The vast living room was decorated with pink and white balloons. Sparkling streamers snaked around the walls. The shredded remnants of cutesy gift-wrapping paper lay strewn across the floor. Everywhere, women were exclaiming over freshly unwrapped diaper dispensers and fussing over a very pregnant young hostess.
To an ordinary onlooker, the scene would have embodied a typical baby shower. To me, it embodied a hellish nightmare.
One woman, a friend of my mother’s, turned to face me. She was cradling a whimpering infant in one arm and brandishing a monstrous-looking breast pump with the other. “I can’t wait until you have one of these,” she said, gesturing to her offspring. “You’ll be waiting forever,” I replied curtly.
Horrified gasps, contorted looks and hushed whispers immediately ensued. It was as if I had shouted an obscenity at the top of my lungs.
“Don’t you want to have children of your own?” the woman said, her voice shrill. As I surveyed the expressions of shock and indignation on the faces of these women, it was all I could do to keep from rolling my eyes.
In short, my answer to her question was: No. I don’t want children of my own. Call me crazy, but future endeavors like graduating, building a successful career and having the freedom to travel are all slightly more important to me than procreation.
There are some women who have absolutely no interest in getting married and squeezing out 2.5 children right away. There are more still who have no desire to move into a cookie-cutter suburban home with a white picket fence and a three-car garage.
So how does society label these women? As freaks, cat ladies and lesbians, that’s how.
Yet, statistics show that more and more young women in the Western hemisphere feel exactly the same way I do.
And let’s face it – pregnancy can be a real pain in the posterior.
Why should we endure nine months of hyperactive hormones, morning sickness and Ob/Gyn appointments if we don’t want to? Why should we wear hideously unstylish maternity clothes if we don’t want to? Why should we suffer through hours and even days of painful labor? Why should we risk carrying C-section scars and stretch marks for the rest of our lives if we don’t want to? I see no logic in succumbing to society’s expectations if they don’t suit your own expectations.
Now, under no circumstances am I denouncing those who have devoted their lives to bringing up their children. To do so would be absurd.
Besides being an obvious reproductive necessity, procreation can be an excellent economic incentive. It helps to evenly proportion the elderly population with the young, a demographic pattern that can strengthen pension plans and boost the size of a country’s workforce.
So, I admire and applaud those who choose not only to sacrifice so much on behalf of their kin, but also to bolster the economy
while doing so.
But I have decided not to sacrifice. Be it selfish or not, the decision is mine to make. My decision, and not that of my greedy-for-grandchildren parents. My decision, and not that of my disbelieving friends. My decision, and not that of society.
Sorry Mom and Dad. Sorry baby shower denizens. And sorry society. But I have loftier goals than reproduction in mind.
So what does that make me? A freak? A cat lady? A lesbian? Hardly. Instead, that makes me a woman whose long-term life plans require freedom from family responsibility.
Well, at least for now anyway.
Venuri Siriwardane can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.