It is a cold Wednesday night in Portland… Wunderground says it “feels like” 24 °F. I’ve had a headache all afternoon, which I think was triggered by the cold air, but according to the pamphlet from the clinic, I’m not allowed to take any pain medicine for a week before tomorrow afternoon’s appointment.
Why exactly? The pamphlet supplies no reason. Would it have cost them that much more ink to provide some rationale? I suspect that they want to ensure that I don’t build up a resilience towards the drugs so that they *work* better on game day. That’s my theory… but I lack any supporting evidence for this claim.
Instead, I’m drinking lots of water and treated myself to some fancy drinking chocolate that I recently bought at The Meadow.
As I sip the chocolate, I decide to pose the question one last time, “Should I go through with it?”
Before we move forward, let’s look back a bit. I must have been 22 the first time I remember having this moment where I thought, “no, seriously… I don’t want to have a kid. I don’t want to go down as a breeder.”
Why? (many people have asked this of me over the years)
First off, I have trouble relating to folks who seek parenthood. Many of those close to me that have done that… started in their early-to-mid 20s. I can’t speak for them, but I don’t feel like I figured out who I’d like to be when I’m older. The thought of being responsible for little ones seems like the most asinine thing to do.
I’ve always had this idea that to be a good parent, you had to provide a sense of stability and confidence for them. Confidence that everything was going to be alright. Confidence that they could grow up and be whomever they wanted to be. ….yet, as each year passes, I feel more and more confident that this entire notion is utter nonsense.
Speaking from my own childhood experience, I’ve grown to learn that my parents didn’t have a clue who they wanted to be when they were older. They never had an opportunity to. Now I look at them… in their 50s (they were really young when they had me) and I still see them as kids who never really found their way. They’ve grown up to be fine, fairly well-adjusted, and liked people… but between you and me, I hope they each sort their shit out one day.
I don’t have any specific recollection of ever being told and/or treated in such a manner… but for quite some time, I’ve felt like my birth was a burden on my parents. My mother dropped out of High School. My father had to “man up” and do right by her. Five years later, they had my sister. I knew I was an accident from an early age… when I was about 4-5 years old and was informed that it took 9 months for a baby to come out… but my parents got married in mid-October, just 6 weeks before I was born. The math didn’t add up. Perhaps some my cynicism stems from this experience… I’ve asked my mother a few times why she kept the baby. She’s always responds with, “but how could I have? look how great you’ve turned out!” She might think this is endearing, but she dodged the question. I suspect it had more to do with a lack of access to good birth control and abortion doctors in the suburbs of Chicago back then. She was 17. I may never know.
Recently, I had a chance to ask my father the same question… and if he’d do it all over again. He doesn’t regret his decision (to stick around and be a parent), but he does wish he would have postponed having kids/marriage for many, many years and done something different with his life. He would go back and tell his younger self, “don’t do it!” I don’t take any offense to this… the reality is… I am here. He can’t undo that, but I sympathize with his feelings of having missed out on his young adult life onwards until you die. When my father was my (current) age.. he had a 13 year old kid. That baffles me.
So, I ask myself, would a kid be a burden on me? Absolutely. I have much to explore in the world and taking on the responsibility of children would be, in my opinion, an act against my own well-being. Is it selfish? Of course, but I’m not robbing anyone of anything. There are no victims here.
Since my early 20s, I’ve been in a handful of romantic relationships… and if there is one thing that I’ve learned is that there are real deal-breakers. Being decisive about not wanting kids–as a young male adult–will get you eye roles, “you’ll come around one day” looks, and arguments about how selfish it is to not have kids.
I remember being about 28 when a woman whom I was dating (who was 29) was really concerned about this aspect of me. Once things got slightly serious between us… she (in her own head) mapped out our potential future. What she saw, was a very obvious dead end for her/us. She was smart, she opted out. (she’s since married and recently had her first child).
