the thing that's bothered me most about my conversations with those who opt for children, when they argue with me and tell me that I'm too young to know what I want. The entire concept of being too young to know what you want is based around being too young to understand what you're giving up, and I do. It's a difficult thing for me to admit, harder still to sort through, because I know that just saying this gives some of the more insistent parents a flimsy yet obvious foothold; they'll say, "See, if you really didn't want kids, you'd never have to wonder if you were making the right decision." I don't know how to combat fool's logic, except to say that it isn't true. There isn't a value I hold dear that I don't frequently revisit to make sure I still know what I stand for, what I want, and what I believe in.

There are less important things in life - owning a Dustfurniture original, for example, or catching the next episode of Deadliest Catch (go Phil, go Phil) - that give me more of a surge of joy than any fantasy of parenthood ever has, and considering how often I've considered parenthood, I know that this means something. It's as though there's this last, struggling particle inside of me that wants to procreate, and every other part of me has grown out of the phase, and knows better.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

The Empty Cradle

My name is Noel and I am Childfree.

Some people might read that in the same tone-of-text that they might read, "My name is Noel and I'm an alcoholic," but that's certainly not how I mean it. Like shaking my hand, like seeing that my eyes are dark blue, the fact that I'm Childfree is just another given about who I am, a no-fuss, easily realized and uncomplicated certainty, of no greater importance than eye color, hair color, or skin pigmentation.

At least, that's how -I- look at it.

The majority of my "peers" disagree.

To them, children are a magical, completing factor in life, the thing that makes all other things worthwhile or more special. To me, children are superfluous - an unnecessary addition to a life that's already quite complete as it is. And when my decision to remain Childfree forever was announced to those who expressed an interest in my reproductive plans, I expected that they'd see it the same way.

Oops.

In some cases, I was told directly that I would change my mind when I was "older." In others, I was given a look of utter amazement or disbelief. In a few cases, I was met with outright hostility, as though my decision not to have babies was a direct threat to their decision TO have babies.

I was most unprepared for these, and I'm sorry to say that they still happen on a regular basis.

Because I'm only 24 years old, the basic assessment is that I'm much too young to understand what I want out of life (despite the fact that I've been happily married for almost 7 years already). When a 19-year-old friend of mine says she wants to have a baby one day, no one in her life says, "You're too young to know that you want that."

This seems incredibly unfair to me, as though the world is trying to tell me that parenthood is the norm, and not wanting it means that I'm depriving myself of something everyone should experience. Is it so ridiculous that I happen to disagree? That I can respect and admire parents for what they've created, while still believing that my choice to live a life without those restrictions is just as rewarding and fruitful?

Tomorrow, I can sell everything I own and travel in a convertible across the continent, go camping for a month, start over in a country I've never heard of, or simply go to the neighrborhood cigar store until midnight without having to check with anyone or hire a babysitter. And tomorrow, my best friend in the world can wake up and cradle her newborn with love overflowing from her heart. She does not envy me. I do not envy her. She believes that she has made the right choice. I believe that I have made the right choice. There are things I'll be able to do for the rest of my life that she'll never have the chance to do, and the same goes for her. Isn't that life in general? Doesn't everyone eventually make a choice which prevents them from the experiences that someone else gets to have?

At any rate, this journal will be a place for my childfree heart to unwind, a place where I can recount the conversations I've had about it, the resources I've discovered relating to it, the rants I need to unleash about how people perceive it, and anything I can think of relating to the topic. My reasons, the things I have planned instead of children, perhaps even the occasional domestic ramble, because, in spite of my lazy womb, I'm still a very domestic person who delights in domestic things.