Saturday, May 1, 2010

To Spawn or Not to Spawn...

When did it become “inappropriate” or just “appalling” for a woman to not want children? That’s what I’d very much like to know.

For the upcoming rant, some perspective may be in order: in my residency program, there are 16 residents. Of the 16 residents, 13 are female (Rosie the Riveter would clearly be proud). Of the 13 female residents, 5 are currently pregnant (and one male resident has a wife that is expecting). That’s right - 37.5%-ish of our program is pregnant.

So naturally, lots of babies means lot of questions about babies. If I had a dollar for every time someone asks me, “So when’s it your turn?” I’d probably have enough dollars to buy me a very nice pair of Danskos. If you added another dollar every time I get a rude look or incredulous comment after replying, “Well, I don’t want children…so my time will never come,” I’d probably be buying a new 50” flat screen TV this weekend.

Just a few comments that I’ve heard:

“But it’s a beautiful part of being a woman.”
“But...but…that’s what women DO…”
“You’ll miss out on the most fulfilling experience you could ever have.”
“What about the miracle of life?!”
“Don’t you realize that God gave you this gift…if you don’t have children, you’ll be thumbing your nose at God.”
“Bearing children is the duty and responsibility of women.”
“Why don’t you want to share your genius with the world?”
“Well, when you meet the right man, things will all fall into place.”

Before I start my mini-rant, I’d like to say that all statements appearing above are valid. I’d never dismiss someone’s thoughts because they don’t line up to my own. But with that being said:

The fact that one can decide whether or not to have a child means that the very act of having a child is (or should be, anyway) a conscious choice. It’s a choice….and to me, if any part of you decides to have a child based on the idea that child-bearing is the “duty and responsibility” you were given, then perhaps you should not be having a child. I may not want to have a child of my own, but I also do not believe that a child should ever be a “duty” or a “responsibility” that is thrust upon you. Sure, once you actually HAVE a child, you have a duty and responsibility to be the best parent you can be…but I believe that those things start after the child has been conceived – not as the reasons that the child was conceived.

The ability to bear children is an incredible gift…yes, I realize that. God bestowed upon woman the ability to do something absolutely miraculous and mind-blowing; I’m not even going to deny that. But I also believe that God, in His infinite wisdom and grace, gave women free will and the power, ability, and intelligence to think for themselves. I think that He understood that human beings are all different – we have different wants and needs and the ways in which we find fulfillment are different. I think He realized that even with His gift that not all women would choose to be a mother – and clearly He was OK with this, because He gave us this choice anyway. In fact, although the Bible makes allusions to motherhood, I do not recall a specific chapter or verse where it says that a woman will be condemned for her refusal to be a mother. As far as I’m concerned, motherhood is a suggestion, not a requirement.

I also respect and understand the fact that my choice not to bear children is also, due in rather large part, because I am basically pretty selfish. I choose 52” flat screen TV’s, nice furniture, a clean home, and European vacations. I choose buying nice things for myself and my spouse over buying braces. I choose going to the symphony or a play instead of a soccer or T-ball game. I choose the R-rated movie instead of “Bob the Builder Goes to Hollywood.” I do not ever want to hear Dora the Explorer, Bob the Builder, Gumby, or Mickey Mouse blasting out of my living room. I choose to be sleeping at 2 am, not bottle-feeding someone ad nauseum. Thanks to call, I already live semi sleep-deprived - why would I prolong that misery on the nights where I am free to ignore the pager? I choose to sleep until 9am (or later) on my weekends. I choose a nice, sporty little car over a suburban or a mini-van. I choose to never have to get up in the middle of the night to comfort a sick child or clean up their vomit. I choose peaceful, quiet afternoons spent reading a good book over hectic, screaming children that need to be entertained. I choose “Me” time over trips to the aquarium or slumber parties. I choose a career over having a family. Yes, folks, I am selfish. And you know what else? I’m O.K with that. At least I’m honest about it. Before you judge me for my selfishness, I think you should also remember that everyone finds their happiness and fulfillment in different ways – and not all ways end with a child.

My point is that NOT having a child is every bit as valid a choice as having a child. The decision to not have a child does not make me a bad person. It does not mean that I have engendered the wrath and punishment of God on Judgment Day. It does not make me less of a woman or less of a wife. It’s a choice, folks. It’s just a choice – and a valid one.