I don’t want children — stop telling me I’ll change my mind | Christen Reighter


I recognized the roles
that were placed on me very early. One persistent concept that I observed — existing in our language, in our media — was that women are not only
supposed to have children, they are supposed to want to. This existed everywhere. It existed in the ways
that adults spoke to me when they posed questions
in the context of “when.” “When you get married …” “When you have kids …” And these future musings
were always presented to me like part of this American dream, but it always felt to me
like someone else’s dream. You see, a value that I have
always understood about myself was that I never wanted children. And as a kid, when I would try
to explain this, this disconnect between
their roles and my values, they often laughed in the way that adults do
at the absurdities of children. And they would tell me knowingly, “You’ll change your mind.” And people have been saying
things like that to me my whole life. Otherwise polite conversation
can turn intrusive fast. “Does your husband know?” (Laughter) “Do your parents know?” (Laughter) “Don’t you want a family?” “Don’t you want to leave anything behind?” And the primary buzzword
when discussing childlessness, “That’s selfish.” There are countless reasons
a woman may have for choosing to abstain from motherhood, the majority of them
not self-prioritizing. But it is still socially acceptable
to publicly vilify women as such, because none of these reasons
have made it into the social narrative. When I was little and learning
about the inevitability of maternity, it was never explained to me the commonness of these factors
that women consider, like the risk of passing on
hereditary illness, the danger of having to stop
life-saving medication for the duration of your pregnancy, concern about overpopulation, your access to resources, and the fact that there are
415,000 children in the foster-care system
in the United States at any given time. Reasons like these, many more, and the fact that I don’t like to leave
things of this magnitude to chance, all informed my decision to become surgically sterilized. I began my research eagerly. I wanted to fully understand all that was going to come
with undergoing a tubal ligation, which is just another word
for getting your tubes tied. I wanted to know approval to aftermath, satisfaction rates, risks, statistics. And at first, I was empowered. You see, the way the narrative
has always been taught to me, I would have thought that women
who didn’t want children were so rare, and then I learned
one in five American women won’t be having a biological child — some by choice, some by chance. (Applause) But I was not alone. But the more I read,
the more disheartened I became. I read women’s stories, trying desperately to get this procedure. I learned how common it was
for women to exhaust their finances appealing to dozens of ob-gyns
over many years, only to be turned down so many times, often with such blatant disrespect
that they just gave up. Women reported that medical practitioners
were often condescending and dismissive of their motivations, being told things like, “Come back when you’re married
with a child.” But women who did have children,
who went to go get this procedure, were told they were too young, or they didn’t have enough children, which is very interesting, because the legal requirements in my state
for getting this kind of surgery were, “Be at least 21 years old,” “appear of sound mind,
acting of your own accord,” and “have a 30-day waiting period.” And I was perplexed that I could meet
all of these legal requirements and still have to face a battle
in the exam room for my bodily autonomy. And it was daunting, but I was determined. I remember I dressed so professionally
to that first appointment. (Laughter) I sat up straight. I spoke clearly. I wanted to give that doctor
every piece of evidence that I was not the date
of birth in that file. And I made sure to mention things like, “I just got my bachelor’s degree and I’m applying
to these doctoral programs, I’m going to study these things.” And “my long-term partner
has this kind of business,” and “I’ve done research
on this for months. I understand everything
about it, all the risks.” Because I needed the doctor to know
that this was not a whim, not reactionary, not your 20-something
looking to go out and party without fear of getting knocked up … (Laughter) that this supported something
integral to who I was. And I understand informed consent, so I fully expected to be reeducated
on how it all worked, but … At one point, the information being
given to me started to feel agenda’d, interlaced with bias
and inflated statistics. The questions began to feel interrogative. At first they were asking me questions that seemed to understand
my situation better, and then it seemed like they were
asking questions to try to trip me up. I felt like I was on the witness stand,
being cross-examined. The doctor asked me about my partner. “How does he or she
feel about all of this?” “Well, I’ve been with
the same man for five years, and he fully supports any decision
I make for my body.” And he said, “Well,
what happens in the future, if you change partners? What happens when that person
wants children?” And I didn’t quite know
how to react to that, because what I was hearing was this doctor tell me that I’m supposed
to disregard everything I believe if a partner demands children. So I told him not to worry about that. My stance on childbearing
has always been first date conversation. (Laughter) (Cheering) (Laughter) He then asks me to consider how “in 20 years, you could really
come to regret this” … as though I hadn’t. I told him, “OK, if I wake up one day and realize, you know, I wish I’d made a different
decision back then, the truth is, I’d only removed
a single path to parenthood. I never needed biology
to form family anyway.” (Applause) And I would much rather
deal with that any day than deal with one day waking up, realize I’d had a child that I didn’t really want
or was prepared to care for. Because one of these affects only me. The other affects a child, their development, their well-being — (Applause) and human beings
are not to be gambled with. He then tells me why no one
was going to approve this procedure, certainly not he, because of a concept
called medical paternalism, which allows him,
as my well-informed provider, to make decisions for me … based on his perception
of my best interest, regardless of what I,
as the patient, want or believe. He takes this opportunity to step out and discuss my case
with my potential surgeon, and through the door, I hear him
describe me as a little girl. I was so offended. I wanted to defend myself. I wanted to explicitly explain
to each one of these providers how they were treating me, that it was belittling and sexist, and I didn’t have to take it. But I did take it. I swallowed every sharp word in my throat, clenched my jaw, and instead answered each one of their condescending
questions and statements. I had come here looking
for objectivity and support and instead I felt dismissed and silenced, and I hated myself for it. I hated that I was letting people
disrespect me repeatedly. But this was my one shot. That was one of multiple consultations
that I had to go to. At one point, I had seen five or six
medical professionals in the same hour. The door to the exam room
felt more like the door to a clown car. There’s my primary, there’s his colleague, the director, OK. It felt like I was asking them
to infect me with smallpox instead of, I don’t know,
obtain birth control. But I didn’t waver, and I was persistent, and I eventually convinced one of them
to allow the procedure. And even as I am in the room,
signing the consent forms and getting the hormone shots
and tying up loose ends … my doctor is shaking
his head in disapproval. “You’ll change your mind.” I never really understood how strongly this society
clings to this role until I went through this. I experienced firsthand, repeatedly, how people, be it medical providers, colleagues, strangers, were literally unable
to separate me being a woman from me being a mother. And I’ve always believed
that having children was an extension of womanhood,
not the definition. I believe that a woman’s value should never be determined
by whether or not she has a child, because that strips her
of her entire identity as an adult unto herself. Women have this amazing ability
to create life, but when we say that that is her purpose, that says that her entire existence
is a means to an end. It’s so easy to forget the roles
that society places on us are so much more than mere titles. What about the weight
that comes with them, the pressure to conform
to these standards … the fear associated with questioning them, and the desires that we
cast aside to accept them? There are many paths
to happiness and fulfillment. They all look very different, but I believe that every one is paved with the right
to self-determination. I want women to know that your choice
to embrace or forego motherhood is not in any way tied
to your worthiness or identity as spouses, as adults, or as women … and there absolutely is
a choice behind maternity, and it is yours and yours alone. Thank you. (Applause)

