It seems everywhere I turn women are popping out babies left and right. Within the last year at least five of my close friends have become preggers, not to mention Hollywood’s latest race to morph the baby bump into the next big gotta-have-it fad. Still, a new Census Bureau report, “Fertility of American Women: 2006,” found that 20 percent of American women age 40-44 are childless (twice that of 1976), and those who do have children are having fewer.
Though the report identified other trends concerning women’s fertility in America, I’m stuck on the idea that choosing not to become a parent is becoming an increasingly accepted and viable option in a family-friendly culture. Sure, clusters of my friends are incubating fetuses. I also have just as many friends who have not joined the baby brigade – and are on the fence or simply have no plans to.
Speaking for myself, I’m 31 and have yet to bless the world with my spawn – but that’s not to say it isn’t in my cards. I’m amazed by the power of biology, which seems to have bestowed upon me baby-colored spectacles.
It’s taken years of fence sitting to get my uterus and brain on the same page. Many of my friends seemed resolute to become mothers, and so often I felt as if something were wrong with me for not having such a staunch desire. The fear of losing my sense of self and freedom cast long shadows over any maternal instincts I might’ve harbored. The thought of childbirth terrified me, and to this day I think of “baby” only in the singular.
Luckily, I don’t feel alone. Google “childfree” and you’ll see it: a counter culture of men and women opting out of the parenting biz. The childfree movement began in the early 1970’s and continues to gain momentum today with an online presence, such as Childfree by Choice and Happily Childfree and Childfree.net describes its community as such:
"We choose to call ourselves ‘childfree’ rather than ‘childless,’ because we feel the term ‘childless’ implies that we're missing something we want - and we aren't. We consider ourselves childFREE - free of the loss of personal freedom, money, time and energy that having children requires.”
Upon reading this I thought, “How empowering, right on!” I was in the warm haze of my idealist naiveté when I came across Happily Childfree’s list of childfree lingo, which introduced me to a bevy of terms like “babies rabies,” “breeder,” “cunts n’ runts,” “fuctuplets,” “lil’ sizzlers,” “mombie,” “placenta brain,” “tit Nazi” and “wannabreeder.”
Placenta brain? Really?? Ouch. So it’s not quite the utopia I envisioned. As seen in countless social movements, this sort of behavior emerges in response to the underdog’s experience of the dominant culture’s judgment. It gets volleyed back and forth between counter culture and dominant culture, with no real positive outcome.
All of this aside, the need on both sides of the fence is unifying and utterly human: to be validated, respected and accepted for one’s personal choices – in this case to be a parent or be childfree. Whatever the case, to be a woman living in a time and place where we can even have such an dialog – and act on it – is very cool to say the least.