Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Childless vs. Childfree

One of the wonderful parts of my recent weekend away was reconnecting with a friend from college who I had not seen in a number of years.  My friend, who I will call "CF," and I used to often travel together and kept in touch for years after college.  In the past 5-6 years, we have talked less and less and seen each other only a couple of times.  We never had a falling out or a fight. . . . just gradually drifted apart as we continued to live our separate lives.

I was interested to learn that CF is still in a relationship with the same man, 18 years her senior, who she was with when I last saw her a little over four years ago.  I was also happy to learn that they are making plans to become officially engaged by the fall and to get married sometime next year.

CF's significant other is divorced and has two grown children, daughters aged 26 and 30.  CF made reference to the fact that her S.O. would have been "willing to give me a baby" but that he had no real desire to have more children at this stage of his life.  As it happened, CF had to undergo a hysterectomy last year for medical reasons (she's fine now), so that closed the door on any further discussion of children for them.

CF seemed to truly be content with the idea that she would not have a child with her S.O., a man she has loved and been in a relationship with for over ten years.  She actually said that in a way, having to have a hysterectomy simplified things for her, because it put the decision of whether to have a child of her own out of her hands and "made the decision for [her]."  She no longer had to devote any time or effort to deciding whether having a child with her S.O. was really important to her.

Of course, when reflecting on it later, I could not help but contrast my friend's seemingly easy acceptance of knowing she will never have a child of her own with my own feelings about being unable to conceive.  She truly did not seem upset at all at the prospect of never having a child.

And I found that, in a perverse way, I envied her.  How I would love to have the decision about whether to continue TTC taken completely out of my hands!  How freeing it would be to know that pregnancy was now a complete impossibility for me!  No more hoping every month, only to have those hopes dashed by yet another BFN.  If I had no uterus, I wouldn't even have to consider shelling out $30K+ for donor egg IVF!
Infertility has indeed warped my mind.  Only someone with a warped mind would envy a friend who was required to undergo a hysterectomy at age 37.

Oddly, as it happens, I actually know a few people these days who are chil.dle.ss by ch.oic.e. or "childfree," as I believe is preferred term.  Two of my coworkers have been married for 20+ years and neither ever wanted kids.  A couple of high school friends of mine with whom I have recently reconnected, who are the same age as me, have no children and do not want them.  Two friends of mine from law school are well over 40,  married, have no children, and want no children.

So what do these people grasp that I/we don't?  Why do MM and I feel that our lives will be incomplete without a child of our own, when clearly so many other sane, rational people do not?

Why do we feel that our life without children will be childLESS and not childFREE?

7 comments:

  1. I wish that I would be happy with my life if I was childfree, unfortunately, I know that I won't. So I keep fighting.

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  2. I envy the childfree and happy people too! Although, I totally get what they are thinking though... I just can't bring myself to be ok with being childfree yet. I have already agreed with myself that once our ONLY option is IVF, then I will stop TTC altogether. Not because I think something is wrong with IVF or anything, I'd love to do it, but it will be something I can't justify being able to afford. Every thing short of IVF is covered by our insurance, so it something else works, then all the better. But if not, then we will be childfree.

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  3. I know a couple of women who are childess by choice as well and to me I think it's great that they never let society pressure them into believing that they have to have children... that they have to fit in... that they are nothing if they don't have children... but more importantly they didn't waste time having children when they knew that they really didn't have the maternal instinct the way that we do. We crave to become parents and they didn't.... and that's ok too... As badly as I want children I think that if my upcoming IVF doesn't work then we'll adopt.... I wouldn't be happy living in this world childfree but I can see why others would.

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  4. That is a really good question. For starters, I don't think you are off your rocker for envying your friend. It's not that you envy her reasons for having a hysterectomy (or even just the fact that she had one). I think what you envy is her inability to have to choose between various options. I also have a good friend who had a hysterectomy for health reasons, and I wish I had limited options like her. It makes it easier for someone like me--who is indecisive and is always questioning the "right" choice--to pick a path.

    As far as being childless or childfree, it really just depends on the person. Some people don't want children. Period. Or they might consider it, but they didn't spend their entire lives thinking about it or yearning to become a mother. It doesn't make them any more or less normal. Everyone has different expectations of their future and, for some people, children are just not a part of those expectations.

    For us, they are. So giving up that dream or trying to grasp that the path toward children may be a dead end is difficult. We've had that place in our heart from a child since the very beginning. They may not have.

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  5. Interesting...I, too, have friends who (so far) have decided not to have children, and they seem happy with their decision, too. I think that part of it, though, is that THEY made the decision - it was not made for them because of infertility.

    At the same time, I have relatives (an aunt and uncle) who were unable to have children. They could have tried IVF (someone was even willing to give them money to pay for it), but they chose not to. They also didn't want to pursue adoption. They've said that it was a difficult period in their lives, but I always wondered if they regretted their decision. These people love children, and they are both teachers. I'm sure my aunt always imagined she would have children. I would say that at some point, they completely accepted that they would not have children, and have gone on to lead happy, childFREE lives. She even told me a few years ago that now (6 or so years later), she believes they are happier because they didn't have children. I was stunned! Who knows if they would have been happier or not, but I believe they really are content with the hand they've been dealt. I think that at some point, they were able to change what they needed to feel their lives were complete.

    I don't see how you could come to either conclusion, though, while dealing with infertility treatment. You have to have at least some hope, or you wouldn't do it.

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  6. WOW! I have also come across a few people that have said that they dont want kids. Or they just have one "unplanned" one and vow to have no more.

    I guess that we are all different. Some people have that desire to have kids, others just dont.

    I know some people who see what people have to go through with kids and are turned off from it and like their lives the way thay they are.

    Granted, I will be 26 this Sunday, so my circle of friends are probably younger than yours, but it is a common theme among women (at any age).

    I am praying for your miralce!

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  7. I totally agree with this post. It would be nice to have the decision made. At one point I thought I had POF, and was resigned to being done. Then stupid lefty decided to respond really well to meds and make a lot of eggs.

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