100 thoughts on “I don’t want children — stop telling me I’ll change my mind | Christen Reighter”

  1. I had trouble getting a vasectomy, either because of the doctor's opinion or because I had no priority in that procedure in the public hospital.
    I don't want children because I just don't want to give up my life. The issue of being prepared mentally or economically is an excuse that was invented for people who tell you that you are going to change your mind or similar things.

  2. Adoption is better since there are so many baby girls being killed by their parents and replaced with robots in China and India while so many baby boys are being abandoned and being replaced with clothing store mannequins in UK and Russia

  3. All throughout college, I was living with my older brother, who has a daughter. I would watch her when I was at home and they were at work or out with friends. That's when I really knew that kids arent for me, because I love my niece and she's not any more difficult than any other kid, but I knew it was never something that I wanted full time, for me. Along with being terrified of doctors and needles and hospitals. My girlfriend doesnt want kids either, and we're both happy with our two cats and bunny as our kids. And we're happy with that.

  4. It’s hard to believe that doctors would force not to have sterilization (esp in US). I haven’t seen any doctor who says no to my choices regarding my body…
    If the person doesn’t want to have kids it’s their choice, (just as being trans or gay or lesbian) and no need to shout about it. I haven’t seen any woman shouting that they want to have kids, as it’s natural, I believe… why you’re being questioned? Because not to have kids is unnatural for humanity. So no surprise but be prepared…

  5. Thank you for sharing. We can't have children my husband and I. I feel better now. Lately my mom and sister was pressuring us for children.

  6. I don't want kids or pets or get married 😂😂 I don't want responsibility for nobody but me i don't mean to sound selfish but i rather be truthful than lie like some dudes that be acting like they want kids but just be frontin and i hope to find a female that feels the same way i feel that would be a plus.

  7. It may be a media stereotype to some, the very few women that don't truly want children. However, it's built into our psychology and our anatomy.

