Monthly Archives: May 2014

Mothering

As a childfree/childless-by-choice woman in my 40’s, emotions have run high and wild for me the last few years on Mother’s Day. I even feel conflicted about which term to use – childfree or childless – because one suggests freedom, and one suggests loss. My experience has proven to be something in-between.

I thought I wanted children when I was young because that’s what I was supposed to want. However, by the time I was about 20, I realized I could barely take care of myself, and had no business being a parent. As a sexually active young woman with type 1 diabetes, which I was more or less ignoring, I knew a baby would be bad news. I was committed to making sure a pregnancy would be carefully planned, inasmuch as such a thing can be planned of course. The flip side of that was that I was just as committed to making sure I didn’t become pregnant as long as I wasn’t ready. I used Norplant, an implantable dummy-proof and highly effective birth control device that lasted for five years, starting at age 20. When it expired, I happily got another Norplant. I figured I’d get a new Norplant every five years until I decided to have a baby, or my biological clock expired, whichever came first

Those plans didn’t last for long though. By the time I was 30, Norplant had been taken off the market because some women had issues with it, class action lawsuits were filed, blah, blah, blah. I was SOL without a comparable replacement form of birth control. I reluctantly switched to the Depo-Provera shot, but that was horrible. Whereas on the implant-it-and-forget-it Norplant, I would literally go years without getting a period (yay!), the shot caused me to get my period every 2-3 weeks (boo…), and required quarterly visits to the doctor to get re-injected.

After a year of that inconvenience, I decided I needed something different, but had few choices. I was married by then, and having had some oopsie-the-condom-broke scares in the past, I wasn’t going to rely on condoms. The pill was contraindicated because of my diabetes and associated heart risks. After ruling out a few other miscellaneous options, I decided to get my tubes tied. At 31, my ambivalence about having children was holding steady, and in the end, none of the birth control options met my personal needs. Thanks everyone who colluded to take Norplant off the market. Yes, I’m still mildly bitter about that.

Through my 30’s, I struggled with my decision, despite having plenty of sound reasons to not have children. My confidence in my capacity to parent was low for a myriad of reasons. I had career and education aspirations that were more important to me than changing diapers. After nearly two decades of mismanaging my diabetes, I’d already experienced complications, and while I’d finally made peace with my diabetes, becoming the proverbial model patient, I didn’t want to undermine my health any further than I already had. Long before veganism even occurred to me, I worried about overpopulation, the resources required to raise children, and the future of the planet – environmentally, politically, socially. The world seems unkind most days, and I wasn’t keen on purposefully bringing another being into humanity’s destructive shit storm.

But.

All around me, people were having babies throughout my 30’s. Not just any people either. My peers, friends, acquaintances, people my age. Constant reminders that this is what people my age do. Some days, my FB feed overwhelms me with photos of people’s children, birth announcements, ultrasound images, baby shower photos, and the phrase that makes my head spin with rage, “starting a family.” It’s been hard to feel completely secure with my choice when I naturally wonder what those experiences are like, when my story doesn’t align with the narrative, when I observe how women are enthusiastically welcomed into the inner sanctum of the mommy realm, and people implicitly suggest that Hubs and I aren’t a family. Anne Lamott beautifully articulates how women without children, for whatever reason, are devalued because “Mother’s Day celebrates a huge lie about the value of women: that mothers are superior beings, that they have done more with their lives and chosen a more difficult path.”

Changing my mind and having biological offspring was off the table, unless I went out of my way to undo a procedure performed by a surgeon I had specifically instructed to burn the hell out of my Fallopian tubes. In theory, adopting was an option, and I’ve thought about it, but Hubs isn’t interested, and inevitably, I come back to some of the reasons I decided to not have children; I don’t think parenting suits my personality, and I have other things I want to do in life.

That doesn’t mean I haven’t felt sad though. I wouldn’t say I regret my decision, but there have been tearful moments of wondering what it’s like. I get that motherhood, as an identity, responsibility, and gift, is canonized, but the implication is that the rest of us women are a bunch of second class nobodies. From this side of the OB/GYN waiting room, it invariably seems like womanhood is equated with motherhood, especially on Mother’s Day. As such, for the last several years, as I’ve reflected on the ramifications of my choice, I’ve loathed Mother’s Day. As a side note, if I actually got to see my mom or mother-in-law, the day would be more meaningful, but since they live elsewhere, we don’t do anything. The absence of celebration reinforces the message I get from the world around me, the message I’m trying my hardest not to internalize, the message that I’m not a real woman, that I don’t know true love, that I don’t know life’s purest joy.

