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Not All Women Are Maternal: “People Laughed Telling Me I’d Change My Mind. But I Never Did”

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By Anonymous

Note: Originally published on Empathize This and republished here with their permission.

14_Non-Maternal_Final empathize this

I knew when I was ten, playing with my Barbie Dolls, that I did not want children. When other girls would play house and talk about what they would name their children, I already knew that would not be a question I would ever have to answer. Of course people would laugh and shake their heads, telling me I would change my mind “when I was older.” But I never did.

When I began having sex I was very careful to not become pregnant. I took birth control pills without fail; however, after eight years of faithfully being on birth control, I nonetheless became pregnant with my daughter. So despite my lack of interest in children, I became a mother. But I never bonded with her or really even cared about her the way a fierce mother is supposed to care for her children. Despite all the advice I had been told over the years, I never became a particularly maternal person. I didn’t (and still don’t) go gaga over babies, or think about children; I just don’t want them, period.

When my daughter was two years and two months old, her father decided to leave me and return to his home and parents. We both decided she would go with him. We also knew that I would most likely never again be involved with her care. That was, indeed, the case. I saw her four more times before she died at age 28.

I still feel the judgment and condemnation of others. I still live with that pain on a daily basis and have no one to talk to about it. Often the comments are sanctimonious in nature. “I would never do anything like that, no matter what the circumstances.” Or, “What kind of woman would not want children?” Or (my favorite,) “Children are a gift from God…” The fervently religious folk get really nasty up to and including comments about my spiritual nature, and that there must be a ‘special place in hell…’ Almost always these comments are from other women.

Then there are the assumptions that a woman who does not want children must be extremely selfish, self-centered, or just plain narcissistic. Speaking only for myself, I was a paramedic for 15 years in which time people puked, pooped, or peed on or near me. I lovingly cleaned them up first and then whatever other mess there was. I am pragmatic but not selfish. Some of us are also afraid we would only perpetuate the abuse and neglect since that is what we have known (This is an entirely different story for another day).

Women are expected to naturally be good mothers, no matter who we are, but that can be a damaging stereotype. People that are ‘not cutout for parenthood,’ may simply be too busy, have an illness, or not want to bring children into our troubled world. And then there are those of us who are just not maternal. That would be me. Never have been, never will. I wish that motherhood wasn’t expected of all of us.

You must be to comment.
  1. The Game

    You didn’t want children – your choice. But after becoming pregnant and having a child and then neglecting her – that is highly repulsive, selfish, and inhuman.

  2. Abhi

    Then why in the first place you had a child. It’s both father’s and mother’s responsibility and not just of one person. Any one of them neglecting their duty are selfish.

  3. I get it

    This is how I felt with my first child. I wasn’t ready, and was also using birth control. She and I did not bond normally either. When I got pregnant with her (and I was married) I had not yet even contemplated having kids, and we didn’t have the means to support one, so it was hard. The marriage ended when she was 2, but I did have enough attachment at that point to want custody. Still our relationship was so difficult her entire childhood.

    I also understand that for some people, it’s not possible to give what you never received growing up. I’ve struggled with this too, to a lesser degree.

  4. Monistaf

    It is your body and your right whether to have a child or not. When you got pregnant against your wishes, you had a choice to abort. It is legal in India. Why then, did you not exercise your right to terminate the pregnancy? If you carried it to term, then you have to bear the responsibility of raising that child. I respect your right to be different and not to foster any maternal instincts, but once you become a mother, you have to accept the role and all that comes with it. After all, fathers who lose custody are held responsible for paying child support. Regardless of your willingness to father a child, if you do, you are forced to step up and provide for that child. Why should it be different for mothers?

  5. nechama

    I think you are brave as hell for sharing this story. You did what you knew was best for your daughter, who was raised by a loving parent. I’m so sorry that people are so terrible and judgmental. It’s also so patriarchal to assume that because you chose not to be a mother, you are a bad woman, selfish etc-all shit we never say about men who choose not to be fathers. I think we all have different things to contribute to the world, and for some of us, mothering is not one of those things. Based on just the little glimpse of you we see in the story, and your bravery in sharing, I am 10000% convinced that you are contributing to the world in very important ways.

