One out of six couples receives a diagnosis of infertility. According to Patricia Johnston, author of Adopting After Infertility, a major grief issue for women upon realizing that conception will be impossible, is coping with their inability to experience pregnancy and birth. In addition, prospective parents usually need to grieve before moving on to alternate parenting choices, such as whether to adopt. For some, the loss of “genetic continuity that links past and future,” the inability to “create” a biological child that connects them to their ancestors and continue their bloodline, is difficult to accept.
One need only go to the many moms-in-waiting blogs to find stories of women who have negative (sometimes horrible) experiences being pregnant and giving birth. Still, these conflicting aspects of becoming parents seem to be ultra-important to a majority of females.
Even so, a Pew research study indicates that since 2008, the times have been “a-changin.” According to the Pew study, one in five American women ends her childbearing years without the benefit of child, compared with one in ten in the 1970’s. Among women ages 40-44, equal numbers are childfree by choice, or wanted children but were unable to have them. Many who do not give birth raise kids as adoptive mothers. In 2008 that number was 1.6 million.
Who are these women who don’t want to be pregnant, don’t put any weight on raising a biological child, but desire to nurture and raise children who need a home? One woman in particular is Shonda Rhimes, the creator and executive producer of two hit TV shows, Grey’s Anatomy and Private Practice. In an interview on the Women in the World website, Rhimes explains, “I’ve never been in a delivery room. I’ve never pushed. My water has never broken—hell, I’ve never had any water to break. My friends talk about the horrors of pregnancy—hemorrhoids and episiotomies and that awful moment when, in the midst of pushing, they poop on the table. They tell me about their special organic pregnancy diets and how they avoid coffee and alcohol and people who smoke as they grow life inside them. I listen to them, intrigued in a detached way. I’m happy for them, but I feel no pangs of ‘I wish that were me.’ I feel no jealousy.”
Rhimes explains that she never wanted to be pregnant, never suffered through the infertility that devastates some of her friends, and that since the age of nine, she has told others that when she does have kids, she will adopt.
Happy with her decision, Rhimes lives in Los Angeles with her two adopted daughters.
On a personal note, we recently met a new member of our hiking group. Upon learning of our book, Enough of Us, she shared that she wanted to foster and then adopt a child, and that she was in the process of taking the necessary courses. (You can find a brief introduction to that process here.) She says she doesn’t care about being pregnant or giving birth. For her, having a biological child simply isn’t important. She is clear that what is important is sharing the advantages of her own life with a child who needs a good home to make it in this world.
Women like these two (and probably a good many men) have thought twice before producing a gaggle of genetic likenesses. We applaud them. They save children and help our planet tolerate the weight of seven billion human beings. That’s enough of us for one earth, wouldn’t you say?
In this day and time, women can choose to be childfree, and still contribute to the world in a big way. As Kelli Goff points out in The Huffington Post, the Great Myth (our name for it) is still perpetuated—that every smart, successful, and financially solvent woman should have (and want to have) children. Tell that to Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor, or Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano, to name just two. Maybe they’ve thought twice about having children, and realize that there are already Enough of Us.