Children never factored into my dream life. By college, I knew for sure that I was different from most of my friends in this way.
I was honest with the man I married at 24 that I could not imagine becoming a mom, but he assumed I would change my mind. After my first master’s degree and starting my own business, life only gave clearer shape to all that I would risk by putting my body through pregnancy and my priorities through the filter of parenthood. I announced my decision to be childfree at 25; it was one factor in the dissolution of my first marriage. Despite countless people (clients, boyfriends, friends) discounting my feelings over the years, no part of me has ever experienced the urge to produce a mini-me.
My decision not to have kids is one way the world prepared me for a different challenge. At 34, while I was pursuing my second master’s and running hair salons, I suddenly started having tonic-clonic seizures. I was diagnosed with epilepsy, the root cause of which remains unknown. Now, three years later, my seizures are under control thanks to modern pharmaceuticals. Still, I have to live more gently. I forego gluten and alcohol completely. I abandoned the degree I was pursuing, changed from a hectic entrepreneurial career to secure federal service, and rebuilt my finances. Last year, I bought an old farmhouse in the Shenandoah Valley and married a wonderful man who is un-phased by my health problems. We hike many miles every weekend. He is currently planning his vasectomy.
I am content with my new life, but also infinitely grateful that the kids I could have had will not be here to carry the weight of my disease. I am glad I did not pass on what could have been faulty genes, and even more glad not to pass on the emotional toll of having a mother with a chronic illness. My own mother caved to baby fever at the age of 21 and has been in chronic ill health most of her life. The impact on myself and my brothers has been crushing. I consider it my highest responsibility to take excellent care of myself—this human already in existence through no choice of her own—and to do my very best not to burden my loved ones.
In the United States, roughly fifty percent of pregnancies are accidents. My commitment to being childfree is therefore much more considered and deeply held than many peoples’ commitment to becoming parents. As birth rates fall and adoption rates rise, I hope my responsible and loving decision will one day be celebrated.