Mother’s Day at ages 39 and 40 hit me hard. I was pretty fucking miserable. It was an understandable response to the natural tendency to reflect as I approached and then turned 40 years old. In light of how miserable I was, if you’d asked me how I would prefer to feel on Mother’s Day, I would have hoped to think of it as any other Sunday. I would have been content to not feel like an unused uterus, dry nipples, and a trainee vagina, with a forever unfulfilled potential to truly love. If you’d asked me a year ago what my lofty aspiration for Mother’s Day 2014 was, my response would have been to not give a fuck.

Now, the day is here. This year I’m 41. This time I’m vegan. I had hoped to feel indifferent, but I don’t. I do feel different though. Being vegan has allowed me to reframe what it means to be loving and compassionate. Being vegan has expanded my vision of how to be a mother in this world, to this world. Being vegan has shown me that blooms of injustice and brunches of suffering do a disservice to the notion of mothering. Being vegan has opened my eyes to abuses against our animal friend mothers, particularly those in the meat, dairy and egg industries. Being vegan has helped me become the person I’m supposed to be, loving, caring, protective mother to this precious Earth, her resources, and the non-human animals among us. This is my identity, my responsibility, the gift that has been given to me that has infused Mother’s Day with new meaning and purpose.

Happy Mother’s Day to all women who have opted not to parent a human child, but instead, have embraced their role as mother to animals and the Earth. You are not alone today, you are not forgotten. I am one of you. We are mothers.

Mother's Love
Mother’s Love

Sad

This is the third or maybe fourth time I’ve tried to write this post. I’m having difficulty finding the words, and this far in, my eyes are already tearing up. Maybe this will be clumsy, but I wouldn’t keep trying to express it if it didn’t need to be said. This is partly why I created this blog after all, the blog I’ve barely posted on because my emotions are messy, which muddles my thoughts.

Overall, being vegan makes me happy. I feel like I’m living the life I’m supposed to be living. I wake up every day with an intention to live peacefully in the world, and then I go out and do just that. I think part of the reason my emotions are so messy is because I’m happy living a vegan life, but I don’t have anyone with whom to share that joy, not anyone who gets it. Usually we associate bottled up emotions with sadness and anger, but suppressing excitement and joy for lack of an opportunity to openly celebrate it is a lonely experience.

I didn’t set out to write about how happy I am now that I’m vegan though. Loneliness isn’t only an outcome of not having anyone in my life with whom I can share joy. I’m lonely because I’m surrounded by family and friends, continuing their lives as carnists. I’m continuously pained to witness animals being harmed. It pains me to see people post pictures of meals made with a chicken, hamburgers, and milkshakes on Facebook. It pains me to read posts by people advocating paleo diets, talking about giving children dairy products, requesting egg recipes. I try to put these out of my head, but they linger, and I can’t help but imagine the animals suffering. It pains me to go to social events and watch people I care about, people who I’ve always known to be caring, eating the corpses and secretions of beings who deserved better. It pains me to sit politely and quietly as a group of friends makes jokes and laughs heartily about bacon, as if the pigs are nobodies, when I know they are somebodies. In my own home, I’ve offered several non-dairy yogurts to my husband, and after trying a few to appease me, he drew his line, and said he only wants the yogurt I used to buy, creamy cow suffering in 6-oz. plastic cups.

I’m the oddball, living according to my values of compassion and non-violence, but living amid acts of violence towards animals perpetuated by people I care about, acts of violence endorsed by society, wears me down at times. I guess I have to suck it up since divorcing Hubs, disowning family, and cutting ties with all my friends aren’t realistic solutions. I don’t know what to do about the pain I feel for the animals that are objectified and consumed around me at every turn though. I want people around me to feel inspired to make changes, but I don’t expect it. I don’t expect that at all. I’m making vegan connections online and in my area so I have some sense of community, and that’s helping, but in my day-to-day life, I’m alone, and I don’t know how to keep my grief for the animals from weighing on me as heavily as it does. I’m happy to no longer be contributing to death and suffering, but now that I’m aware, I see it all around me, and I’m sad.

Untitled by Y'amal
Untitled by Y’amal