The Choice to Have Children

My husband and I know multiple people who have chosen to not have children. They made the choice, not as a result of infertility, but as a result of knowing what was right for them. They simply made the choice.

I respect and admire anyone who chooses not to have children. I respect and admire anyone who chooses to give their child up for adoption to essentially a stranger. Although completely different, both these circumstances take immense courage. To make either of these decision means you are going directly against societal norms. I see three main ways that people choose not have children:

  1. Choice with good birth control
  2. Abortion
  3. Adoption

I could probably write an entire post on each one of these choices, or at least my perspective on each one of them. There are merits to all of them. There are definitely downsides to all of them.

As for the choice not to have children, society dictates that a couple should have children sometime in their 20’s or early 30’s. To say no to this and consciously choose an alternative life is truly remarkable.   I distinctly remember a very good friend once saying to me “I will have children once there is no joy left in my life.” At the time, years before we were trying to have children, it stunned me – my mind was running with thoughts on how anyone could think this way and how could anyone not want children. But now, I get it. He recognized that he wasn’t prepared to share himself to that level with anyone, so it was best that he didn’t have children. This makes sense. Children are not a part time commitment. Children are not returnable. Children become your life, and if you aren’t willing to share your life and dedicate yourself to your children’s soccer games, learning the alphabet or teaching your child to ride a bike, then its best that you don’t do have children. At that time I naively believed the decision to not have children was made selfishly. I no longer think this is the case. I think people make this choice for hundreds of reasons, some which may appear selfish, but in fact are just about making the right decision for them and for the potential children. Kudos to anyone who knows themselves well enough to know before it’s too late, and to say no to societal pressures.

The second, way to choose not to be a part is through abortion. Now, let me be clear, I am not trying to write a novel on the world’s opinions on abortion – it is and will likely always be a highly contentious subject. I do not respect those who choose abortion as a form of birth control. In fact, I firmly believe the decision not to have children should be made before a child is created (to my knowledge, there are countless excellent birth control methods available that can and do prevent the vast majority of unplanned pregnancies). That said, nothing in life is perfect, I can appreciate that there are a million different reasons people choose abortion. But, I do respect that they have made one of the hardest decisions of their life. Having sat in that waiting room with virtually no choice available to us, I know, I absolutely know, the heart ache that everyone in that room is feeling. The room is full of tears. Couples, mothers and adult daughters, single women, etc., nearly every person in that room is not there because it is there first choice. But, the results of their decision will stay with them forever, and something they will have to live with. I suspect, this decision is something they will think about and reflect on every single day for the rest of their life. And I’m thankful I live in part of the world, where this option is available, because I think it is a women’s right to choose, even if I could never choose to terminate a healthy pregnancy (and I never thought I could have chosen to terminate an unhealthy pregnancy either, until I was in the life or death situation).

Then there is the choice to remain child free, by giving your child up for adoption. I cannot image how hard this decision is for any women to make. The choice to carry a child to term, providing for them and protecting them during such a critical time, when their life literally depends on yours. This is a big deal for anyone, but imagine doing so while knowing that you are contemplating giving the child to someone else. In Canada, when domestic adoptions are chosen, they are almost always open-adoptions where the birth mother is able to choose the family who they entrust to raise their child and the birth parents may have involvement in the life of the child. Yet, there is no certainty about how the child will be raised and live. There is no certainty about what the birth parent relationship will become. As someone contemplating adoption and knowing people who struggle to have children, I know realize just how big of a decision this and I am truly thankful people do turn to adoption when it is right for them. The choice, for whatever reason, that you cannot or do not want to raise this child, gives others the opportunity to be parents and to raise a child in a house filled with love. Yet, I still cannot imagine the negative judgement that birth parents likely receive, and I cannot imagine the struggle of going to the hospital to have a child and then going home without it. In my opinion, these people are truly amazing!

At the end of the day, the one thing I respect about anyone who has chosen not have children, is that they made the choice. I believe the majority of people making the decision not have children, are doing so in the interests of both themselves and the potential child. I do not think people make this decision simply. They decided that children weren’t for them, and therefore recognized that it wasn’t right for the child either. If they weren’t prepared to be parents for any reason, to give everything they have to another human being, then they made the right choice.