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An ambassador and trained facilitator under Eco Femme (a social enterprise working towards menstrual health in south India), Sanjina is also an active member of the MHM Collective- India and Menstrual Health Alliance- India. She has conducted Menstrual Health sessions in multiple government schools adopted by Rotary District 3240 as part of their WinS project in rural Bengal. She has also delivered training of trainers on SRHR, gender, sexuality and Menstruation for Tomorrow’s Foundation, Vikramshila Education Resource Society, Nirdhan trust and Micro Finance, Tollygunj Women In Need, Paint It Red in Kolkata.

Now as an MH Fellow with YKA, she’s expanding her impressive scope of work further by launching a campaign to facilitate the process of ensuring better menstrual health and SRH services for women residing in correctional homes in West Bengal. The campaign will entail an independent study to take stalk of the present conditions of MHM in correctional homes across the state and use its findings to build public support and political will to take the necessary action.

Saurabh has been associated with YKA as a user and has consistently been writing on the issue MHM and its intersectionality with other issues in the society. Now as an MHM Fellow with YKA, he’s launched the Right to Period campaign, which aims to ensure proper execution of MHM guidelines in Delhi’s schools.

The long-term aim of the campaign is to develop an open culture where menstruation is not treated as a taboo. The campaign also seeks to hold the schools accountable for their responsibilities as an important component in the implementation of MHM policies by making adequate sanitation infrastructure and knowledge of MHM available in school premises.

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Harshita is a psychologist and works to support people with mental health issues, particularly adolescents who are survivors of violence. Associated with the Azadi Foundation in UP, Harshita became an MHM Fellow with YKA, with the aim of promoting better menstrual health.

Her campaign #MeriMarzi aims to promote menstrual health and wellness, hygiene and facilities for female sex workers in UP. She says, “Knowledge about natural body processes is a very basic human right. And for individuals whose occupation is providing sexual services, it becomes even more important.”

Meri Marzi aims to ensure sensitised, non-discriminatory health workers for the needs of female sex workers in the Suraksha Clinics under the UPSACS (Uttar Pradesh State AIDS Control Society) program by creating more dialogues and garnering public support for the cause of sex workers’ menstrual rights. The campaign will also ensure interventions with sex workers to clear misconceptions around overall hygiene management to ensure that results flow both ways.

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MH Fellow Sabna comes with significant experience working with a range of development issues. A co-founder of Project Sakhi Saheli, which aims to combat period poverty and break menstrual taboos, Sabna has, in the past, worked on the issue of menstruation in urban slums of Delhi with women and adolescent girls. She and her team also released MenstraBook, with menstrastories and organised Menstra Tlk in the Delhi School of Social Work to create more conversations on menstruation.

With YKA MHM Fellow Vineet, Sabna launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society. As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

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A student from Delhi School of Social work, Vineet is a part of Project Sakhi Saheli, an initiative by the students of Delhi school of Social Work to create awareness on Menstrual Health and combat Period Poverty. Along with MHM Action Fellow Sabna, Vineet launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society.

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As a Youth Ki Awaaz Menstrual Health Fellow, Nitisha has started Let’s Talk Period, a campaign to mobilise young people to switch to sustainable period products. She says, “80 lakh women in Delhi use non-biodegradable sanitary products, generate 3000 tonnes of menstrual waste, that takes 500-800 years to decompose; which in turn contributes to the health issues of all menstruators, increased burden of waste management on the city and harmful living environment for all citizens.

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Find out more about her campaign here.

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A former Assistant Secretary with the Ministry of Women and Child Development in West Bengal for three months, Lakshmi Bhavya has been championing the cause of menstrual hygiene in her district. By associating herself with the Lalana Campaign, a holistic menstrual hygiene awareness campaign which is conducted by the Anahat NGO, Lakshmi has been slowly breaking taboos when it comes to periods and menstrual hygiene.

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