Sunday, November 26, 2017

DINKS in Paradise

I'm gonna let you in a little secret. Don't tell anyone. Ok. Come closer so I can whisper it in your ear,

"Evan and I do not have kids."

Shocker. I know. We are nearing 40 years of age, have shared over 20 lovely years together, and we do not have children. I am well aware that we are not the norm. And sometimes our "child-free/childless?" lifestyle feels like a shameful act.

When Ev and I were 25 years old, we prepped for our marriage with a pre-marital class where we discussed all of the issues that we would face as a couple: finances, careers, sex, household duties, communication, and....children. Ev and I were quite proud of ourselves when we compared notes and realized that we both desired 2 children. That was the plan. A boy named Madden and a girl named Hollis. We agreed that 30 would be the perfect age to start the procreation process. We still had 5 years to live the carefree childless lifestyle.

The next 5 years were spent "finding ourselves." After an incredible adventure, which allowed us to travel the world, Evan retired from professional hockey and began a career as a Calgary Firefighter. I properly started my career as a Speech Pathologist and came to the realization that big city life was not for me.

By age 30 we were settled into a beautiful new 5 bedroom house in my hometown of Prince Albert, Saskatchewan. We both had stable careers. We had tons of family support. Friends and family encouraged us, "Time to start filling those bedrooms!" This was the perfect time to add Madden and Hollis to the mix.

Despite being cautioned by Doctors that conceiving may be difficult due to a history of endometriosis, we put it off. We said things like, "Maybe in a year or two." We actually created a scale - a number system to communicate our desire for children at any given moment. 1 = I absolutely do not want children today and 10 = I absolutely want a child today. Neither of us ever exceeded a "3." We were always on the same page. End of discussion. Spin the globe! Where shall we go for our next vacation?

We planned surfing and diving holidays to Mexico, Hawaii, Florida, Honduras, Bali, and Costa Rica. We researched employment in other countries and dreamed of moving to a tropical island. We bought longboards and skated around our neighbourhood. We set up an obstacle course in our garage where we balanced on wobble boards while we listened to loud music. We were having fun. Our friends began having children and we observed how much love they felt for their new additions. We also observed how drastically their lives changed. Some relationships flourished with the arrival of a new baby. Some relationships destructed under the weight and responsibility. We enjoyed our life and we appreciated just being with each other. We didn't want it to change and we weren't yearning for a child. I kept waiting to wake up and feel an emptiness that could only be filled with a baby. People suggested that it was only a matter of time before I caught "baby fever." But as I watched my friends gush over little baby toes, I felt nothing. A part of me longed to feel something. Was I defective? I felt overwhelming happiness for my friends, but I also felt completely content and fulfilled (gasp!) without a baby. So we continued to put it off and negotiate with our plan: perhaps we would just add a "Hollis" to our family. One child would be enough. We would have plenty of time and we decided to table the issue and re-examine at age 35.

Then life happened. I was diagnosed with a rare cartilage condition, resulting in multiple surgeries, rehabilitations, and unanswered questions about my genetics. We fulfilled one of our greatest dreams and moved to a tropical island. Getting pregnant was the last item on my "to do" list. And to be honest, I was totally OK with that. Choosing to have a baby is a huge, life-changing decision. There is no return policy. I don't know what the future holds. Things change. Perhaps I will have a change of heart and become a geriatric mature parent. Perhaps it will be too late. Perhaps I've never actually had a choice. I own that. But I do know that having a child simply to fit in, please others, or to adhere to the rules of society is not the right decision for me. The path that Evan and I chose (thus far) is not conventional, but it's our life and we are living it our way.

I've compiled a list of things that I want my friends with children to know:

1) I don't hate children
Just because we don't have children doesn't mean that we dislike them. I work with children every day. I appreciate their innocence, honestly, and goofy senses of humour. I like children. In fact, I love your children! I love your children because I love you. I love seeing you reflected in your child. I see your sass, your wit, and your intelligence when I interact with your child. I also love seeing the joy that your child brings you. I also know that your child can act like an asshole sometimes. All kids do! You don't need to apologize. I'm not judging you. I know that you are doing your best and if your child is presently throwing a tantrum, although I can't necessarily relate, I do empathize. There is no doubt in my mind that parenting is a challenging, yet rewarding gig. Although Evan and I might return home after a day with children and thoroughly appreciate our serene and quiet home, we do not go home and say, "Wow, our friends' kids are assholes."