    Typically, women that don't want children are a very rare breed that exhibit personality traits that make them very disagreeable. Or they may have something traumatic that harmed them. People are entitled to any way of living that they want, but the real harm done is brainwashing women into having that idea that they don't want children.

    Where is it getting us in the last two generations? We have mountains of evidence that suggest that (women) in particular that avoided the role of mother for one reason or another because increasing neurotic (above normal) towards middle age and they have severe depression.

    If you are one of the rare breeds of women that would rather be a Miss and run their company until death, then by all means (go for it!).

    But my point is, you'd been be damned sure that it's the future you want. People regret the things they didn't do more than the things they did. If you're the CEO type, then have fun. But if you're not, then don't pretend to be.

  8. Good, we don't want you to have children. Childreen need love, acceptance, encouragement and close care. You are not equipped.

  9. Finally, someone else who says the same thing I always said….
    'You'll change your mind' is what my doctors told me when I demanded that I get tubal ligation, after giving birth. I had one child, and everyone I knew tried to guilt me for only having one. It was a complicated pregnancy, and fairly dangerous birth (had to have emergency C-section due to a couple of separate issues that compounded the complications…)
    Everything turned out fine, but considering how honestly awful the process was while living through it, would definitely never repeat.

  10. If I get a child, which my mom is kinda impressing on me, I want to adopt,
    Benefits of adopting:
    -children get a parent,
    -you don't have to do all the junk of when they can't take care of themselves at least a little bit,
    -you don't have to birth them!
    -everybody happy!!

  11. I agree, alot of women don't have to have children, nor do they want any regardless if they meet the right person, they aren't supposed to want children or supposed to be forced have children just because they're a woman, leave that to the low wage earners and the ones who don't know how to use contraception, career first, nice house, nice car, wealthy lifestyle and always

  12. I can accept all you reasons, but overpopulation? Give. Me. A . Break.

    Im so fucking tires of this EUGENICS thoughts spreading worldwide, the earth is not overpopulated, chill
    The world is not ending because of that
    Stop believing the government

  13. People do this to young boys and men, too. My parents had a nasty divorce when I was young, and since then I've decided not to get married. I've gotten the same questions and comments from friends and family, and from what I've heard, I suspect I would have the same troubles you did if I tried to get a vasectomy.

  14. Thank you. I can't believe the docs put you through that…yes I can. You stayed strong and you have a VERY important message for all women. I have late stage Lyme disease and I can't have a child because I could never inflict the pain I suffered myself on anyone else.

  15. The part that gets the point across is when she brings up waking up one day to realize that she has a kid that she regrets. It's so much worse to have a child that you can't fully care for, or didn't want in the first place, than to get your tubes tied and then later decide that you want children. You can always go the route of adoption (as hard as it is to adopt in the US), or foster care. Where I'm from is highly religious, and when my sister got this procedure done, the doctors told her that she'd regret it. Other people told her that she would never be happy until she had kids. Her, nor her husband, want kids. They both feel like they wouldn't provide a good home. That's called putting the children first.

  16. зачем вы пускаете больных женщин выступать? материнский инстинкт у неё напрочь отсутствует. это ненормально.. у человека (да, женщина – человек, как бы странно не звучало) есть инстинкт размножения

  17. Probably society clings to the idea because for a female motherhood is a normal part of life. Anybody that doesn't want their own children has a mental problem.

  18. "don't you want a family" is such a great example of the focus society has on romantic relationships and gender roles. Can I not form my family out of my friends and relatives and leave an impact on other people through that alone? and maybe I will change my mind about having kids, but that doesn't change that it's my body and mine to do with what i want.

  19. Probably the most Karen thing a Karen would say….And honestly couldn't care less that she doesn't want to have children

    It's a success to humanity anyways

  20. I knew I didn’t want children when I was still a child myself. Never felt the need to explain myself to people. I just tell them I simply never had the desire to have a child, and ask them so why is it that you wanted children? Did you really want them or did you just end up with them and try to make the best out of it now?
    People complain about overpopulation and at the same time bash people that don’t want kids. Just stfu.

  21. No offense but even though it´s right that women shouldn´t be viewed as some kind of baby machine, I don´t think old people always expect you to do that and that its a given that you do so. The older generations have expectations like that for everyone, not just women. The thing is women these days always find some way they are getting opressed.

    Not everything that is expected to happen from you is a reason to start critizizing society as a whole. Maybe just because people say you have to do something doesn´t mean that you have to. And if you would really mean what you are saying there then you wouldn´t waste so much god damn time and energy on fighting about this subject.

