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Opinion | Believe victims even if you don’t like them
Opinion | Believe victims even if you don’t like them
By Delaney Rauscher Adams, Staff Columnist • July 12, 2024
Opinion | Women pop stars and the pressure to evolve
By Livia LaMarca, Assistant Opinions Editor • July 10, 2024

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Opinion | Believe victims even if you don’t like them
Opinion | Believe victims even if you don’t like them
By Delaney Rauscher Adams, Staff Columnist • July 12, 2024
Opinion | Women pop stars and the pressure to evolve
By Livia LaMarca, Assistant Opinions Editor • July 10, 2024

Opinion | Stop asking women if they want children

Opinion+%7C+Stop+asking+women+if+they+want+children
Carrington Bryan | Visual Editor

Asking a woman you are not close to if they want to have kids or when they want to have kids is a deeply personal question. I’m sure many women, including myself, have gotten used to being asked uncomfortable and personal questions. This one in particular has always bothered me because I don’t give the response people want, and an explanation is almost always expected when I answer, even though the decision is personal. 

I have never had the desire to have kids. I don’t get “baby fever” or have a “motherly instinct.” Does this mean I hate kids? No, but I have never wanted to have my own, and when I tell people that, I often receive the following responses — “You’ll change your mind,” “That’s what we all say,” “So what are you going to do then?,” “Do you want to get married?” or “Why?” 

First of all, if a woman changes her mind about having kids, that is her choice. No one needs to tell her she definitely will one day. There is no guarantee that I will always not want to have kids. It is very possible that I and other women may change our minds. However, that is for us to decide and not for someone to tell us.  

There is also more to a woman’s life than having kids. Instead of having kids, she can travel, focus on work or simply live life as she normally does. Life doesn’t stop for a woman if kids aren’t involved. Furthermore, getting married doesn’t equate to starting a family. It is not the ‘60s anymore where marriage and kids are two things necessary to happen one after the other. A couple can be happily married without kids in the equation. 

Finally, the “Why?” There are a multitude of reasons why I and other women do not want kids or are reluctant to have them. Some are personal and require no explanation on the woman’s part. However, I will divulge a fraction of these reasons in an effort to hopefully prevent the need for an individual to explain a personal decision to someone not close enough to warrant a detailed explanation. 

Fertility struggles are a very prevalent issue that is oftentimes ignored. Approximately 48 million couples around the world struggle with infertility. In the United States alone, one in five women struggle with primary infertility. Some women know about their infertility early on while some find out in the process of trying to conceive, bringing a whirlwind of emotions to the topic of pregnancy. Due to these fertility struggles, a large sum of women go through treatments like IVF in an effort to conceive, which only has a 20-35% success rate on the first attempt, or grieving the possible miscarriages that could occur during the process. Miscarriages are more common than people often think. More than 30% of pregnancies end in miscarriage, and some of these pregnancies are not even known until the miscarriage occurs. 

 

This was the case for my aunt, Elizabeth Lindberg, who struggled with a miscarriage and fertility issues while trying for my cousin. Lindberg said that she always knew she wanted to be a mom.

“I knew that if I couldn’t carry my own, I would adopt or seek out a surrogate. I just knew I wanted a family,” Lindberg said.

Lindberg miscarried in 2019 and was in “complete shock.” She wasn’t even aware that she was pregnant, and to only find out once the pregnancy was declining was devastating. When she and her husband decided to start trying, she said it was a complete lifestyle change. She had to get off the narcolepsy medication she relied heavily on, underwent multiple procedures and was on new medications, one being metformin, which aids in boosting ovulation for women with PCOS. When I asked her how she felt when people would ask her when or if she was having kids, she stated it was “emotionally tolling.” 

“I would have to prepare myself before any gathering for people to ask to say ‘Time is ticking,’ like we didn’t know that and didn’t have an appointment with a fertility specialist,” Lindberg said.

The people asking her these questions weren’t aware of the sacrifices she was making to have a baby. They didn’t know she hadn’t fully grieved her unexpected miscarriage. She had to put a smile on her face when asked and say, “Soon.” I witnessed these interactions at nearly every family gathering and the discomfort and pain such questions brought her. Having to answer questions about pregnancy after going through cycles of grief is intrusive for women and couples who are trying and struggling to do so. It is a loaded question that brings many emotions. 

Furthermore, women of color, especially Black women, have to weigh the maternal mortality rate that disproportionately affects them when deciding to conceive. In 2021, the maternal mortality rate for Black women in the United States was 69.9 per 100,000 live births. This is three times the rate for white women. These disparities are a reflection of social and economic inequities rooted in the racial discrimination that permeates our healthcare system. There is implicit bias from healthcare workers that causes Black patients to be ignored in the hospital. Furthermore, 65% of Black birthing people in the United States rely on Medicaid, a joint state and federal healthcare program for low-income individuals with harmful policies when it comes to postpartum health, such as returning to work too soon. 

There have been numerous accounts of Black women not feeling heard or seen in the delivery room, or even prior, their pleas being shrugged off or generalized and their lives being threatened. Angelica Lyons, a public health instructor based in Birmingham, Alabama, shared her story of almost losing her life during pregnancy with the Associated Press. In the report, she detailed not being taken care of until her heart rate dropped and the pain was too much to handle. 

This factor in a woman’s decision on whether or not to have kids is crucial and is a huge part of my own thought process. While I am only 19, I still have to consider this statistic. Other Black women and I have to make hard decisions concerning whether having a child is worth the possibility of fatality and being neglected by healthcare workers, all due to persistent structural racism. It is not just that I don’t want kids — I recognize that desire could change as I get older — but what doesn’t change are the risks rooted in systemic racism that come with any important decision I make as a woman of color. When I am posed with the question of whether or not I want kids and why or why not, which I have been asked plenty of times despite my age, the last thing I want to explain is that because I am Black, I fear being ignored when I am in pain and fear maternal death that I am statistically more at risk for than my white counterparts. 

Lastly, the decision to have children is a personal choice to be decided independently or with a partner. A woman not having a child does not always mean she can’t have a child. There are plenty of women who simply don’t want kids, and when they are posed with this question, they feel as if it is still a milestone society expects them to meet no matter what. Some women feel completely content in their decisions. But when they are confronted, unnecessary guilt sets in and they are deemed “selfish” or too career-focused. 

There is no doubt that having kids is a life-changing event. For many women, it results in a change in career path, a tough postpartum process that carries its emotional weight and a multitude of sacrifices. But just as we applaud the women who decide to go through that amazing process, we also need to applaud those who choose not to. Women without children are still achieving great things. They are still women and they still have a life to live, just one that doesn’t include children of their own. 

Women are tired of being posed uncomfortable and personal questions. We do not need a partner or a child to be complete. Leave it up to us to tell you our plans if we feel comfortable sharing. Pregnancy and the decision of whether or not to have kids is deeply personal. Let’s leave women’s bodies alone. There is both joy and pain within the realm of pregnancy and there is both joy and pain in the decision to not have kids. That is for a woman to decide and not for someone else to question or speculate. 

Grace Harris has a passion for social justice and advocacy. Her email is always open to more ideas — [email protected]

About the Contributor
Grace Harris
Grace Harris, Staff Columnist
Grace Harris is a freshman political science major from the suburbs of Chicago, IL. You will most likely find her doing copious amounts of reading in Cathy or fangirling over Taylor Swift. She has a passion for social justice and advocacy. Her email is always open to more ideas—