Our best friends in Durham welcomed their new baby girl a few weeks ago, and I could not get to the hospital fast enough to visit them. Sure, I was pumped to finally bestow the onesie we had picked out months earlier, a gray tee emblazoned with Patrick Swayze’s head and the line from Dirty Dancing, “Nobody puts baby in a corner.” But there was a deeper ache that came after all the joy that I couldn’t decipher.
Talking Taboo: American Christian Women Get Frank About Faith officially launches today. It’s been two months since we went to press, four months since our Indiegogo campaign, six months since we got endorsers, ten months since we decided on the cover, one year since Enuma and I finished editing the manuscript, and almost a year a half since the project was conceived by the women behind I Speak For Myself, Inc. And during that time, on and off at odd moments of the day, the concluding line of my essay in the anthology has circled round my mind: “The survival of the human race depends on sacrifices of many sorts, made for the good of all and the love of God.”
My husband and I are married without children, have been for over seven years now. If you were to believe the media’s coverage of other couples who are “childless by choice,” you would think we were independent, career-oriented, trendy, travelling-fools who would rather spend an evening out on the town than home on the range. You might also think we were selfish.
So reads the headline of a Daily Beast article that ran early this year: “Many of those opting for childlessness have legitimate, if perhaps selfish, reasons for their decision.” The writer interviewed young twenty and thirty somethings in the New York area who cited fears that having kids would take over their entire lives, hamper their mobility, and be a drain on their finances. In another article that ran locally in Durham Magazine this year, not having children, said one woman, freed hers up to do whatever she wanted with her time such as getting biweekly manicures and practicing yoga. “I need a lot of time to take care of myself,” she reasoned.
With the birthrate stagnate or declining in many developed countries, Rush’s and my decision to remain without kids of our own is increasingly not so taboo. What remains taboo in Christian culture is calling our decision a sacrifice instead of one of convenience. (In all likelihood it is both, but I presume the same is true of having biological kids.) After all, my pastor once said that couples who use birth control essentially treat children as hobbies to be picked up or discarded at leisure.
“Are we sure we don’t want to go through all that?” I asked Rush in bed the night we visited our friends in the hospital. “Sure, sure, that we don’t want biological kids? I just felt this impossible loss today that that would never be us.”
Truth be told, I also felt the impossible anxiety that runs rampant in people my age: FOMO or “fear of missing out.”
There is nothing we could do that would get 250 likes on Facebook short of giving birth to our own child.
Nothing we could do that would bring friends out of the woodwork to rally around us or family into town to celebrate for weeks at a time.
Nothing we could do to make church ladies so very happy and young children so very awestruck.
I don’t mean to be petty, just honest, that for most people publishing a book or travelling to a Russian orphanage will never be as highly anticipated, praised, and supported as biological parenthood.
Yes, by choosing not to have children of our own flesh and blood, Rush and I will miss out on some of the most important rituals of human life. But I dare still call our choice a sacrifice. What the media has missed in all their coverage of the “childless epidemic” is that, for some of us, choosing not to have children of our own doesn’t mean we’re choosing to eschew community. We are sacrificing the (still) cultural norm of the nuclear family to make ourselves available.
To those new friends who had a baby.
To faith communities that need our time.
And to the Holy Spirit who dwells in the portable tent of our lives.
(You can read my full essay, “Married Without Children,” in Talking Taboo, available now through Amazon, White Cloud Press, or your local bookstore such as Flyleaf Books or The Regulator Bookshop where we’ll be reading this week.)