Wednesday, March 11, 2009

The Journey to Me

We all start out child-free and somewhere along the way paths diverge, and mine lead to being childless by choice, even though I had to have a life-altering surgery at the tender, single age of 27, that rendered me incapable of bearing fruit. Fruit of the womb, that is.

It has been a long journey to becoming childfree me. I don't like to have my choice taken away from me. After the surgery, I walked the infertile couple path. We were not rich enough to even consider adoption or in-vitro. I felt trapped by my lack of options and by the horrible, emotional experience of wanting something that you cannot have. Something as complicated as love is never quite this simple, but looking back, I think my infertility was merely a trigger for the collapse of my first marriage. His drive to be childed was simply stronger than mine, though I could not articulate it at the time. I was just misarable. So, I exited stage left to explore this option solo.

A decade later, I thought for sure the conversation with my new boyfriend, the one I was slowing falling in love with, would be heart-wrenching. I knew that I had an obligation to tell him I would not be his "baby-mamma" before we went any further. To my surprise, he had already determined for himself that having children was not high on his list. After we married, I discovered the motivation for his decision was based on a lesson in over-population that he was exposed to as a sophomore in high school. His parents had taken the whole family to the world's fair in Spokane, Washington in 1974. A bell rang every five minutes, indicating that another child was born. This conscious-raising stunt had a profound impact on this thinking young man. He realized that the world did not need more children. Perhaps the message rang a little strong with him since he is one of five children. The product of two large traditionally Catholic families. Now, I love to hear him tell this story to a receptive audience.

My personal journey to childfree included blogging about it exclusively for two years at Purple Women & Friends. I didn't like the terms others applied to my brand of childlessness, so I created my own nomenclature around the subject. At the time, my husband and I found ourselves in the social petrie dish of being an expat in Canada. I was also turning 40 and had lots of time on my hands for life review and the blogosphere was my medium. In my 30s, I was still looking for childfree role models and I interviewed and befriended many. Along the way, I discovered and read several books on the subject, some humorous, some humorous only to some, all enlightening. We can definitely use more thoughtful exploration, both fiction and non-fiction in this arena, and I for one am really looking forward to the book and documentary film being produced by my friend and former PW&F co-contributor, Laura Scott, the owner of this blog.

All the online journaling and the childfree adult friendships I made along the way have made me less susceptible to thoughtless comments made by others about my chosen childless by choice status. But still I was a little unnerved when I was invited to be a panelist and moderator at the 2008 BlogHer Conference in San Francisco at an experimental Childfree Women Bloggers session. During my "purple" years, I created a reputation for being a reasonable voice on this often hot topic and an even-handed moderator of this multiple-voice team blog. I had actively lobbied BlogHer and other social networking sites for inclusion in our own separate category, since mom bloggers seemed to dominate all conversations. There never seemed to be a proper category to fit our uniquely focused blog. It was hard to promote, and our chance to gain more readers and expand the conversation was dampened by this reality. So, to be invited to participate in such a panel was an achievement of sorts, and I simply could not refuse.

Laura joined me on the BlogHer "Childless in the Blogosphere" panel. It was a good experience. The panel was attended by more than 50 women bloggers. At the end of the day, I realized I had become the role model I was seeking. My Purple Women blog is now closed, though the content is all there and searchable by topic, but my journey is far from over and I am happy to join this blog as contributor so I can continue to explore the role and phenomenon of childfree adults in our society.

Next post by Teri: Invisible Citizens - Childless by Choice Adults

(Or, let us know what you'd like to read about!)

1 comment:

Patty Mooney said...

I think there is a vast conspiracy going back eons to brainwash women into believing that they MUST become mothers. Many of us did not fall into that trap. Every day I thank the universe that I did not have any children. I always subscribed to the Peter Pan view of life in that people who HAVE children can no longer BE children. The responsibility for children lasts a lifetime. I just wasn't willing to give my life for an unknown entity. Do you think Jeffrey Dahmer's parents were happy to have had him, in retrospect?