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A Deeper Call to Being Child-Free

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child-within.jpg

Artist: Katie m. Berggren

I knew from the age of 4 that I did not want to have children. “I’m going to have puppies!” was my declaration when someone imposed their kid-wanting assumptions on me, when I was just a kid myself (why do people do that?). Throughout my childhood, I didn’t like dolls and preferred stuffed animals. It is believed that children hold the most genuine of truths, so I am happy to say that 40 years later, I have no regrets about being  child-free.

Throughout my teen and early adult years, the desire to have children did not present itself. “But what if you regret not having kids?” was the common response I received from others. As I grew older, I kept my mind open to the idea that I might meet the right person who would pull this maternal desire out of me. But that never happened. Except for two situations that lasted about a week, I never came up against a desire to have kids.

One of the situations where I did, was after a painful and disappointing relationship ended. I was in my late 20’s and believed that I had so much love to give, and needed to give it to someone who needed it. As I said before this lasted for about a week. I realized that, for me, this wasn’t a good enough reason to have kids. This belief was simply another co-dependent belief akin to my preexisting beliefs of: “if I only had the right relationship (job, home, lifestyle, etc.) then I will be whole and happy.” I think I knew then that replacing a baby for a relationship just wasn’t the answer.

As I look back, I am so glad I never became a mother. I know myself too well. I love my freedom and free-time. I cringe when it comes to unsolicited obligation and hate stopping what I’ve started. I know most people do, but when I have to sacrifice these things, I become depressingly miserable.

More importantly, I believe my life’s journey has been about growing and healing myself to the point that I truly needed to know how to mother myself. A few years ago, when I mentioned my decision to be child-free to a woman (that I have a lot of respect for), she replied with “You were too hurt”. I was immediately angry inside as my brain scrambled as if I had been clocked in the head. I didn’t know how to respond, and I didn’t want to ask for clarification. Now I know what she meant. This part of me that was hurt has always been here and wasn’t going to make room for anyone else, and I respect that. This hurt part in me needed me to be its mother, and being a mother to anyone else was not going to work.

I am grateful for my 20-something self that knew I couldn’t solve my heartbreak with a baby. There was a wisdom there that would reveal more of itself later. Yes, I do have so much love to give, and yes, there is someone who needs it. That person in need is myself, and I have more than enough on my plate when I take on that task.

Am I saying that you can’t mother yourself if you have kids? Absolutely not. I know many women who do a lot of inner-healing while raising children. Am I saying that every child-free person has a deep pain that needs healing? Definitely not. The decision to be child-free is an individual one, and I can only speak for myself. I have no desire to have children and  I truly believe that my decision to be child-free was born from a deep need for something else. There was a core place in me that was screaming for care, and needed all of me to attend to that care. Truth be told, I wouldn’t have it any other way.

Body-Mind-Spirit: A Tale of Disconnect

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First, I want to be clear that, although some of this may sound like a pity-party, it’s far from it. If you decide to read through this, you’ll see what I mean. Now let’s begin.

When I chose to live a vegan lifestyle in 2006, I felt like an outsider for the first year or so. Most people hadn’t heard the word vegan, and it took some detective work to navigate restaurants and grocery aisles. Over time this became much easier as I became familiar with products, options, and most importantly, other vegans.

As veganism gains increasing public attention, I notice that it does so, mainly from a health perspective. Most people touting veganism’s health benefits do so claiming that you will lose weight. Although this may be true for many people, this was definitely not the case for me. My weight has always been an issue for me, and continued to be so after going vegan. Talk about feeling like an outsider among outsiders.

This experience resulted in feeling a complex mash-up of emotions including: Guilt, fear, anger, and sadness. Each time I read about someone claiming the amazing weight loss they’ve experienced from going vegan, I felt like a failure. I wondered what I was doing wrong. I wondered if people doubted my being vegan with thoughts of “she must be sneaking in dairy”. I also believed that I was a bad representation of veganism. Oh this mind of mine can spin, but I also know that I’m not far off the mark here. This society fat-shames and objectifies women. Add veganism to the mix, and you have a setting prime for being picked apart.

Now, weight itself is no stranger to me. I was a chubby baby, who grew into a fat kid, and chubby teenager. Growing up, I had no safe place to go. Home, school the neighborhood, family members houses, birthday parties, everywhere I went, people felt the need to reference my weight. “Hey fatso” (chubbo, tub of lard, butter ball, etc.) What 5 year old can defend themself from such verbal abuse from adults and peers? If I became visibly hurt, some adults would say “I’m just kidding”, but a child’s brain can’t discern such semantics. A child’s brain understands things literally. Children also learn who they are by what adults’ project onto them. I wondered what I did wrong, and why I was so “fucked up”. Where were the adults who were supposed to protect me? As years passed, this mindset would manifest in many ways. One of which was the cycle of self-abuse known as dieting.

Like many women I compared myself to the women placed on pedestals by the men in my life. I hated my body and tried to eradicate it through every diet and exercise plan imaginable. It’s a well-worn story, you know, go on a diet/fitness plan, lose weight, and gain it all back (plus some). It’s an old path that many women have travelled down. When all efforts have failed, we blame ourselves for being weak, stupid, hopeless, etc. It’s a horrible thing to go through and more abusive than we allow ourselves to believe.

So here I am again. All 41 years of my life stacked in me like nesting dolls. This morning started off no different, with me dreading the task of trying to make myself presentable to the outside world. I beg my closet “Please, work with me here!” I made my selection and as I began to undress, I could hear the familiar voice in my head. “Ugh, I hate my body. Why do I have to have THIS body? Why is it so hard for me to lose weight? What’s wrong with me?”

Just then I realized that I was talking to myself no different than the adults and peers around me did when I was a child. This defenseless child inside me, who is still hurting from past harm, was being bashed by none other than myself. In short, I was abusing the shit out of her.

You still with me?

I immediately felt like a bad mom. Luckily, before I could go bashing the adult in me too, I remembered that what I needed was compassion and forgiveness towards myself and my little girl.

Afterwards, I debated about posting this experience. What would people think? Insecurity can be such a turn-off. But the idea would not let me be. So, why go public with this experience? Well, I know I’m not alone, and I also know that where light is shown darkness fades. I don’t want to keep me or my little girl in the dark anymore. I want light and love to be here in us. I want this self-inflicted war to stop. I truly do have to rebuild my love for myself.

You see, I know and really love me. Me being the Mind-Spirit me. I know my strengths, my growing edges, my gifts, and character. I know I’m as valuable and beautiful as any other living creature on this planet. I know who I am and look forward to getting to know who I am becoming.

Paradoxically, I don’t like the body that this “me” inhabits. So what I have is a disconnected relationship between “me” and my body. As a child I learned my body was “wrong” so I discarded it by leaving it through disconnecting from it. Ways that I could feel “in” my body were through food, starvation, or excess exercise.

So I’m attempting to heal this relationship as I have healed other internal relationships with myself; slowly, compassionately, trusting, with mindful insight and reflection, and safe people. This body deserves love and recognition and as I begin to heal this separation, it’s important that I stay connected with those who can see the beauty in me as well.

After drafting this post, I found this newsletter message by Louise Hay in my email. Quite appropriate don’t you think?

“Little babies love every inch of their bodies. They have no guilt, no shame, and no comparison. You were like that, and then somewhere along the line you listened to others who told you that you were “not good enough.” You began to criticize your body, thinking perhaps that that’s where your flaws were.

Let’s drop all that nonsense and get back to loving our bodies and accepting them totally as they are. Of course they will change—and if we give our bodies love, they will change for the better.”

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