This week’s Soften Saturday is a guest post from Debi at Hunter’s Lyonesse. Most weeks, Soften Saturday is about being kind to yourself. This week’s post is about being kind, softer, more thoughtful to those of us who do not have children.
This post speaks to me, and may speak to you as well if you are childless. Or maybe it will speak to you if you know someone who is childless by choice or struggling with infertility. So many folks living with Celiac disease or other health challenges are childless, some by choice and some not. Many of you have heard my light-hearted, comical replies to the question, “When are you having kids?” Even though I respond with humor, it can be painful. Debi has shared great insight into the emotions, the challenges, for those of us living a childless life. –Johnna
A Childless Life Is Not Always What You Think by Debi of Hunter’s Lyonesse
There is an assumption that people who do not have children choose not to have them. This is as true as all parents planned to become parents. Birth control is not one hundred percent effective. And there are others who choose not to use it out of misguided notions that a girl/woman cannot get pregnant a certain time during her cycle, it cannot happen the first time, or a doctor says it is impossible for the man or woman to have children. Yes, there are adults who make a conscious choice to not bear and rear children. But not all of us made that choice. Some of us try repeatedly to get pregnant and are unable to or we miscarry, repeatedly. Some of us go through expensive fertility treatments with no success. Some, like me, have illness(es) with the potential to wreak havoc on any pregnancy. We are all on our own journey and we are never in the same place at the same time.
You might think that being childless gives us more freedom. We can travel as much as we want or even on a whim. We can go out and party all night and not worry about being woken up at the break of dawn by kids jumping on the bed while a hangover rages through our bodies. Our income is disposable and we can buy what we want. Sure, our disposable income pays for my increasing medical bills. I am so fatigued most of the time going out to “party” is not an option. I have multiple food allergies so any traveling has to be well planned out beforehand.
We are expected to never speak on parenting issues because, “You don’t have kids. You don’t know what it’s like.” No, I haven’t carried life within me for nine months, gone through childbirth, woken up in the middle of the night for feedings, or stayed up all night with a colicky child. It does not mean I have not experienced what it is like to parent or to have ideas on parenting. I know what it is like to hold a child accountable, to choose my battles, to reward them for their gains, to nurture them when they are sick, to find pot and porn in their room, to have them call you around the holidays because they need mothering, and to say, “If you don’t stop yelling at me, I’m turning this car around and you’re not getting your senior portraits done.” I do not mean I tell others how to parent. I would never tell someone how to parent unless they were a client or I witnessed them abusing their child (in the latter I would also be dialing 911). I mean expressing an opinion on parenting. I choose my words carefully and if I do choose to say something, it is not impulsive. I know where I stand in the eyes of most people as a childless woman. I do not have the same frame of reference, but I still have a frame of reference and my opinion is just as valid.
There are two questions I am asked a lot. When are you going to have kids and why don’t you have kids? I hate those questions. Hate. The questions are like judgmental peer pressure to me. Like what the person is really trying to say is, you should have kids. In recent months my first instinct is to scream, “It’s none of your business!” when asked. Because really, whose business is it other than mine and Chaz’s? I am more civilized than that and merely skirt answering the question as much as possible.
During hypnotherapy last Summer, I ended a session in tears after visualizing a son, Noah. He was about two and we were playing in the living room of a house. Then he was a few years older and we were in the kitchen with him on a stool stirring batter for cookies. I realized after that session the want of having kids is really a burning desire. The session was not the first time I visualized a future child. The first time was back in college. She was about four or five in a frilly yellow dress with dark curly hair and a yellow ribbon tying some of it back at the crown of her head. She was at the sink doing dishes with her daddy. Remembering that vision so vividly after all these years still amazes me.
My health tanked two months later after a stress incident triggered adrenal fatigue. Then additional food allergies and a leaky gut surfaced. Then Sjogren’s Syndrome became symptomatic (I was diagnosed four years ago, but was asymptomatic). If being that sick isn’t enough, I have the two Sjogren’s antibodies when combined increase the risk of them crossing the placenta and placing the fetus’ life at risk. Couple that with the increased fertility/miscarriage issues women with Celiac have.
This is not my first health crisis. I spent a good decade of my adult life on medications for one thing or another. Medications not conducive to a growing life. I would likely have had miscarriage after miscarriage without ever knowing why because I was misdiagnosed most of my life had we tried sooner during the times I was not on medication. But as life stands now, I know the risks. I know what can happen when we start trying and it is crippling at times. My rheumatologist is optimistic that it can happen if we have a plan in place. I hold on to her optimism because the burning desire and the fear of killing my child in my womb are at war with each other in my head. Rationally, I know I am not in control of these antibodies in my body and I really wouldn’t be killing my own child. But fear is never rational and those are the thoughts that run through my head. That is my reality.
Then I return to everyone else’s reality. Friends and family getting pregnant and having babies and the questions get asked again. Long before all this started I would get anxious in the Summer right before my yearly appointment with my gynecologist. He was a great doctor but the longer I saw him the more the visits turned into those questions and ended with him reminding me, “You’re not getting any younger.” Thanks, Doc. It is stressful enough when you want to have kids but do not and are reminded of it constantly. You start to avoid those stressors and the people that come with those stressors.
Remember the next time you meet someone new or see someone in passing with or without children that we all have our own journey. We can share our story with each other as we choose, but it is up to us to share and not for anyone to force out of us no matter what it is. When you want to ask that deeply personal question, stop for a minute and think if you would want that question asked if your situation were like mine. And if you happen to tell me you are pregnant and I do not respond with the excitement you think I should be, you now know why.
Thanks to Debi at Hunter’s Lyonesse for this week’s Soften Saturday. Please visit her site for more of her writing, as well as her recipes!