Thoughts on Being
A couple of weeks ago, shortly after we arrived home from our family trip to Newquay, I shared a picture of me in a bikini on the beach. I chose to share a few images from that day because it was such a happy day filled with beautiful sunshine, wonderful people and I felt more relaxed and free than I have in quite some time.
About 10 minutes after posting it I had to go into my Instagram settings and limit the comments because I had received 5 Instagram DMs congratulating me on being pregnant and a handful of comments on the image itself speculating openly on the fact I 'looked' pregnant.
All of the comments from women and seemingly shared with no thought as to what effect those comments could have had. For the record I'm not currently pregnant and although many people may say I don't need to acknowledge the comments, there's most definitely a bigger topic at play here.
Now don't get me wrong I'm no stranger to people assuming things of me and quite often I do let comments like these just go straight over my head, but as a 32 year old woman who seems to be unexpectedly surrounded by talk of babies in 2021, I figured it was time for a very open and honest chat about the possibility of staying child free.
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After the Instagram incident and a few more days of delving into my thoughts and feelings about the way in which people feel they have the right to comment on other people and their possible pregnancies, I filmed a clip for a vlog that has attracted a huge amount of interest. If you'd like to give it a watch and hear more of my thoughts on this topic then I've linked it below. In the meantime almost 2,500 people have been kind enough to share their own experiences, thoughts, positives, negatives, worries and everything in-between and I feel truly overwhelmed by the response. There have been so many replies in fact that 6 days later I am still working my way through my Instagram DMs and getting back to every single person that took the time to contact me. So what caused all the attention? Well it was my thoughts on possibly having a child free future and it seemed to resonate with so many of you who feel exactly the same way. So let me explain...
Firstly let me shout it out loud and say I absolutely adore children. I'm lucky enough to be an Auntie, have family members who have just brought the cutest babies into the world and have so many incredible friends who share all the highs and lows of their little ones with me. The happiness and love I feel for all of them is honestly unmatched because I see the love and adoration my friends and family have for these wonderful little people, who have fulfilled their lives in such a huge way. They love and dote on each other in the most perfect of ways and I feel beyond grateful I get to share in what I know are such joyous celebrations and moments with their families. Despite the wonder and the love I feel for all of them though, I don't know if being parents is something that will be in our future and after the reaction from the vlog, I needed to share that here on the blog too.
As it stands we love our life, we love our Boe and if we picture our future in several years time, there isn't currently a focus for us on being parents. Parenthood and the idea of children is such a tricky topic to delve into and especially so if the topic leans towards being child free it seems. If this week has taught me anything though, it's that so many of us feel so alone with our thoughts on this topic for a multitude of different reasons and all of a sudden we all feel that little bit less alone, which for me, has made broaching this often taboo subject so very worth it.
I've always been very open about the fact that no one should ever; stranger, family or otherwise, comment on another persons possible fertility. Whether that comment is meant with love, humour or intrigue, if the person in question has not expressly shouted from the rooftops that they are pregnant or asked for advice on a specific fertility journey, keep it zipped. As someone else shared with me the other day 'The only time you should ask a person if they're pregnant, is if you see the babies head crowning' and I think that's fantastic advice haha The serious side however of choosing to delve into the topic of fertility, family and pregnancy is that we simply have no idea the hurt, anger or grief we could be causing. As an example, just in amongst the stories shared with me this past week have been experiences of cancer diagnoses causing infertility, health problems leading to struggles conceiving, huge expense invested in IVF and other procedures, heartbreaking miscarriages and baby loss, hurt at personal boundaries being disrespected, long and winding journeys to adoption, LGBTQIA+ couples navigating roads to parenthood and the list could go on and on and on...
As someone who believes that we live rightly so in a society that puts a huge emphasis on the celebration of diversity, uniqueness and individuality, we should not be shocked to hear that some of us are considering and contemplating a child free life. Nor should we be shocked that those decisions can change over time or that those decisions should be wholeheartedly respected without judgment, comment or dismissal. Heartbreakingly one of the most common messages I received from people who have chosen to share their choice on being child free with others, was that people often respond with "Oh you'll change your mind don't worry." Does anyone else find that as infuriating as me? The disrespect to say that to someone who feels strong enough to share a choice they've made or are thinking about making for their own happiness, is something I can scarcely believe. Happiness and fulfillment in careers, partners, friends, travel, hobbies and countless other aspects of life come in so many varied shapes and sizes and that should equally be reflected in an individuals choice (or in some cases not a choice at all) to have children or to be child free.
If you don't feel that pull to be a parent or that longing you thought you would to be a mother, then please don't think you are any of the following words I've had people say they've felt this week. You are not odd, strange, weird, selfish, unnatural, self-centred or even abnormal. You are simply confidently exploring a different route that the one has traditionally expected from people of child bearing age. Simply because society has taught us and pressured us in the past to believe that the only way that a person can possibly be fulfilled in their lives is to have a child, does not mean that that decision would be one that allows you, oh so unique you, to thrive. If you feel or know that being child free protects your happiness, your mental health, your ability to travel, your physical health, your financial freedom, your environmental impact, your concerns for the future and/or more, these and any other reasons you may have are more than valid. You and your decisions are more than valid. Your road to happiness and fulfillment are more than valid. And your ability to change your mind is also more than valid. You alone know yourself better than anyone else at this very moment in time and should your journey, with or without a partner, deviate from your current decision or if that decision doesn't waver at all, both are as valid as the choice to have children. You don't need to justify your journey to anyone.
I could chat about this topic for such a long time, as you can probably tell, but what I guess I really want to say is a huge thank you to everyone that reached out following my vlog. I was most definitely concerned about sharing my thoughts and feelings on a topic I know can be so divisive and often taboo, so to have resonated with so many other people in the same boat has filled my cup/ Thank you for helping me to feel less alone as we navigate what our unique journey may look like. Thank you for trusting me with your stories, experiences and most importantly your joy too. Thank you for being your honest and true selves in sharing your stories on being both parents and child free. Thank you for helping so many others feel less alone in the process. Thank you for being part of this conversation I hope we can keep moving forward with together.
It's time to respect that there are a million ways to live your life and no matter what that path, journey or adventure looks like, you are allowed to be confident in the knowledge that the decision you come to is intrinsically linked to your own happiness. And I also hope you all know that Inthefrow is a judgement free zone and you will always be welcome in this community to share your experience, positive or negative. I hope you feel safe, happy and supported here whether you choose to share or even if you prefer not to. You are welcome here - always!