Reproductive Choices

Child-Free By Choice

I have been having a lot of conversations on Facebook lately about my choice to be child-free. The topic has lead to others sharing their stories about their choices, as well as stories of infertility, and the pressures of society to raise children. This is a HUGE topic, so I’m starting what will hopefully be a series of blog posts around the topics of being child-free, infertility, and child rearing, because everyone has something to say.

My Story

My husband Ryan and I are child-free by choice. I started the year 2018 by visiting the gynecologist for the first time in several years. My main goal was to acquire long term birth control. I had been off of hormonal birth control for a few years when circumstances left me without insurance for a short period of time, my primary care provider left her practice, and my new primary care provider did not provide gynecological services. It took me awhile to come around and find a new gynecologist.

During that appointment I chose to get the Nexplanon hormonal implant. The Nexplanon is implanted under the skin in your arm and distributes hormonal birth control for 3 years. My doctor and I decided that this was the best option because of the hormone it provided, the way it was distributed, and the long term effects. I knew I’d be starting a health and wellness blog and I decided to document the process through Instagram.

I almost always cross post my Instagram to Facebook, and I got a large response about my experience. So many women, some with kids, some without, wanted to talk about birth control. They asked questions like what has worked for me in the past and told me about what didn’t work for them. It was a very energized and positive conversation. And I was feeling good because I would not have to worry about a pretty significant stressor for the next 3 years!

The Beginning

When Ryan and I got married we discussed children as part of our premarital counseling. I was 23 and he was 21. We discussed our mutual desire to have children, but we also wanted to attend graduate school and hike the Appalachian trail. So we decided on a time table, we were not even going to discuss having children for the first 5 years of our marriage. This gave us plenty of time to accomplish some of our goals before we even thought about child rearing.

This was an amazing plan and I’m so glad we made that choice. Two years into our marriage I got a little baby crazy, friends were having kids and I was holding them, and they were tiny, and cute, and I wanted to take one home with me. Also two years into our marriage I got sick, and that would alter our life trajectory.

Five Years

At five years there wasn’t any question. We would not be having children any time soon. There were days and weeks that I could not get out of bed. I was unable to prepare meals for myself unless they were prepared to go into the microwave. I could not work and often could not drive myself to medical appointments. Occasionally I even needed help washing my own hair.

As I got healthier, things were still challenging. I would have really good days, but there would be bad days, and the worst part was that this was all un-predictable. Throughout this time Ryan was working on his PhD. which involved time intensive research, he was a teaching assistant to pay our bills, and he was working retail at a wine and beer shop as extra income. I spent my time home with the cat, in pain and exhausted.

Healthy or Not?

I eventually was able to start my own craft business, but without Ryan to do the heavy lifting it would have been impossible. On the outside I was starting to look like a healthy woman of child bearing age. That is when we starting having the real talk about what our future looked like.

Researches and doctors do not know what causes Fibromyalgia, a chronic condition involves wide spread pain and fatigue. These are the main issues I  have been dealing with the last 10 years. I have not completely conquered Fibromyalgia, but my flares are less intense these days. Migraines are also medically mysterious and are what keeps me from currently holding a job outside of the home. I also need to keep a close eye on my thyroid due an auto-immune disease called Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis.

It’s been debated that all three of these health concerns may have a genetic component. The science isn’t definite, but that’s a heavy load on my mind when I consider potentially having offspring. When combined with the fact that my pain and fatigue is wildly unpredictable, Ryan and I eventually came to the decision that we were not going to have biological children.

What I Wanted

It wasn’t a light decision. We talked about it for years, often hoping I would recover my full health. I want to be a mom, I want to raise children to be amazing, confident, passionate people. I want the dirty diapers, and the sleepless nights, and the eventual bittersweetness of them growing up.

But is it what is best for me, best for Ryan, and best for our marriage? Ultimately the answer to that question is no. It is not what is best. So we stand behind the decision of not having biological children. Just like our choice at the beginning of our marriage to wait, we have a set plan. Could a child come into our life at some point? Possibly. But for now we are doing what is right for my health as well as the health of any hypothetical children.

Myself First

Other people who have the same chronic illnesses as I do have made different decisions and are raising their children and managing their symptoms. Many are rocking it and that’s amazing.

There are also people who had children before their diagnosis of chronic illness, and they struggle daily. Getting out of bed, taking care of their family needs, and constantly fighting the already stressful position of being a parent.

I am proud of my decision, of my choices, and not succumbing to societal pressures. But I will always ask “What if?” What if I’m being selfish? What if I get better? What if there comes a time when I really regret our decision? What if Ryan comes to regret our decision?  These are questions I have chosen to live with when I chose to take care of myself first.

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