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It’s Different When It’s Your Own

January 9, 2015
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One of the things I mentioned in passing on the “Babies Are Weird” post is how it really is different when the baby is your own.  And then I wrote a super rambling footnote about how I have complicated feelings on that particular subject, especially people who say it to women who are childfree by choice.

I never really understood before how people could so casually wipe their children’s noses, or pop a booger out with a fingernail like it was no big deal.  I don’t share my late grandmother’s insistence that “snot” and “fart” are four letter words which should never be uttered in polite company, but generally I feel that those sorts of things should be contained to locations more appropriate for gross bodily functions.  Namely, the bathroom.

I always figured that parents who could perform such functions for their children simply had a stronger tolerance for that sort of thing.  I suppose it is possible that this assumption is true for some people.  For me, the hormonal connection that made everything my child did just the absolute cutest included such things as dirty diapers and snotty noses.  As the hormonal overload has started to wear off, I have simply become acclimated to the gross realities of parenthood.

Here’s where my feelings get complicated.

There are women who simply know, without hesitation or reservation, that they do not want kids.  Their reasons may be as complicated as having decided they don’t want to bring children into our rather fucked up world, or as simple as not liking children.  When you say to a woman that her feelings on kids will be different when they are her own, you are suggesting that she go through the not insubstantial difficulties of pregnancy and childbirth, all on the off chance that maybe, just maybe, the chemical changes in her body will overcome a lifelong aversion to children.  And yes, it is entirely possible that if they were to become pregnant and carry the child to term, they would look down into the face of the tiny human they have brought into the world and be completely overwhelmed with love.

But what if they don’t?

What if that woman looks down on the innocent child she has created and she still doesn’t want it?  There is no satisfaction to be had in being able to announce “See?  I told you I’d never want kids.”  A child can’t be returned to the store for a refund if you get her home and realize that no, she really doesn’t go with your decor.  All options for taking back that choice are terrible, and even the best option of giving the child up for adoption is still painful and complicated and doesn’t guarantee the child a better life than the one they would have had with the mother who never wanted them in the first place.

When you insist that a woman should have children despite her objections, because “It’s different when it’s your own,” you are essentially telling her that you know better than her.  That you don’t believe she knows herself well enough to make such huge choices about her body and her life.  More importantly, you are potentially condemning both her and her child to a loveless relationship of regret and recrimination.  I love my child with a fierceness that I can’t fully articulate, and even that love doesn’t carry me completely through when she’s being fussy or refusing to sleep or spitting up every night.  How terrible it would be to deal with all of those things and cope with the complicated feelings of not wanting the child in the first place, and likely the guilt for feeling that way about your own child.  What a terrible thing to wish on another person, let alone an innocent child.

There are plenty of people out there who want children.  People who have taken the time to consider their personalities and their lifestyles and decided that bringing a child into their hearts and lives is the right thing for them.  People who know, deeply and truly, that having a child will be amazing and disgusting and wonderful and frustrating and exactly what they want.  Maybe if we stopped placing so much value on the ideal of children and started placing a little more value on the opinions of everyone involved, people would be a lot happier.

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