was like to grow up like that, barely surviving, living paycheck to paycheck, and taunted for our socio-economic status. We wanted better for our theoretical children than what we had growing up. We wanted to provide them with a stable home where pinching every penny wasn’t a daily part of our lives, where more wasn’t met with not this week.
So when we told our families that we didn’t want to have children, it became a continuous fight for years. Every time I would call my mother, she’d ask me when she was getting grandchildren. She would often tell me that since my husband was five years older than me, we should have children sooner rather than later since older men are more likely to have autistic children. She would tell me the longer we waited, the more likelihood there was of congenital disability, and we didn’t want that. She would say to me that my eggs weren’t getting any younger and that it would be more difficult to get pregnant later in life. The nail in the coffin was her declaring that I was selfish for not giving my husband a child. Her constant comments were like waves on rocks. Constant and unrelenting.
My husband and I would go to events with extended family, and they would ask me multiple times when I was having kids. They’d tell us that we needed to hurry up and get pregnant. I felt the buildup of resentment towards my family. It felt as if there was a bomb ticking, ticking, ticking away. The thought of having children would make me nauseous and angry. My resentment was building towards these well-intentioned people because they wouldn’t drop the subject. To me, it felt like my only worth was tied to my ability to have children, and since I wasn’t having children, I was inherently worthless. Having children literally became the only topic people would talk to me about, and it was making me incredibly bitter.
My husband and I moved to Louisiana for his next duty station, where I found no reprieve in the constant battle of child-rearing. I found that the culture of having children is far stronger in the South than in my native Minnesota. The Bible Belt’s culture of religion caused tensions when I would explain that I was on birth control. How could I, a young married woman, not gift my husband with a child?
At 24, I’d been in contact with numerous people who were my age with five children, and had no plans to stop having them. Women were telling me that “God put you on this earth to have children, and denying God’s plan of giving you children by being on birth control is unforgivable.” I was constantly told about how selfish I was, how immature and cruel I was to my husband for denying him the chance of fatherhood. I was scorned and excluded from events because of my conscious decision to not have children. I was told that my life hadn’t even begun because I wasn’t a mother. I fell into a deep depression, wishing that people would just see me, see what kind of person I was trying to become. However, all people seemed to see was a young woman going against the grain.
I was always at odds with everyone I knew due to my lack of dedication to child-rearing, and while pushing my energy into activities like school and working. However, many of these people argued that, “You’re never ready to be a parent, so might as well have them now.” The aggressiveness of strangers and family alike was astounding to me, primarily because it was none of their business.
I once had a woman tell me, at length, that I was a monster because I said having children just wasn’t in the cards at that time. “As a woman,” she said, “your body can give the gift of life. Not using that gift is denying God and denying yourself true happiness. You will never know true happiness until you hold a child of your own.”