2) I know you can't be at my beck and call
I've witnessed enough of my friends have babies to come to the realization that it's inevitable: things change. Our relationship will change. Your priorities have shifted from being responsible for yourself to keeping another human alive. I get it!

But...if you ever want a reply back from a text ASAP, you can typically count on me. Why? Because I am not responsible for the life of another human. I know that you might not be able to respond as quickly. I know that an adult lunch date must be booked in advance so that you have time to arrange a sitter. I know that you need time to plan. I won't judge or take offence when you don't immediately reply to my text about the latest "Real Housewives" debacle. I won't hold it against you when you ask for a rain check due to sick baby. No worries. And when you have some time, I will happily fill you in on all the mindless pop culture news.

3) Sometimes I feel left out
I think that I was one of the last girls in my class to get a bra. I remember listening to my female classmates discuss which bra offered more support, which bra had a cute butterfly on the front, and which bra was the itchiest. I remember nodding blankly, having no idea what they were talking about, longing to be a part of the club. I feel the same way 20+ years later when my friends discuss pregnancy. I don't know what it feels like to have a baby growing inside of me. I can't relate to morning sickness, labour pains, the feeling of a baby kick, or placenta plugs (is that a thing?). But I care about you and how you are feeling. I will listen and offer support. I just can't offer any advice based on my experience. During those discussions, be prepared for my radio silence (or an awkward attempt to relate through my pets). It's not that I'm upset (although occasionally I am horrified), it's simply that I don't know what to say. I want to contribute, but I don't always know how. That can feel isolating. I might just exit the conversation about episiotomies and discus boats with the boys.

4) So when are you going to have a baby already?
I really do not mind if close friends inquire about our baby situation. I would be curious too. What sucks, however, is if someone I don't know particularly well makes a point of asking in a large group setting. At a baby shower, for example. Nothing makes me cringe more than when I'm totally kicking ass at pin the diaper on the baby, and some random pipes up, "Looks like you're ready for a baby! When can we plan your shower?" This is such a sensitive subject. For all you know I could be recovering from a miscarriage or struggling with infertility. Never assume that a woman is choosing not to have a baby.

5) Must be nice
Yes, I really enjoy sleeping in on the weekends. Yes, I really enjoy reading quietly by the pool. Yes, I really enjoy quiet wine dinners and last minute getaways with my husband. Yes, it is nice. I know that you haven't slept soundly in 2 years. I see that you are struggling to breastfeed your newborn or reign in your busy toddler. It looks fricken hard and I have mad respect for you. I will try not to gloat about my siesta if you don't say, "must be nice." We made different choices which resulted in very different lifestyles. I also see you light up with pride when your baby smiles at you, and sometimes think, "must be nice." Different strokes for different folks. To be fair, my close friends who know my situation do not partake in the passive aggressive "must be nice" game.

6) Words can hurt
I find it unsettling when I hear things like, "You don't know real love until you've had a baby," or "You haven't lived life until you've brought life into the world." I have an endless supply of love in my heart for friends and family. Please do not pity me. As far as I know I am living my best life, and although it's not without struggle, my life is full of love, joy, and happiness.

7) But you would make such great parents!
Agreed! Ev and I would make fantastic parents. We are obviously committed to each other, respect each other, and share a stable relationship. Our finances are in order. We are mature -ish. We are well aware that we could provide a wonderful life for a child. We are not choosing this lifestyle because we are afraid that we would be shitty parents. I find it annoying when someone observes Evan playing with a child and says, "He would be such a great father!" Yes. I am well aware. I would make an excellent mother too. Again, that's not a good enough reason to sign up for a baby.

The beauty about life is that we have the ability to write our own story. Although I've occasionally been enticed to emulate someone else's story, I've made a conscious decision to own my personal journey. There's no doubt that plot twists will arise, taking your story in a completely different direction, but that's all part of the adventure.

Cheers to living life your way - whatever you choose!

1 comment:

  1. Awesome and well written.
    Hits many of the points I have pondered.
    love to read your stuff