Are you childfree and want to stay that way? If so, is that a positive choice, or one made from a place of fear?
It might not be easy to say at first because our fear plays tricks on us.
I thought I wanted to be childfree
Back in the day, when I was a high-achieving career woman, I told myself I didn’t want kids, and for a while, I got away with the childfree dream. But then I fell pregnant.
It was only then that my true nature revealed itself: childfree wasn’t what I really wanted – I did want kids. But I was utterly terrified of the idea of pregnancy and birth. The full force of my fear made itself known when I learned of my miscarriage; I was relieved. This freaked me out, to say the least!
Since then, I’ve worked with many tokophobic women (tokophobia is the extreme fear of pregnancy and birth) and one thing keeps cropping up. They too thought they wanted to be childfree. They too thought that life was all about the career and work. They too were utterly terrified of birth and pregnancy.
But once they overcame their tokophobia we had this in common; we did want kids after all; it was our fear playing tricks on us.
Fear does that.
How your fears play tricks on you
Let’s say that you’re tokophobic* and you want to be childfree. Or that you’re scared of flying and think that foreign holidays isn’t something you’re interested in anyway. Or you have a fear of snow but think that ski-ing or snowboarding is definitely not something you’d want to try.
Have you considered the possibility that your fears are playing tricks on you? Your fears are likely to be making you think that you want or don’t want stuff. And these might be very different to what you want deep down.
This is conflict and it affects all of us.
The thing is we don’t always see it.
At the moment, your fear is changing how you think. It may well be that in order to make your fear acceptable to you, your subconscious has helped you to create a ton of “rational” explanations as to why it’s a good thing that you have this fear.
A lot of people do this because it helps them to cope with the fear, so this isn’t a bad thing, but it’s worth knowing about it.
For example, many tokophobic women feel very strongly that their fear is entirely justified and that it should not be assumed that every woman wants to become a breeding machine. But these two things are not linked. It’s like saying that those with a fear of flying are choosing not to fly because it’s bad for the environment. Not linked.
There are plenty of women out there who choose to be childfree. But they’re not doing it from a place of fear; they just don’t want kids.
A few of my friends are like this. There’s no drama or anger to go with it. They just go on to fill their lives with all the amazing things you can do WITHOUT being tied down with kids; sleep, go out, take lots of lovely holidays, spend a fortune on their wardrobe … you name it! They’re living the childfree life with gusto!
But what they’re not doing is
- struggling to be happy for female friends or family members when they announce a pregnancy
- grossing out at the sight of a pregnant woman
- freaking out at the thought of a baby growing inside a woman’s body
- dreading the thought of friends of family popping round with kids
- ranting about why women aren’t baby-making machines or that men have it so easy for not being breeding machines
These are all examples of a fearful or anxious response. Not of someone simply deciding that being childfree is the best thing for them. There is a difference. BIG difference.
When we’re overrun with fear, our thinking changes. It becomes more rigid and lacks flexibility. This reduces the choices available to us. We either don’t see them, or our fear is making us avoid some of them.
This means that we struggle to consider new perspectives, we’re not flexible enough even to entertain them, if only briefly. This lack of freedom, choice and flexibility means that our fears are sending us down this narrow, high-walled road and we’re missing out on a ton of possibilities either side.
We get stuck in our thinking and can’t think in any other way.
Childfree: positive choice or fear-based choice?
If you decide to get support for your fears and overcome them, it doesn’t automatically mean that you’ll give up on the childfree dream and now want kids.
But you might.
Especially if your thinking before was being tainted by your fears. I know mine was.
I can’t speak for everyone but I’m perfectly aware as to how our fearful thinking makes us think we want different things.
When I was pregnant, in my first trimester I decided that I wanted a c-section.
But that wasn’t really a choice; it was my only perceived option if I wanted to keep the baby; abortion was definitely not an option for me on moral grounds. But for some women it is; their fear is so strong that for them this is the only option.
