There are Many Choices You Can Make: Or, How I Changed My Mind About Having a Baby

I never wanted to be someone’s mother. In fact, until a few years ago, the very thought of pregnancy made me collapse with anxious dry-heaves. I was happy to have my dogs and to enjoy my niece and nephew. But giving birth and having babies myself straight up grossed me out and made me panic. Until I changed my mind.

Not having children was working out quite well for me and my partner. We traveled. We took long walks with our dogs. We stayed out late. We took road trips and moved across the country. Not having children was a valid, highly personal choice. And of course it was a choice we were privileged to make due to the availability of reliable birth control and the education on how to use it. Once my partner finished grad school, we truly became DINKs (dual-income, no kids) and lived a relatively stress-free life. Everything was going swimmingly until I started experiencing horrible pelvic pain in 2005. Never a light-flow lady, my period became a torrent; like a mountain stream in spring, if you want a visual. Months and multiple doctors later, I found out it wasn’t cancer (yay!) but that it was endometriosis (boo).

You’d think I’d have been glad. I mean, endometriosis often plays a part in infertility. And if I didn’t want babies, wouldn’t I be happy to be infertile? But this diagnosis set off a biological timebomb (not just a clock). When I thought I couldn’t have a baby, suddenly that was the only thing I could think about. Suddenly, every baby everywhere was looking at me. And they weren’t screaming. They were smiling. They were daring me to do it. And I think some of them were mocking me.

Through multiple surgeries, a few years of trying and 54 hours of labor, my son arrived blue and grimacing. We were thrilled, even when he was a jerk. So, what’s my point? I’m really just talking about choice.

Until my anatomy decided it might make the choice for me – and potentially decide it wasn’t possible – I didn’t want to procreate. But once that choice seemed like it might be taken away from me, I became focused on what I might be unable to achieve. You can’t tell me what to do, ladyparts.

See, that’s the thing about choice. We’re happiest and most healthy when we preserve all options. Having choices is about more than access to abortion. It’s about comprehensive women’s health care. It’s about access to medical care that preserves our bodies’ abilities to have children or respects our plan not to have children. It’s about treating us as whole people who need medical care for all our parts for all reasons. It’s about respecting our decisions and enabling us to change our minds.

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jennyroseryan

Jenny Rose Ryan is a DIY junkie and a self-professed grandma. (In the sense that she likes to say things like, "Back in my day..." and enjoys doilies, blue hair and making things from scratch.) A frequent contributor to BUST Magazine, Jenny Rose also contributed heavily to the BUST DIY Guide to Life (while 9 months pregnant -- the ultimate do-it-yourself experience), and is an avid runner and marathon-fiend. When not carin' for the grumpy babe, writing or running, you can find her listening to new metal (as opposed to nu metal) and being so horrified by American politics that she bakes instead.

21 thoughts on “There are Many Choices You Can Make: Or, How I Changed My Mind About Having a Baby”

  1. “We were thrilled, even when he was a jerk.”

    Ha! Great post. I’m glad everything was able to work out for you.

    As far as the people who don’t want kids, I think it’s great when people think it over and know deep down that they don’t. It’s much better than (maybe sometimes happens) having the kid anyway and then going, “Oh. Hmmm. Well, my gut was right and now I’m stuck anyway.” That’s not fair to the kid. So it sucks that there’s so much pressure we hear that female=wanting a baby.

    And of course even when you do want kids, there is all the pressure/commentary involved with that. Mommy-shaming-judgement,… STEP OFF, BITCHES. ha…. I mean…. uh….

    What was I saying? Oh, right – Yay, Choice!

  2. I totally understand the point you’re making here, but unfortunately, this is exactly the type of story that people who just can’t fathom that there are women who never want children love to trot out to try to prove that the childfree don’t know their own minds. “You’ll change your mind.” “It’s different when it’s your own.” “You’ll regret it forever if you don’t have a child.”

    I will not change my mind. I have made a decision, just as much as people who have a child have made a decision. And when someone says to me, “We’re happiest and healthiest when we preserve all options,” I hear every condescending doctor telling me I can’t have a tubal ligation, because it’s permanent and what if I change my mind? (As if having a child weren’t a permanent condition as well.) I do not want to preserve that option. And there are many, many women out there who know what they want and who will not change their mind.

    People have children and then realize that they never wanted to be a parent all the time, and yet we never hear those stories as cautionary tales for the wanna-be parents, warning them that they could change their mind at any time.

      1. There’s no actual law about it, just a bunch of malpractice-shy doctors who think a woman, regardless of age or relationship status, isn’t capable of making a decision like that. My doctor now would do it for me (I made my previous gyn note in my records every year since I was 20 that I was inquiring about permanent BC options, but she kept telling me I’d change my mind, so I switched doctors when I was 29? 30?), but my insurance won’t cover it. They would if I got it done immediately after giving birth. And I’m pretty sure birth costs are WAY more than a tubal, but whatever. Long story short, it’s at the doctor’s discretion, and no amount of offering to sign waivers will sway most of them.