Then, there are people like us, where the choice to be childless is not a choice. There is a dichotomy of people like us who are desperate for children, and those who are living without children by choice. Yes, we may eventually have kids for all we know (for all we know our next pregnancy could result in a healthy live baby). And yes the option of adoption is available to us if we eventually decide we are done with RPL before we get a healthy living child. And yes, one day we may choose to not have children because we choose to stop trying and we choose not to adopt. So, I do recognize that living childless would be a choice for us, but I also recognize that in a perfect world, it’s not a choice we would ever make. But, as of today, we are childless while wanting to have children. We have lived 2 years desperately wanting children, and all our efforts have resulted our five babies who never made it. If I add up all the months I have been pregnant, we have actually been pregnant for long enough to have a living child, but each one has died instead. If I add up the time we’ve been trying, we could actually have 2 living children by now if things went right.

So, we are stuck living in this place of trying to make the most of what we have; knowing what we may never have; grieving for what we have lost; and watching everyone else around us achieve what we cannot.

It’s a hard place to live. It’s a damn hard place to live.

So, for now, we are making a conscious effort to make the most of what we have and to find joy in what we can. We work to accept our situation as it is out of our control. And, we hold on to hope. Hope is our driving force right now. We hope that our storm eventually ends and the skies clear. We hope for our rainbow at the end of the storm. We hope that whatever happens, we can come to a point of acceptance and live a meaningful life with the cards we were dealt and the decisions we in turn made.

If you like this post, please feel free to share it and please return to myperfectbreakdown.com to follow my journey.

22 Comments on “The Choice to Have Children

  1. I absolute adore this post. It’s so well thought out and I agree with everything you say. It really resonated with me, especially the part about abortion. It’s so rare to find a fellow loss/IF mom who’s view hasn’t switched to pro-life.

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    • Thanks so much for the supportive comment – writing a post like this one is always interesting because I expect some sort of negative internet backlash, yet to date, I have not received any negativity. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Interesting post. Thanks for tackling this complicated topic with such compassion.

    The societal norms are strong. It is expected that we will all aspire to and eventually aim to have children (and I intend the plural because that is the expectation I see most often). How many times do you (you personally and a collective IF/RPL “you” or “we”) get asked “are you waiting?” or some variation on the “aren’t you having kids?” theme. I can’t tell you how often I am asked “did you only want the one?” or “think you will have any more?” or the more subtle “you’re such great parents, any plans for the future?” (by which I’m sure the questioner is not referring to our vacation or renovation plans).

    I have tried my best never to ask these questions but when people talk to me about our child, I do sometimes find the words “do you have any children?” leaving my lips before I realize. And when it does, what I feel myself hoping for is the kind of honest response I often give – “we have one and have had no success and a lot of heartache trying to have more” – because I long for that connection in-real-life not just via an electronic forum. Then I feel crappy for wishing IF or RPL on other women and families. Clearly, however, it has become a key component of who I am these days and hence it informs the lens through which I view all interactions in which it might come up. Funny, that. In a not at all amusing kind of way.

    In the end, you are right. It is a damned hard place in which to live. Sending you a hug and a knowing nod of solidarity and a wish for better times. Someday.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I always love your comments – you always make me think!
      I absolutely get your desire for a real life connection. I am yet to “know” someone who is going through the same struggles as us. I know one couple who is experiencing infertility but not RPL and I know a few people who have had 1 miscarriage (and I only know about them because I’ve been honest about our experience so they’ve asked for my opinion on what to do once they received the news). Anyways, its one of those things that I’m glad I don’t know any real life people, yet I would absolutely love to. Our doctor actually said to us after our 4th loss that we’d probably never meet anyone who has gone through what we have because there are just so few of us around. I think that’s about the time i started this blog actually. Anyways, now I’m rambling.
      But, please know that I am thankful for our connection, even if it is just through the blogging world. You, and others like you, make this just a little bit easier because I realize I am not alone and that my feelings and emotions are “normal” in such an atypical situation. Oh, and you seem like a really awesome person too. And for that, I am thankful. 🙂

