A Different Sort of Family

Last updated: November 2014

I always thought I would have a family. As a kid we would talk about “when I have kids.” A boy, a girl—little people that would be a little like me and a little like my future spouse. I didn’t really contemplate a future without children until it came the day when I decided not to be a parent.

When my husband and I began dating and talking about a future together, children were a part of the discussion. We envisioned a future together, including a family, but also with many variations. The constant was that the two of us would create a shared life.

A couple years into our marriage I started to question whether children were in the cards. Richard and I were happy—we made a home with a beautiful calico cat, traveled, and enjoyed time with family and friends. We had a good life and I could see two different paths for us: with children or without.

We talked about these diverging paths. I had so many conflicting emotions. First, because I had always imagined having children and a family to raise. Second, because I knew Richard would be a warm and loving father. His children would be adorable. Not only was I worried about bursting my dream, I didn’t want to deprive Richard of his hope for children.

However, my health would always be an issue. Now in my late 30s, I’ve had severe rheumatoid arthritis since age two. Not only do I live with a lot of joint damage and physical disability, I constantly manage related conditions and illnesses. Just when one problem seems to be resolved, something else may appear.

I worried that my RA would continue to worsen and that I wouldn’t be able to take on my share of parenting. Even worse, Richard would be raising our children while also taking on increasingly more duties for my caregiving.

Pregnancy was part of the concern. One doctor we spoke to didn’t think I would have a problem being pregnant, but we would have to change my medications. I did some research and had my doubts. I wasn’t sure my joints would be able to tolerate the pressures of carrying a baby. However, adoption could be a potential alternative to pregnancy.

There wasn’t any easy way to reconcile these problems. No solutions that could be created or bought. We talked about what both paths may be like. In either case I would continue to have RA and it would continue to worsen as I age, with all the lovely complications that I’ve enjoyed. Children would bring joys and challenges. A life without children would bring other pleasures.

In the end we decided to plan a life without children. We enjoy being aunt and uncle to children of family and friends. We have a good life filled with loved ones. We parent a cat and she rules with an iron (fur-covered) paw.

It was not an easy choice, but it is the right one for us. Not long after I had a serious health crisis, requiring several surgeries and a long recovery. Richard took on more caregiving. To me it felt like our decision was affirmed.

Richard believes in a quantum physics view of life—that if you change one thing, everything would change. Since he is happy with our lives, he wouldn’t go back and change anything. If one thing changed, how would we have found each other, overcome challenges together, and built a happy life? While I once envisioned a different life, I’m happy with the one I’ve got.

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