We hear lot of talk these days about anti-natalism: the ethical view that procreation is morally wrong. Young women and men are choosing not to have kids and, in extreme instances, choosing sterilization in their late teens. “I got my uterus thrown out voluntarily at 19!” a young woman boasts on an internet forum devoted to this topic. Climate anxiety often tops the list of reasons cited by contributors. Call them the “baby doomers.”
When I went down the rabbit hole to read what these young folks are saying, they sounded exactly like me in my twenties. My climate anxiety peaked in the early 2000s (thanks, Al Gore). The inconvenient truth is that I loudly told anyone who would listen that I was never having children. My boomer aunts and uncles rolled their eyes and told me they’d thought the same in the Sixties when it felt like the world was ending — and then they grew up, had families and carried on like every generation before them.
But in other ways I don’t recognize the modern ideology at all. Words like “bioessentialism,” “TERFery 2.0” and “reproductive justice” appear in laments about the struggle to find a doctor who would perform a hysterectomy. I never had such fancy language to describe my desire to live a childfree life. It might have helped when every single adult was telling me, “You’ll change your mind.”
I didn’t budge. When I married my first husband in my early twenties, I had no intention of having children. My excuses were the same as what I’m hearing today. Our institutions have failed. The planet can’t support this many people. Humanity is a parasite that destroys everything in its path. It’s selfish and narcissistic to have kids. Breeders are boring and basic. The economics don’t make sense. We have no path to a home and a stable career like our parents had. And on and on.
Part of being in your twenties is thinking that the world is ending. Even into my thirties, I still had no desire to have kids. In fact, I felt even more validated in my decision. The institutions really were failing. The climate really did seem to be at a tipping point. The path I’d chosen, a career in the arts, didn’t lend itself to stability. My dating life was as toxic as the environment.
Waiting tables for years was birth control. No one looks more miserable than a parent trying to wrangle children at a restaurant — apart from a parent on a plane. Watching exhausted families doing air travel was enough to make me want to get a hysterectomy. So I get where these youngsters are coming from. And if you spend all day doomscrolling online, it’s easy to get lost in hopelessness and nihilism.
The truth is, I just wanted to escape and party and have fun and be free. It was easy to cloak all that fear and selfishness in a cool political statement and project it onto the breeders. Viewing the breeders as beneath me gave me a sense of self-importance. Look at these self-centered simpletons, giving in to their most basic desire to procreate. Thank God I’ve evolved to see through the lie in this way of life.
Then I got sober. And then I met my husband at age forty. And then I had to face the piles of self-deception I’d buried myself under. Layers and layers of garbage I had told myself in order to cope with decisions I was making out of trauma and fear. I was forced to admit that though I’d never wanted a child for the sake of having a child, now that I was in love with an incredible man, I could see myself as a mother for the first time. But the doctors were telling me it was too late. My hormone levels were low. I was in early menopause. I had to face the fact that the door was closed. There were other options, but I’d never carry a child, something I didn’t even know I wanted — until it was too late.
I was lucky that the irreversible procedures now being offered weren’t options for me. It wasn’t socially acceptable back then to chop off your boobs or take hormones that would render you infertile. No doctor in the world would have encouraged making huge decisions at such a young age — and thank God. What if I had rendered myself infertile as young women do today, then outgrown my youthful dread but had to live with its repercussions? A choice I made in my twenties would leave me with a lifetime of regret. It wouldn’t have just been a bad tramp stamp. I would have deprived myself of experiencing a miracle.
I’m pregnant. And despite all the scary headlines and doom porn, seeing that new life on the ultrasound gave me hope for the future — not dread. She inspires me to build a better world. She reminds me life finds a way.
This article was originally published in The Spectator’s December 2021 World edition.