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      • Aww… thank you, that’s so kind. We actually live close enough to meet IRL, unlike most of the folks I’ve met on this journey. I doubt I’ll ever meet anyone who’s had 8 lost pregnancies in person, probably not much more unlikely than 4 since they’re both really rare. It sucks being part of this club, huh? It is good to be able to share our respective experiences and perspectives with but I wish none of us were members of this exclusive “club”. 😦

        I wanted to back-track to add that your open minded view of people who choose not to have children is commendable. I know at least one couple who I can unabashedly say are far too self-centred and selfish to raise children and for that reason chose not to do so. However, I much prefer your more charitable interpretation that they made the decision that was right for them (and for any potential kidlets, in my opinion). Made me think about my prejudices – not against people who are or choose (for whatever reason) not to have children – about that one couple in particular. If I try to give voice to my more compassionate side I know it has as much to do with losing a parent very young in the case of one half of the couple as it does with both of them not wanting the messyness or kids or pets or anything other than money and indulgence (because they are each shameless gluttons for money and indulgence – and I say that as a neutral observation not a dig, I suspect they’d acknowledge that and not think twice about it).

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      • We should totally consider meeting up one of these days!

        I love the story about the couple you know who chose not to have kids. I guess there are always a million different perspectives and reasons for the choices people make. 🙂

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      • I hope I didn’t come across as a judgmental ogre in telling that story. What I meant to convey is that your compassionate interpretation made me rethink my former judgment and view it through a new lens, which is a good thing!

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      • You absolutely didn’t come across as a judgmental orge in sharing that story. I get it, I really do. And, that’s exactly what happened to me with the friend who said he wouldn’t have kids until his life had no joy left in it. It took me years before I could see his comment in a much less harsh perspective. 🙂

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  3. I wrote out this very long detailed reply with a lot of personal information and then decided to just say “thank you” for this post instead.

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  4. The last three paragraphs brought me tears! Every word sang to me in its soft voice as if it were from my heart – the would haves; the children of others; and this hard living place. Thank you for writing this!

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  5. Great post hon. I too have friends who have chosen to not have kids. i remember having a conversation with one of these friends about a year ago, where I told her I envied her for always knowing she didn’t want to have kids. If I had never wanted to have kids, my life would be pretty great. I would never have had any losses and I wouldn’t have ever felt incomplete for not having my dream of a family realized. It was interesting too because I started really looking at the life she and her husband have and they have a very comfortable life. They are happy and they travel and just enjoy themselves. My husband and I haven’t taken a real vacation in 3 years other then flights to visit family which I don’t count because we have been too consumed with TTC and Losses, and we’ve taken a huge financial hit because of the $30,000 we spent last year on IVF and PGD that turned out to be a huge waste of money. My childless by choice friends haven’t had to worry about all of this. Having said all that, I realized that even though I envied the decision, it wasn’t the right choice for me and that is why I kept trying. I really hope your storm ends soon and you and that your rainbow is coming soon.

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    • I never even thought about how “easy” life would have been if we just chose not to have children at the onset (I say “easy” because I assume there life still has challenges that I just cannot imagine at this moment). That said, just like you, we always knew not having children wasn’t the choice for us. That wasn’t the future we wanted. Now the question seems to be turning to just how badly do we want children and what are we willing to do to try to get them.
      Also, unlike you, to date we have not done IVF and PGD. We may one day, but as of now the medical advice we are receiving is that it’s not worth putting my body through IVF when the genetic screening is unlikely to tell us anything new (apparently, because they cannot find a genetic issue between my husband and I or with our in past fetuses they statistical chance of finding it through PGD is very low). Anyways, all of this is to say that maybe one day we will go down that route? I just don’t know.

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  6. This post in someways reminds me of the Dr Suess book Oh the Places You’ll Go. You are in the horrible waiting place right now where you never think it is going to get better and you have to muddle your way till you get out of it and the place you find true happiness again (I can not read this book without crying). When I think of all the years I have been at this and the number of babies I should have had by now my heart aches.

