I started calling myself “Childfree” for definite about four years ago, I guess. Perhaps it was only three. Either way, my encounters with Childfree people were often ones that left me scratching my head at the vitriol. For years the Childfree space on the Internet was represented by the most vocally anti-child people. You can still go anywhere and read the derisive terms they have for children, parents, people trying to conceive.
For me, however, being childfree is an essential part of my journey through infertility. All through my childhood, teen years and into my twenties I knew that I wanted to be a mother. When I was diagnosed with endometriosis at sixteen I knew it would be a bit more difficult than for other folks. I married at twenty-one and began trying to have a child at twenty-four. There were surgeries and charts and peed-upon sticks and lost chances.
The worst part was, in retrospect, the wishing-away of an entire decade of my life. Every month was a roller-coaster of anxiety and tension. A week of hope, two weeks of anxious charting of post-ovulatory temps, a week of weeping, anger, bitterness and mean-spirited lashing out at the world; that was the pattern of life for more years than I can count. I’ve never not been on the Internet; for those years of fertility struggle most of my internet time was centered on infertility groups. The Childfree were always Those Poor People off in the corner who didn’t get what they wanted and were being sourgrapish about the whole thing.
It eventually came, the point in my mid-thirties where I realised I could no longer live like this. I got tired of having every baby shower and mothers’ day be a minefield and every trip to Target a stabbing ache unless I avoided a fourth of the store. It began to help that all the people who had babies when we started trying all of a sudden had kids with chicken pox and bullies at school and the need to find uniforms. What helped most of all, though, was the prayer I finally prayed in earnest that if God did choose to not give us children God would instead remove the desire. It sounds callous, but I look at it as no different than having a gangrenous limb amputated. My yearning for children was turning into a storied bitterness that soured relationships with everyone.
The yearning is gone and in its place is a true peace with the direction of my life. Daily God shows me ways that I can be caring and nurturing for others even without my own human child.
When I say that I’m childfree it is not a claim made out of bitterness or envy. It’s a statement of true and perfect liberty. I am FREE of those years of agony, of that blackhearted envy and self-punishing sorrow. I’m free of everything associated with children. Yes, I’m free of the cute moments and the joy of watching your child progress through life. It’s a thing I miss in theory on rare occasions. But I more rejoice at being free of the rest of it all. I have a family that is uniquely mine. I can pass my days in joy instead of tears.
Most of all, I can enjoy the children of other people and I can enjoy children as individuals. For me it’s not “children” that I like. It’s each young person with their personalities and interests and senses of humour. That’s the biggest gift of all.
So no, I’m not Childfree in the way some folks associate that term. And I certainly have no qualms with explaining what the term means to me.