  22. I wish I could give you a hug. I have felt the exact same way my entire life. It was one of the things that made me hate being born female –and now I have also realized I am actually gender-fluid. Family relatives from an early age kept putting this expectation on me for traditional marriage & children and it turned me off so very much. I decided when I was still a teenager that I was never going to bear children, period, and it's a decision I have NEVER regretted. I am now 66 yrs. old. Had I changed my mind at some point, I would have gladly adopted instead.

  23. I don’t want to have kids because I am terrified of becoming like my parents.
    I don’t want to have kids and then mistreat them. I want to put the kids that I won’t have before myself

  24. Its kinda sad even the church judges women who dont want children or a partner Why does every woman's happy ending have to be marriage and kids in success and conversation stories. Even apostle Paul says not everyone is meant to be married. I wouldn't mind marriage and kids but sucks for those who dont🤦🏾🤦🏾..

  25. i think that she doesn’t quite hit it right here. most people want to have children, scientifically we are hormonally wired to WANT CHILDREN. so no one is making you have kids, but i don’t think you can call it sexism when people assume that you don’t want to have them. For the majority of society, it’s not just a ‘role’ it’s a human want and need

  26. I'm 16 from a Hispanic family and since I turned 9 I've said, "I don't want kids". Everytime I mention not wanting kids I'm told, "no, you have to it's wrong not to".

    It's so frustrating and annoying.

  27. You are still very young. Dont we all hate control? How dare someone else to claim knowing someone one better than oneself? Well said. Bravo. You are so very feminene and soft spoken and determined. People, all people should have the right of choice a choice we created with scaple which is not natural, but provide and afford us this precious freedom. Yet, we still need to fight for it because of misplaced careing, lovingness. People are all different. Basically it comes down to, dont assume, dont categorize without first handedly examing the situation.

  28. After the terrible job my parents had, I have zero desire of passing half my genes foward in a form of a kid and also be terrible at it at the cost of my disposable income and youth

  29. Is this is all she's got to whine about? Try being teetotal then you'll encounter huge pressure to conform along with suspicion at your motives from almost everyone. People will even try to trick you into drinking. Maybe I should whine about that? But then again some people have real actual problems that greatly affect every aspect of their lives.

  30. In upcoming Snowflake progressive talks : "I dont want to be a Pope" and …. "I dont want to be a millionaire , stop asking me to become one".
    Pathetic generations. Good thing the past generations dont see this garbage entertainment, or whatever this is supposed to be.

  31. Christen Reighter nobody has any damn right to say you should have kids especially your Parents as they are only interested in having THEIR Grandchildren who will become their personal property ! I was accused of being Gay by my Grandfather for not marrying and/or having any kids. They don't give a damn about you just their own self righteous interests. I am 58 years old and had many relationships with ladies,although I am alone in my own home I have never felt lonely and I answer to no one ! You stick to your Guns young Lady !

  32. As a man I have experienced this same reaction from both women and men and have also been accused of being selfish! Children are the single biggest responsibility anyone can ever undertake and i have witnessed many people having children without really wanting them and subsequently doing a very poor job of raising them, in other words their "Mistake" means they don't really want to "Parent' the child because they never really wanted to be a parent in the first place. So when someone doesn't want to have children they are being responsible and doing this overpopulated planet a real justice, not being selfish or weird, they are doing the right thing and they should be a revered for that decision not persecuted. We have our perspectives and priorities the wrong way round people!

  33. Having a child you don't want just so you can fulfill social expections is the more selfish choice (not always on the side of the parent of course. Often the society they live in)

  34. Its okay if a woman doesnt want children. I personly cant understand it, its a big journey but if i have the chance ill definitely do it.

  35. While I agree that the problem is quite a bit worse for women than men, I'm disappointed by how she only ever talks about this problem in women.

    On one hand, it's cool that she talks from experience, and on the other it dismisses the fact that men also go through this kind of stuff.

    We get told that sterile men are weak, lesser men our whole life in many more or less subtle ways. We get told the will comes when you meet the right woman. We get told we are meant to perpetuate the legacy…

    Yeah, what I mean here is that I fully support her and respect her courage in bringing all this up onto a stage, I just wish she would have been more inclusive about her points, as many other "gendered" talk hosts do…

    Either way, this was such a heartfelt, frustrating, touching talk with such true experiences being related. I hate hearing about how little these people thought of her. It makes me wish I could tell them how little I think of them. I wish her the best going forward

  36. I’m asexual and aromantic, but I do want a child in some way. I’ve always thought of adopting, but of course my family would never approve of that idea, since I was little my parents would tell me that my role in life was to graduate college, get a steady job, marry a wealthy man and then have children. As I grew older, I realized that I wanted kids, but as an aromantic asexual, I experience no sexual or romantic attractions. My family doesn’t know yet, so they still think I’m going to start a family. I want to adopt since, well I most likely won’t have any partner to have a child with, but I feel like it’s a bad idea. One, because of the climate crisis, and two, if I adopt a child and raise it by myself without a partner, I don’t want the child to feel like our family isn’t normal, or get made fun of for only having a mother. I’m in high school now, so I’ll just have to see what my future holds. Hopefully, everything will end up alright.