We’re not making a positive choice if we find ourselves going with the only option left on the shelf because our fear has drawn a line through the other ones.
This makes us feel trapped or controlled, so to help us feel like we’re exercising free will, we start to find reasons that persuade us that the choice we’ve decided to accept, is actually OK and that it’s perfectly acceptable for us to settle for this choice. In fact, when we think hard about it, we’re able to find lots more reasons why our choice is a good thing. So, in any case, we would have made this choice anyway.
Well, I hate to break it to you. But we can do this for EVERYTHING. Including the really crap stuff in life. I’ve done it myself.
When I lost my mother to cancer suddenly at the age of 30, I had to find reasons why this was a good thing, because otherwise, my life would have been unbearable.
Here are my reasons why losing your mother to cancer suddenly at the age of 30 is a GOOD thing;
- I didn’t have to see her die slowly to cancer and see her in pain
- I didn’t have to see her grow old and suffer from something like Dementia or Alzheimers for years
- I didn’t have to pay for a nursing home
- I got my inheritance early in my life so I could actually use it
- I haven’t got a negative nagging voice that constantly interferes with the things I want to do. (My mother wasn’t like this, but I hear that many mothers are.)
- If my mum didn’t die, I’d still be doing some shitty job that I hated that had no meaning. Instead, I’m doing work that changes lives and makes a difference.
- If my mum didn’t die I’d still be the fearful person full of anxiety and emotional crap that I was back then (and still in a well, paid but shitty job). Instead, I’ve faced up to my demons and learned a boatload about myself in the process. And I’m much happier for it!
When you read some of these, they’re pretty crappy and low, but they helped me to cope.
The truth is losing my mother was the most painful experience of my life and it hit me really hard. I’d love to have my mum around more than anything, especially now that I’m a mother. But to help me cope with what happened to me, I sought out reasons to help make my experience more palatable.
A lot of people do this and it’s OK. But just know that you’re doing it and don’t kid yourself that it’s anything but.
I imagine some childfree women who have tokophobia might read this and be thinking “who does she think she is?!”.
If that’s you, then it means that I’ve probably hit a nerve and it might well be true. Deep down you know that you’ve come up with a crapload of reasons to help you cope with your fear. And I’m saying this: why bother doing that anymore?
Why not just let go of those fears and move on? Life’s too short to be clinging on to fears that make you feel crap and that twist your thinking.
You can still be the childfree woman who doesn’t want kids, but without all the fear, anger and anxiety.
A happier version of yourself. Being child-free can be amazing, but it probably isn’t if you’re full of anxiety or fear whenever pregnancy, birth or kids are mentioned.
But there’s another possibility; perhaps you might change your mind and decide that you DO want kids. If that’s the case, wouldn’t it be good to figure that out sooner rather than later? Either way, you’re better off.
Of course, there is a third possibility. A more complex possibility; you overcome your fears and come to the realisation that, yes, you might quite like kids.
But then you think about the choices you’ve made in the past based on your fear – perhaps you split up from your darling husband or you had an abortion – and you’re not sure you could cope with living with that decision.
Right now you can rationalise that those decisions made sense, but you’re just not sure how you would feel about them if you let go of your fear. And it’s that that scares you, perhaps more than your fear of pregnancy and birth.
The fact remains, you’re living with any decisions you’ve made like that already. What might change is that you’re much less likely to make any more decisions like that in the future. We can’t change the past, but we can change the future, and why wait to do that?
If you think you might be tokophobic and have fears around birth or pregnancy that you would like to overcome, I can help you. I work one-to-one with women and I have online fear-clearance programs that you can follow to clear your fears yourself. Find out more information here.
Alexia supports families planning pregnancy and birth. She helps them to overcome their fears and feel calm and confident about birth and pregnancy.
Alexia also trains birth professionals in the Fearless Birthing, a unique approach to birth preparation that is ideal for those who have fears around birth.