There was also the time that I moved to Paris for the Spring. I met an adorable Parisian… fell in love… came back to Portland and couldn’t wait to go back to see her again. I arrived to spend the entire Autumn with her… and I shit you not, the second night back, I asked her, “so, do you want to have kids one day?” because I realized that, somehow, this never came up in our previous discussions in the months of wandering around Paris with her… and the prospect of getting serious with a girl who lives 8 timezones away means you need to put things into perspective if you want to take things further.
“Of course I want to have kids. Don’t you?,” she responded.
(Picture a time-lapsed video of a beautiful flower blooming and then quickly dying.)
We both knew that we shouldn’t try to stick it out and either a) hope the other person would see that you’re logic was right and/or b) ignore the discrepancy in your longterm goals. As a result, I now just have a good friend in Paris. C’est la vie.
Over the years, people have raised the following…
“What if you meet someone special. You fall madly in love with them. You find out in a few years that they now want to have a kid. Would you deny them that?”
No. When I paint a picture of what I want my future to look like, it doesn’t involve conceiving children. If I’m always upfront and honest about this, then I would have done my part to manage their expectations. If they, one day, find themselves in the position of feeling differently, then I will humbly accept their resignation to go find a suitable partner to fulfill their new desires. It may sound harsh… but is that worse than one of us conceding on such a big thing?
Relationships, statistically speaking, are temporary. Parenthood, isn’t.
“What if it was the other way around?”
Good question. I’ve always hoped that should I ever find myself wanting to be a parent, that I would choose to adopt a child. There are enough children that were bred by parents who didn’t have the means and/or desire to raise them… why re-invent the wheel?
“I’m not selfish. I have two kids and everything that I do is for them. I work my ass off to support and help them.”
This usually comes up after I state my case about breeding being a really selfish act given that there are so many kids awaiting adoption. To need it to be of your own genes, in my humble opinion, is absolutely selfish. That’s not to say that I don’t empathize with those who go down that path, but that doesn’t make it any less selfish. To then proclaim that your life is now that of a martyr who does everything for their family, do I really need to point out that this was entirely self-imposed? You created the situation that you’re taking care of. That’s owning up to your responsibility. That’s not a selfless act. Don’t confuse the two.
“You’re still young. You’ll change your mind when you’re older!”
Perhaps I am still too young, but I would like to think that my conviction would ease up over the years… not harden. So, for my 33rd birthday, I finally made the call. I asked for an appointment at least a month away so that I would have just a little more time to reflect on this decision. I’m having a vasectomy.
“Why a Vasectomy?”
Because I feel horrible that the onus has been on my partners to protect themselves from conception. If there was a pill for men, maybe I’d consider it… but there isn’t and I don’t really want to pump hormones in my body anymore than they do.
“But what about condoms?”
They’re great and all… but as I’ve learned, sometimes they break. Actually, they kind of suck.
“Do you not feel any desire to have kids?”
Nope. I have been running a business since my early 20s… it comes with a lot of responsibility. I’m also fortunate to be a good uncle. I feel like that’s enough for me.
“Are you sure?”
It’s one of the things that I continuously seem to be the most sure of.
“Are you nervous?”
Absolutely. The thought of someone slicing around down there makes me uncomfortable… but it can’t honestly be worse than hearing the words, “I’m pregnant” ever again.
Over the holidays, I had the good fortune of seeing both of my parents (who have been divorced for about 15 years). They are excellent grandparents… thanks to my younger sister having had two kids. I told them about my appointment. They asked questions… (some of the same as above) but neither were surprised.
(To make things even easier, I also have the support of my current girlfriend who commends this decision…)
“Why are you sharing this?”
I have a hunch that I’m not alone here. On one hand, I feel like it’s very private matter… but in our social-media dominated world where everyone on Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram is posting photos of their offspring… I feel like shouting to the world, “Hey! I just made a huge life decision… and I want you to be proud of me too!”
Yet, I can’t help but feel a little bit like a black sheep for saying, “I’m opting out.”