Three years ago, on a trip to NYC, I walked into Laura Belgray’s Greenwich Village apartment to find killer art, organized shelves, a beautiful tray of appetizers, and her husband whipping up drinks for me and the other guests.
Do you know what I didn’t see?
Toys littered across the floor, cubbies in primary colors storing battery-operated torture devices, or bedrooms left ready for visiting kids away at college to sleep in.
Given her decision not to have kids, the white furniture and breakable objects sat fingerprint and stain-free.
But before you go wondering what’s wrong with her uterus, here’s a fun fact: she didn’t have kids on purpose–a decision she details with her signature wit and raw storytelling in her recently released book, Tough Titties.
In the collection of personal essays, Laura writes,
“Should I, or shouldn’t I? Rather than a fertility journey, I went through a decision journey. No hormone injections, no husband whacking off in a sterile room…no devastating calls from a physician about unviable embryos. Just years of uncomfortable fence sitting.”
Like Laura, I grew up thinking I’d have kids. A younger version of me once thought I wanted to be exactly like my aunt, who has four kids, all born within two years of each other.
Now, that sounds like my worst nightmare.
Turns out mothering an entire dorm hall of college boys away from their progenitors for the first time was enough for me. “Mom” helped these boys learn to do basic things like laundry and encouraged them to eat more than hot pockets and Jimmy Johns.
At 32, I’ve never experienced the phenomenon known as baby fever, where you seemingly start to see, smell, and desire all things baby everywhere.
Most of my friends have.
When I tell people I don’t have the ticking clock, I’m usually met with a response of “Just wait. You will.” as if there’s something wrong with me for not having the urge to share my body with a tiny human for nine months and my home for 250 more.
As Laura writes, “No one ever said ‘if you have kids.’ They said, ‘When.’ It wasn’t framed as a choice but an ordained ‘someday.’”
When I was 27, riddled with pain from endometriosis and considering all my options to address the stabbing sensations I felt in my uterus monthly, no doctor–even the female ones–trusted that I didn’t want kids. I was always “too young” to know for sure.
This begs the question, at what point do we become old enough to know for sure?
Is it only when our eggs are no longer in prime time? Are we to be trusted, then?
I’m married to a man who is total dad material. I know this because he has fantastic relationships with all three of his grown sons.
Shockingly, it was easier to convince my now-husband, who loves his children but doesn’t want more, that I didn’t want kids, than to convince any of my female friends.
It’s high stakes for a man–who’s certain he doesn’t want kid–to marry a woman still in her “prime birthing years” who says she doesn’t want to make babies.
Yet, he trusted me. So why don’t my female friends?
I’ve come to learn one thing that gets in the way of acceptance is that they fear I’ll never experience the love that comes from being a mother. Or that without some connection to my mothering essence, I’ll never achieve wholeness as a woman.
It’s why I learned to adopt terms like “Plant Mom” or “Dog Mom.”
Or, so I’m not instantly labeled as the unsafe woman who has no idea what she’s doing in a group of new moms, I learned to keep on hand phrases like,
“I can’t want to be an aunt.”,
“I love kids; I just want to be a role model to other people’s kids instead of having my own.”,
“Professional aunt, no kids.”.
All of which are true, but why are they even necessary?
I like kids, but that doesn’t mean I want them.
And as Laura writes, “No one has to defend their decision to have kids, only not to.”
The message around a baby surprise is usually, “Little Johnny is the blessing we didn’t know we needed,” which may have an ounce of truth but really functions as an essential rationalization for all the sleepless nights.
The general sentiment is that kids will improve your life. I’m not convinced that’s the case because even less talked about than women not wanting to have kids are the women who regret having kids.
Admittedly, knowing if I’m making the “right” decision is not always easy. Very few women I’ve come across in my life have intentionally made the choice never to have kids.
We rarely see stories celebrating childless women boldly going after other dreams.
To see Laura coming out owning the decision to be “happily child free” is immensely freeing.
Her writing lends perspective from someone who has been there to the question that has always been the hardest for me to answer, “What if you’re missing out? What if you regret it?”
In her popular piece for Elle following the release of her book, Laura shares,
“While the party line is that “you don’t know true love until you have a child,” I’m deeply content with all the love I have in my life, which feels true enough for me. I love my family, my friends, my husband, our life together. And oh, how I love my free time fiercely and unconditionally. You might even say as a mother would. But please don’t.”
Life is about choice.
When we forget we have a choice, we fall into prescribed paths, walking the thickened grooves so many have walked before us, never stopping to question why. And then we wonder why we’re not happy later on.
Stopping to question, “Do I really want kids?” has been one of the greatest gifts I could have ever given myself.
Birthing a child is an experience.
I’ve got plenty of other experiences to collect–ones that involve carry-on travel without waiting for strollers and five bags, king-sized bed hotel rooms, no alarm clocks to get the kids ready for school, and conversations with my husband about things other than the activities scheduled for the week.
I feel okay missing the baby train.