The Pressure to Have a Baby Almost Broke Me
There is no universal path to find happiness and fulfilment
“Just one, you don’t have to have lots; I’m begging you, just one child, for me!”
Nine years on, the memory of these words still cause me to prickle. I am angry at the regular harassment I endured from this woman. I am frustrated at my lack of assertion to enforce my boundaries.
I spent over five years in a relationship with her son, who grew up as an only child.
To the outside world, we were ready for the almost obligatory next step in life. We already had a house and two beautiful dogs; it seems this woman thought a baby was next. She was desperate for grandchildren, and I vehemently did not want children.
My then-partner said he was on board with being childfree, but in hindsight, I think he naively thought I would change my mind.
I understand her desperation; unforeseen circumstances prevented her from having more than one child. I feel the crushing weight of dashing her dreams.
But even the mere idea of pregnancy sends me into a panic, complete with a racing heart and sweaty palms. I have extreme tokophobia. I know there are treatments for this, but the simple fact remains, I do not want children, nor have I ever wanted to be a mother, in the traditional sense of the word.
I sensitively communicate our position to her, and I explain our future does not involve children. She chooses to ignore this, continuing with the baby comments every single time I see her.
Practicing for a baby
I find the persistent baby comments exhausting.
On one occasion, she swoops in whilst I push a baggage trolley in an airport.
“I’ll take that, I need practice for when it’s a pram.”
Another time, she took great pride in telling me she had ordered a toilet training seat, which is ready and waiting for when I have a baby. She speaks of my future labor and says:
“I hope you let me in the hospital, I hope you let me be a part of this.”
She even talks about buying the house next door, so she can look after her non-existent grandchild!
The comments are relentless, and I feel more invisible, abnormal, and anxious with each comment.
I know I am a disappointment to her. I start to question myself, analyzing and assessing my psyche.
What is wrong with me? Why do I not want children? Why can’t I be like everyone else? I wish (I still sometimes wish) I had an overwhelming desire to have children. Maybe she is right; maybe birthing a child is the answer to everything. Maybe it will allow me to fit in with society and friend groups and experience less stigma and judgment.
Having a child for someone else’s happiness is never a reason to have a child.
At this stage in my life, I was unaware of the option to choose my own path. I don’t realize it is absolutely fine to be childfree by choice.
This woman placed enormous pressure on me, and with this pressure, I shrunk. My anxiety grew, and my self-confidence plummeted.
The grand finale
Things came to a head one afternoon.
As we walk side by side to our cars, she says, “I can’t wait until my grandchildren play in that park,” gesturing to the playpark beside us. “Erm, no,” I say, “I am not having children, you know this.”
This is the start of the begging.
“Just one, you don’t have to have lots, I’m begging you, just one child, for me.”
She continues with
“You don’t even have to give up your dogs, you are great with your dogs, you would be great with children.” This is followed by “please, I’ve got all this jewelry to give to them.”
I know she is being unreasonable, selfish, and manipulative. I ask my then-partner to intervene and speak with her. He believes this is an issue between his mother and me and is reluctant to involve himself.
Looking back, I am angry for even accepting this pathetic excuse. There was a need for him to step up and demonstrate his support, his failure to do so is telling.
When I finally put an end to this relationship, I felt free. The greatest relief of all was removing the toxic pressure to have a child.
The childfree by choice community
I have always known I do not want children, and my close friends and family wonderfully accept this. However, my experiences with this woman almost broke me.
During my journey into accepting myself as a childfree woman, I’ve read numerous books, devoured blogs, and research papers, and listened to podcasts. I’ve spent hours scrolling through childfree websites and social media platforms.
Perhaps the most incredible value of all is connecting with other passionately childfree people. Despite this woman's detrimental impact on my mental health, I have found peace within myself. I feel liberated, seen, and understood. I feel normal.
Due to my own experiences, I passionately want to help others navigate the difficulties of being childfree. I feel I was chewed up and spat out, but I am now strong, steadfast, and unapologetic for my choices. I have learned to love myself again.
Living childfree by choice is as valid a life choice as having children.
If you are in a similar position, please know you have the choice. It is your life, it is essential to your happiness that you live it being true to yourself.
Having a child for someone else’s happiness is never a reason to have a child. The trauma and conflict I endured were extremely difficult. However, the impact of having a child would be much graver for me.
Living childfree is a valid way of life
If anyone ever tells you they don’t want children, whether they are a friend, an associate, a colleague, or your own children, please accept their position.
By all means, explore the subject with them, but don’t try to change their mind or catastrophize their life without children. Living childfree is as valid a life choice as having children.
As a childfree person, absolute in my decision, I can now confidently say I am no less of a woman because I am not a mother.
I am extremely happy and fulfilled. I lead a nourishing life of purpose and compassion. I experience deep love and joy daily.
The likelihood is, I have contemplated whether or not to have children, more than many parents have, and I can say with categoric certainty that I will not change my mind.
If you want to learn more about living a life without children, check out my childfree by choice Twitter account.
Thank you for reading this piece. It was originally published on Medium.
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