    When I was 23 I had an abortion – and it was a form of birth control – a decision that I have regretted ever since it was done. I remember waking up in recovery and crying, something I have never done with a normal DnC, such was the emotional pain my body was going through. I was never really given another choice. At 23 I was so naive, I went to a family planning clinic because I didn’t even know to go to a chemist and buy my own pregnancy test. I wonder if I had done it another way would it have been different? I remember the nurse / doctor / clinician (?) come back without the test and say it was positive and then basically gave me information on an abortion. I was 23, living in the UK, currently without a residential address and breaking up with my boyfriend. I remember they did the ultrasound and didn’t show you the picture. If they had of, if I had seen the live beating heart of a baby would I have changed my mind? Sometimes it is a form of birth control because you don’t realise you do have other options. Maybe that is where the problem is? Or maybe I had an overworked, stressed out and busy lady that just wanted to clear her desk and send me home so she could finish for the day.

    Every year, in October I think about that day and what happened and I am overcome with sadness. Most of the time I try not to think about the what if’s and the maybe’s and think about what I do have in my husband and daughter.

    Life is funny like that. I fall pregnant with ease with a man I never loved the way I do with my husband and yet the two of us just can’t fall pregnant due to our bodies just not gelling. I don’t get it. I don’t get how biology works. It should be two people in love make baby.

    Anyway, i have written my own blog post on your page but what ever decision you do eventually make will be logical, reasonable and laced with more emotion than you ever thought possible. Sending you strength and love.

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    • Thank you so much for sharing.

      First things first, thank you for showing me that one of my assumptions was completely wrong – the assumption that everyone having an abortion receives the support that I did. I know we were in a unique position due to my medical situation, and I know at the clinic I went to everyone is required to go through counseling the day prior to the procedure to ensure people are making an informed decision and have time to think everything through. (In fact, while we were in the waiting room, they split up a couple as the man was doing all the talking and claimed the women didn’t know English and so was unable to talk. They brought in an interpreter to ensure that she was making the right decision. At least this is what we are pretty sure we observed and half overheard).
      I made the assumption that everyone, everywhere receives this same level of care. Clearly I was wrong. Clearly, in your situation there was no explaining of alternatives, and my heart breaks for you. No-one should ever feel pushed into that decision, and I have no doubt that it haunts you and will continue to.

      Also, right after I read this, I ran down to my bookshelf and re-read Oh the Places You’ll Go. (I think my husband thought i had lost my mind reading one of the only children’s books we own). I received it as a high school graduate present, and haven’t really looked at it since. And you are so right, we are in the waiting place just trying to make our next move. I have a whole new appreciation for that book, as clearly, it reflects true of so many situations in life, and really spoke to me about this RPL crap we are dealing with right now. Thank you so much for sharing this.

      And, lastly, thank you again for sharing and supporting me through this. You are truly inspirational.

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  7. Thank you for this post. It’s really nice to see such a balanced view. I am childfree by choice and I have experienced hostility from women who are unable to have children but would dearly like a family. Something many of these women don’t realise is that it is very likely that I would struggle to conceive due to my health problems and even if I did manage to conceive, pregnancy and giving birth can cause a major relapse in two of my other conditions, these relapse would potentially render me incapable of caring for myself let alone a child if it was born. In effect those people who treat me with hostility are wishing me into there situation (of wanting children and not being able to) or worse still having a wanted child and being incapable of being a good mother. Fortunately for me I’ve never wanted children.

    It breaks my heart that there are people who want children and can’t have them. I can’t possibly imagine the anguish this must cause. I wish you well on your continued journey.

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    • Thank you so much for such a thoughtful comment and for sharing so much about yourself. I truly admire anyone who makes the right decision for them, in the face of societal pressure. I think it is one of the most courageous things to do.
      Although yours and my circumstances are very different, I know for us, the pressure we face to have children has been really intense at times. It’s astonishing how blunt and how forceful people can be when it comes to telling people when and how they should have kids. In my experience it is one of the hardest things we have dealt with as it is such a personal decision, and a decision that does not deserve criticism.
      Anyways, thank you again.

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