Below is a reprint from an article by Leah Torres, M.D. from her column in Self Magazine: The Gynecolumnist: I’m an Ob/Gyn and I Never, Ever Want to Be Pregnant.
If you don’t believe real women and their experiences, you might take an Ob/Gyn’s perspective more seriously.
I could not have said it better. I have been struggling to find words to explain how I feel about pregnancy and motherhood for years. There are a lot of women out there who made the same choice I did, and said a flatout No to the idea. It is very difficult to go against the grain of society, to disappoint your parents, to walk away from lovers, to take the verbal and emotional judgement from pretty much anoyone who thinks a baby is more important than you. I always commend women for making the right choice for them, the choice that is in their own self-interest, rather than succumb to social pressure.
One of the things I find very wrong is the fact that women are raised on this bullshit idea that motherhood is expected of every woman, that pregnancy is always a joyful experience, that health risks we take are nothing compared to the reward, and that motherhood is nothing but pure bliss. This has got to stop. Pretty much every woman I know who drank this Kool-Aid was sorely disappointed and in shock when reality of pregancy and motherhood slapped her in the face. Of course a lot of women love the experience, but the ones who adjust to it very well, have a very realistic view of the entire scenario. They are well informed about the entire process, and are not blindly chasing pregnancy and motherhood, instead they weigh all aspects of the experience.
One of the most shocking and painful perspectives came from a close friend. She was very excited to be a mom, and was probably the best prepared woman for the experience I know. There were serious complications during the delivery, and she almost died. When it was all over, and she made a full recovery, ther shock wasn’t from the pain of the delivery, it was from how insignificantly her experience was perceived by the doctors, the nurses, her family and her own husband. She survived, so it was all over for them. They quickly focused onto the newborn, and barely acknowledged her terror. It was as if the end justified the means, and while she was given proper medical care to recover, she received very little emotional support. The baby, the new life, the event, were the ultimate joy for the entire family, but her near death, was absolutely nothing.
Being a very opinionated and vocal person, she tried bringing up the subject multiple times with family and later with a therapist. No one understood. Post-partum depression is normal, and everyone insisted on treating it as such. But, what if its not? What if a woman isn’t depressed, what if she is genuinely angry?
Having listened to her story, and watched her recover from this, I was genuinely angry too. Her feeling was that she was treated by the system, and by her own family as some vessel, a baby factory, and her terror was quickly dismissed. She, the person who actually delivered, was written off.
Personally, I don’t think she was depressed, and neither did she. She quickly recovered and adjusted to her new role as a mother. But the anger persisted. And when the anger is justified, how responsible is it to treat it with a pill? How responsible is it to dismiss almost losing one’s life only to glorify birth and motherhood? I have never seen another human feel so devalued as my friend as she was recovering from this experience.
I wish more women had realistic information about the subject. It is rarely talked about, because when we speak openly, we are often guilted, shamed, dismissed, and treated as inhuman for not wanting something that is believed to be the defining moment for a woman. To me, pregnancy and birth are a biological function. I will never define myself by an experience my body can do. And the fact that women are born with the ability to bear a child, does not mean we were necessarily meant to experience it. I will never seek validation from a biological function. I am so much more as a human, and my life was meant for so much more. I am not juding women who do experience pregnancy and motherhood, but I am asking women to share their true feelings and experiences, to help others make better choices.
One of the things I am most proud of in my life was my strength to say no to this. Somehow I knew at age 4, that motherhood is wrong for me. I stubbornly fought it through my adulthood, and my choice has served me well in life. For every woman who said yes, and enjoyed her experience, there are many who said yes reluctantly only to face the personal repercussions of doing something her inner being is telling her isn’t for her. I can’t tell you how much anger and disappointment I had to accept from my own parents who felt entitled to grandchildren, and took my choice as an insult and a lack of respect for them. I accepted the ugly rhetoric from countless men who accused me of not being a real woman, a demon, selfish, a bitch from hell, you name it, I heard it. I lost so many men, broke off so many relationships to make a choice that was right for me.
Do I regret it? No. I will never regret chosing Me. And anyone who thinks I should apologize for my choice has no place in my life. Did I pay a price? No. All the people I lost were worth the loss. They were never greater than me, never more important, and never more valuabe than my self respect. In fact, my choice paid off with a big reward. Having endured the criticism and the breakups, I now stand tall, self-assured, extremely confident about who I am. Dating, sex, and other more ultimate life experiences are mine, and I experience them with a greater sense of freedom because I have no baggage. Should I regret that? Never.
I am often accused of hating children, but that could not be further from the truth. In fact, I absolutely adore them, and children adore me. I love having a beautiful nephew in my life, watching him grow from a tiny little being into a thinking, perceiving human. Being an aunt has been one of the most amazing experiences in my life. But I don’t regret not having my own.
What I do regret is not sharing my story more often. I see so many women suffer, compromise their true selves to fulfill expectations, secure failing marriages, please men. Other do it believing they will find a purpose in life, a reason to be. If you are not your own purpose, you will never be.
I wish more women and more healthcare professionals told the true story. I wish we were more aware of the reality and costs of motherhood. I wish we were better prepared, and I wish we were stronger to stand up to pressure bombarding all of us. A good mother is one who is prepared, who undertands the risks, the physical and emotional toll, who has help and support. It is never the woman who falls into it blindly.