        1. It’s ridiculously difficult to get a permanent BC solution when you are young and childless…heck, it’s hard if you’re just young.  A friend of mine had three kids before she turned 22 (she used the pill and condoms when she got pregnant with the first, and an IUD when she got pregnant with the other two.)  She had no intention to have three kids…especially when she was so young, so after her third when wanted her tubes tied.  Her OB refused because she was so young and she might change her mind.  She then switched OB’s who only did it when her husband signed the waiver.  Seriously, it’s messed up.

           

    1. I completely did not intend it as an object lesson in changing one’s mind. I intended it more as “changing your mind is ok.” I have personally always felt pressure to stay locked into a decision. Because of that, it took a lot to be able to be honest with myself. Not everyone will or needs to change their mind. All choices are valid. And all medical care should reflect that.

      1. I would love to see stats on how many women are certain about not having children at age X and have changed their minds at age X+10, X+20… because while I do think it’s very problematic and patronising that doctors often refuse sterilisation (surgical or essure) to young+/childfree women, I also see their point that sterlisation is permanent and the only  way around it later is the stress, expense, and uncertainty of IVF – especially if it turns out that most women do change their minds on it. I don’t know what proportion of women do – does anyone else?

        I know men aren’t quizzed quite so much about vasectomies (though it seems to vary in the US?) and I’m sure some of that is down to good ol’ sexism,  but vasectomies are also easier to reverse and even if that doesn’t work, the process of extracting sperm is much easier on a man than IVF is on a woman. There are, overall, fewer consequences for men either way.

  3. I’m relieved to hear that your terror of pregnancy and childbirth and motherhood faded when you decided you wanted kids (which, obviously… but I’m saying what I’m saying in this poor way I’m saying it anyway). Right now being pregnant sounds awful, and giving birth sounds double awful, but I know that someday, maybe around when my IUD has to be taken out due to FDA recommendations, I will probably want a kid with my partner. But it’s stressful to think that this disgust/terror might linger even when I realize it’s the way to have that child (though I’m also open to adoption in the future), so I’m glad to hear it didn’t stop you and things went well. I hope the same for me eventually.

  4. This post hits home for me in so many ways.  I am firmly convinced that I never want children, and that even if I did, I would adopt.  But I would really hate to have that choice taken away from me.

    There was a really great arc on How I Met Your Mother this season dealing with this exact issue (yup, I actually found HIMYM extremely meaningful to my life this season.  And spoilers ahead, obviously.)  Robin, a character who has always been adamant about never having children, found out that she was infertile and couldn’t have children, and it really upset her.  A lot of fan reaction was “well why does she care, she didn’t want kids anyways,” but I thought it was a really great depiction of why choice is so important, and a character dealing with the pain of having that choice taken away from her (even if the choice that was removed was the one she didn’t want.)  They continued the arc with her engagement breaking off once she told her fiance that she never wanted kids (even adopting them.)  Again, I thought it was really realistic – it was extremely painful, but ultimately she knew she wouldn’t ever want kids, and he knew he would.  Not going to lie, that episode made me cry, because one of my biggest fears in my current relationship is that someday (too soon to really be talking about it now, but someday) this will eventually be the only thing that keeps my boyfriend and I from making a more permanent commitment.

    Anyways, all this is to say that I really appreciate your perspective on this, and I definitely know where you’re coming from.  And I appreciate that you focused on the choice and the power of choice and didn’t hit us with “OMG never do anything permanent because someday you will change your mind” talk, because I hear that all the time and it drives me crazy.

    1. I hate the “oh you’ll change your mind” paternalism… and I changed my mind. The other part of this whole thing I didn’t mention is that because we were so adamantly childfree for more than 10 years, we were off the hook with many of those who’d initially pressured us…. so the whole thing was an out-of-the-blue surprise.

      1. Yeah.  I know, in theory, that I might change my mind someday, but I’m certainly not making my life plans about it, and I really hate being told that I definitely will.  And like you said above, it just makes me feel more strongly that I need to stick to my current choice no matter what.  So on top of being obnoxious, the more people tell me I’ll change my mind, the more likely it is that I NEVER WILL.  Backfire!

      1. It actually really surprised me how well they handled it, given a lot of other story arcs this season (once again Ted is a douche, and will someone get that Quinn girl off my screen and out from between Robin and Barney please?)  But I was definitely impressed and touched.

    1. No. I still believe everyone has a choice and valid reasons for it. Plenty of people change their minds about having children… after they’ve had children. No one says to a pregnant woman “oh, you’ll change your mind once that kid is out.” Choices are deeply personal and multifaceted. I will, however, offer a ton more help to any new parents in my friend group.

  5. Great post. Fun writing :)

    My experience is different. I didn’t want children, and I when had all kinds of reproductive health trouble, I still didn’t want children. I finally had a hysterectomy, which I guess is supposed to be this big deal, but for me it wasn’t. I was thrilled to be done with it.

    People say you’ll regret having kids when you’re older, but that’s not necessarily true. I’m older and I don’t regret it at all. I love my freedom. So it can work that way, too.

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