“So, when are the kids coming?”
“They’re coming when you stop asking me that.”
This isn’t true, but it shuts them up long enough.
“Are you getting married so young because you’re pregnant?”
“I’m getting married so young because it’s none of your damn business.”
I’d barely made it down the aisle before I started getting berated with these questions. When you get married, people believe they’re entitled to your personal life – especially when you’re young. I tied the knot three months shy of my 25th birthday. My husband and I had already been together for seven years and had known each other for many more, so we were excited to take the next step.
Although, in the sense of a conventional relationship, marriage may be the last step we take.
Having children has never been a dream of mine. You hear about women who fantasised about having children as young girls, but back then, I was dreaming about having a house full of animals.
Women are constantly made to feel as though we are not fulfilling our ‘purpose’ if we don’t give birth to or mother children in our lifetime. Our worth is dwindled down to our maternal instincts, and if yours is non-existent, people view you as heartless. Men escape this pressure because they’re not the child bearers, while women are viewed as a tool to reproduce for other’s satisfaction.
The decision I’ve made to not conform to society’s perception of a woman shocks those who are more conventional. Though, the reasons as to why I don’t want biological children – if I want them at all – heavily outweigh the reasons why I would.
So why wouldn’t a young married woman in a healthy and respectful relationship want children?
I’ve often made a joke to my parents about not asking to be born: “You guys decided one day that you wanted a child, and then expected me to deal with everything life throws at me – I didn’t ask for this shit.”
It’s a cruel joke, I know, but it’s the truth. And what life has thrown at me is at least 10 years of mental health disorders. Panic attacks, self-harm, suicide attempts, medications and therapy is only a small portion of the things I’ve been through.
Once, I found myself curled up in the corner, hiding from the world in the darkness of my room. That day was particularly distressing and had ended in a relapse of self-harm. I had been crying heavily and the tears were stinging my open wounds. What I was feeling was nothing new, but it was one of the worst instances. I remember thinking to myself that no one should ever feel this way – especially a child of mine.
Because I live with mental health disorders, my offspring are around 40 percent more likely to develop clinical depression – inevitably expecting them to deal with shit they didn’t ask for. I am also 30 to 35 per cent more likely to suffer from post-partum depression (as if I need more of that), which could render me incapable of caring for a newborn child.
Not only could my child suffer from personal struggles, but with the current state of the world, who knows what kind of place they will be born into and grow up in. I am not willing to bring another child into uncertainty when there are approximately 46,000 already born in Australia that need a loving family. There has been a 64 percent decline in adoptions since 1995, yet parents continue to have children that they cannot care for. If I do decide that I want children, it will be my responsibility to provide a safe and secure home for a child that deserves one.
Of course, the feelings and thoughts of my husband have been considered in this decision. Constantly I am prodding, prying and checking in with him in case one day he feels differently. I think he’s secretly relieved that I don’t want to birth children for fear they may turn out as persistent as I am. I know he would be a great dad – a pushover, but a great dad. He treats our animals like they’re his children – when he gets home from work they get a kiss even before I do. They are loved beyond words, and if we decided to adopt a child, I know he’d love them the same way.
Even after explaining the reasons as to why I don’t want children to someone, I am often rebutted with the statement that makes me want to smack them.
“Oh, you’ll change your mind one day.”
And maybe I will change my mind, but it won’t change regarding birthing biological children. I’m tired of feeling as though I must justify this decision to those who feel entitled.
Now, when someone assumes they have the right to weigh in on my choices, I result in explaining it crudely.
“I am not pushing something the size of a watermelon out of something the size of a passionfruit.”
And that shuts them up for good.