I’ve been pretty AWOL from the blog lately…I’ve had some personal stuff going on, and if you follow me on Instagram then you’ll know that I lost one of my kitties rather suddenly this week. I’ll be posting more about that later, but in the meantime, I wanted to get my weekly #30before30 post up, since I’ve been struggling with the series all month. (Indeed, with most of the January posts I’d intended to publish!)
I really wasn’t sure how to title this week’s post. It’s a subject that I think all women find touchy, no matter their age or their personal choice. I’m talking about the delicate choice of whether or not to have kids; if so, when and how; and the myriad other decisions that come with it.
Personally, I am happily childfree, proud mama to one dog and several cats; and I’ve been relieved to see a shift in the media in recent years of women opening up about being childfree by choice. It’s no longer such a “weird” thing, though in many eyes, it’s still “selfish”. I’ve gotten my share of grief over the years for being childfree and am 100% at peace with where I stand, and this post is not intended to dwell heavily on that choice (though I do want to explore it more in the future).
Instead, I wanted to write a little about the difference between what I know now at (almost) age 30, and what I knew at age 20. See, even though I’ve pretty well always knew kids were not the right choice for me, there are a lot of things I didn’t know or just didn’t consider when I was younger that have affected how my life has turned out, ten years later. So whether you’re also twenty and feel you don’t want kids, or feel you do, or really aren’t sure, here are some of the things my older, wiser self wants you to consider.
If you don’t want kids, know that all birth control is not created equal.
18-year-old me, determined to avoid kids and dealing with horrendous cycles, thought popping a pill was an easy out. It’s not. Ten years ago there wasn’t nearly as much research into things like endometriosis and the like; we were still figuring out how birth control and women’s health intersected. Turns out, different types address different health concerns, and they affect your fertility in different ways.
I ended up with Depo-Provera shots because pills weren’t enough to control my extreme cramping, bleeding, and other monthly cycles issues. While that worked okay for several years, I dealt with some side effects (like weight gain) that I hadn’t anticipated, since I hadn’t experienced them on the pill. A few years down the road, my doctor advised me that because my body had reacted to the Depo by ceasing a monthly cycle altogether, I might want to think about ceasing the quarterly shots. Her concern was that it could take a year or so for my body to reset, and as a mid-twenty-something, I needed to start thinking a few years into the future, in case I changed my mind and wanted to have kids before I turned thirty.
Of course, at the time, I waved it away as a nonissue—I knew I didn’t want kids, final answer. But in my late twenties, for multiple reasons, I changed from Depo to an IUD, which brought its own set of new issues. I wasn’t prepared for how painful it actually was to get the IUD, or how it basically sidelined me for several days afterward. I was also surprised that my body didn’t return to “normal”. More than two years later, I still don’t have a normal monthly cycle.
Since, again, I’m happily childfree, this shouldn’t bother me. But it does. I don’t know if my body has just reacted to the IUD by continuing to avoid a regular cycle, and to be honest, not having to worry about toting tampons in my purse is nice. But what if that’s not it, and I seriously screwed up my hormones from all those years of Depo? What if I turned thirty and changed my mind about having kids? Would that be an option for me if I went off birth control altogether?
Here’s the thing: even if you’re pretty sure you don’t want kids, or if you’re on the fence, or if you’re taking birth control for other health issues you need to do some serious research into the different methods available and how they’re going to affect you in the long run. I’m happy now with my IUD and I continue to be happy with not having to worry about a surprise child. But I do wish younger me had looked at all of her options more seriously.
If you’re on the fence, you need to stop assuming you’ll have time to think about it “later”.
There are two reasons for this. First, if you think you might want to have kids someday, you need to consider how the choices you’re making now may impact your ability to start a family later. Health concerns like PCOS are serious and if left unaddressed, they may impact your ability to have kids later in life. There’s also the financial aspect: if you want to be a stay-at-home mom, adopt, etc., the sooner you start making a financial plan to accommodate that choice, the better.
Second, if you’re leaning more toward the “nope” camp, then don’t get careless. A family is not something to start by accident. Understand the effectiveness of your chosen birth control method and what affects it (such as antibiotics). Make sure you have a back-up plan in those situations. I have too many friends who ended up pregnant without trying because they were on the fence, and even if they love their kids, they would admit the bad timing has complicated life. Especially if you have a list of things you’d like to do in your twenties, like travel, you need to have a firm plan in place to cover you until “maybe” swings definitely in the “yes” direction.
If you know you want to have kids—now or later—you need to start planning for it.
As I mentioned above, issues like fertility and finance can impact your ability to have kids when you’re ready. So if you know you want kids, either soon or a decade down the road, you need to takes steps to make sure you can do so. I know when you’re twenty or twenty-five it doesn’t seem like there’s any rush or concern. But as I figured out, the choices you’re making at twenty-five can and will impact you at thirty. Plan wisely.
It’s also worth considering how the rest of your life will look once you have kids. How will it impact your education or career goals? What happens if you have to stay home for a while? If you’re partnered up, you need to be on the same page when it comes to things like how you’ll split childcare duties or what values you want to instill in your kids. (For example, if you don’t share a religion, how will that impact teaching your children?) What in your life will need to change, and what needs to stay the same?