The very thought of the pain of giving birth and a being kicking hard inside me invitro, followed by agonising vaginal contractions to bring it into the world, the likelihood of stitches in sensitive places of the female anatomy, let alone the possibilty of something going wrong, like the potential for my own death, or a less than perfect baby, all served as genuine deterents to childbirth as far as I was concerned.
Worse still was the prospect of having twins. Odds were not on my side, given one of my brothers and a first cousin produced "double trouble". Both mothers of the twins went through surgery for fistulas soon after the birth, but continued to struggle with incontinence, as do many women after having even one baby. This is the stuff that never gets told to young women as they enter their reproductive years. Perhaps if it did, way more women would choose to remain childless!
As far as babies go, one end vomits the other poos and wees. I find puppies and kittens way more attractive and appealing than baby humans. They are way easier to toilet train. What's more I can go out and leave my pets for an evening without having to hire a baby-sitter. My pets have never embarassed me by throwing tantrums in supermarkets and are comparitively easy to feed, maintain and educate!
The idea of being responsible for caring for a child for the rest of my life, had little appeal, unless I was rich enough to afford a full time nanny and quality boarding school as soon as the child was old enough. Even then, the reality is grown up children still require a degree of nurture and care for the rest of their parent's life.
I was concerned about the world's over population, scarce resources and habitat for other species from an equally tender age and needed to look no further than a Ludbrook family reuinion in the mid 1970s, where over 500 descendants of George and Charlotte Ludbrook, who arrived at Ballarat's goldfields in 1855, convinced me amongst the best contributions to the world I could make, was not to add to its population!
Unlike many young women, my parents never set expectations or implied disappointment if I were to never marry, or have children. Indeed, my mother observed, her happiest friends, who had lived the most charmed lives were, indeed childless. They did stress the importance and value of education and of following my own dreams and ambition. Public service and community involvment were driving factors in their respective raison'd etre!
Unlike so many mothers, who lived their own lives through vicarious expectations and by placing pressures on their children to live out their own unfulfilled dreams, my mum was happy to entrust much of my care to my dad, with whom I shared a love of animals, particularly horses and dogs. I was always happy in the company of my pets and animals in general. My mum and I shared a love of plants and colourful clothes. We enjoyed shopping together. With both my parents I was raised with a love of fine wines and food.
Luckily I had two much older brothers, who renderred my status to that of aunt, whilst I was still a primary school student. Both married and produced children. Through them, my parents satisfied any desire they had of being grandparents. Indeed, that very role became way more onerous than they ever anticipated, when they ended up raising my niece and nephew, who came to live with us when I was in my early teens.
My parents belated stint of child-raising as grandparents, brought home to me, just how demanding child-raising of babies and toddlers is and how life-long and profound, "family responsibilities". My nephew remained with my parents until he married, in his late twenties, unlike my brothers and I who were breaking our necks to strike out as independent adults at the first available opportunity. My neice believes she and her brother put me off having children of my own forever and she is probably right. Any romantic notions of motherhood had been utterly shattered by the reality of the demands.
Don't get me wrong. I don't hate children. I thoroughly enjoy the company of kids old enough to carry on a conversation. I adore and respect teenagers, otherwise I would never have been a teacher for almost thirty years. I can appreciate and enjoy other peoples children and that has been enough for me.
I was busy, enormously satisfied and fulfilled with my career and attending meetings and actions that worked toward ending apartheid in South Africa, achieving independence for East Timor, helping to bring down the Iron Curtain and Europe's East West divide, as well as campaigning for nuclear disarmament and saving Australia's threatened forests from logging. As a teacher unionist I worked towards better conditions, pay and many curricula and systemic innovations like multicultural perspectives and equal opportunities as well as addressing gender equity issues within the teaching service itself. I taught thousands of amazing students in hundreds of classes. I've travelled extensively, paid off a mortgage on my own in fifteen years and even had time for a couple of major relationships. An amazing friendship network has sustained me, along with my beloved pets.
The legacy I will leave to the world will not be to its gene pool, but I have contributed much to make it a safer more sustainable place. I have touched the lives of many others through my work and actions.
Meanwhile some of my friends raised their families as stay at home mums. Some juggled paid work and parenting. They now have adult children who mostly bring them joy, but sometimes deliver degrees of heartache. I do not envy their parental status, but do enjoy their children. Life takes different paths and each of us, contributes as best we can to the world.
I am not advising anyone not to have children, but I am advocating following your own heart. I have never regretted my decision not to have children of my own. I know many other women who are equally glad they are not parents. I do not believe all women are born mothers or nurturing by nature. My identity as a woman was never linked with motherhood, but has been amazingly rich, rewarding and fulfiling!
I admire those who accomplish child-raising with flair and satisfaction. But, not once, have I regretted, not having children of my own!