  37. Great but let’s not try to talk others out of the option and they regret it. It does happen. Society, feminists are lying to a lot of women.

  38. What's so difficult about being a mum? I am one and I think most women make to mutch of a drama about having a child. For me it's completly natural to have children. Stop making things so difficult. But if a women don't want children… her decision.

  39. When people tell me that some day
    “I will change my mind”

    My response is
    “I’m willing to bet that it’s far more traumatic to grow up without a family. Than it is to be a grown adult without a biological child.”

    SO if I were to one day change my mind, I would unapologetically adopt ❤️
    But for now, I’m fully content without a child.

  40. Wait, so this is a doctor specialing in getting woman's tubes tied and he is trying to stop her from doing what he does for a job? This guy is not only sexist but also a moron.

  41. My mom wants me to have kids. I'm going to be 19 in a few days. I tell her I don't want kids and she tells me I will one day and I'm to Young to make the decision right now.

  42. Meanwhile Nigerian women have 4-8 children in shanty towns without indoor plumbing. Illiterate Hispanics have multiple kids while living in ghettos and having working class jobs. Comfort is overrated, Easy times creates weak men

  43. I think people kind of misunderstand the choice of not wanting kids to hating kids. I don't want kids but that doesn't mean I don't love them. I love all my nephews and nieces.

  44. Most do. You're an outlier. How is it so hard to understand that acting according to what the norm is, well, normal. Procreation is our purpose and it's true for the vast majority of people. Again, you're an outlier.

  45. Women want kids it's just a biological thing, if a woman ever says she don't want kids, what she's pretty much saying is that that particular woman would rather adopt a kid instead of being pregnant and would rather wait and not have kids at that time

  46. This is absolute sexist bs, what a victim dumbass lady saying this says she's "empowering" people for is just messed up

  47. I decided not to have children when I was around 16. The world is messed up in so many ways and I don't want my child to have to learn about and witness how much suffering there is. The best way to protect my kids from all this is to not have them at all.

  48. On the flip-side, as a mom of 8 I have been persecuted for wanting such a large family. So sorry we have both been treated so badly over our choices. Hugs ❤

  49. I'm glad my parent understand I don't want biological children. I haven't told them I'm a lesbian yet, but our family has upturned so many genetic disorders that they just can't make me. I don't like those disorders, and even if I didn't mind contributing to overpopulation I wouldn't want to pass them on.

  50. Wanted to say I have no desire to have kids, never have, and so I might go through all this some day but the first time I heard about this kind of thing was from my own mom, who went in in her late 40s, after having 2 children, and the doctor told her "What if you lose one (child)? You won't be able to have more." As if a child could be replaced. I felt so disgusted. Even if I dont like everyone, or if I dont enjoy kids, I cant begin to think about "replacing" a deceased pet let alone a being I birthed. That kind of mindset, the medical parenting, is wholly disturbing on so many levels. That someone would actively ignore the wellbeing, health, and plans of another solely because they like kids or they have a family is the most sickening thing to me. So horribly degrading. A lot of comments are "my body, my life" which is how it should be. My own family gives me grief about not wanting kids. They call me selfish but they are the ones saying they want grandchildren. I want to spend my life, money, and time with someone who can respect my decisions in life, and if that person wants to throw hands because I won't get pregnant then they arent worth my time. Respect those around you, embrace different ways of life, and love unconditionally. Adoption can do so much and those children need more love and support then an embryo that doesnt exist.

  51. Me : “I don’t want kids”
    “You will regret that”
    “You should have had kids”
    “Your miserable now”
    This is common and acceptable
    Them : “I want kids”
    “You’ll regret it”
    “You shouldn’t have had kids”
    “You will be miserable of you have kids”
    This is considered wrong.

    How can it be selfish to not bring an unwanted into the world.

  52. I think it's fair to say that the biological function of childbearing and the natural maternal desire to have children is a widespread social expectation because you know…evolution, and the continuation of the human race. That being said, no one should judge you for your choice. I also don't think you should be shocked at the reaction to your choice when it is the most basic primal instinct to reproduce. Of course people are confused. But for every woman staying single, there's an octomom having your kids for you.

  53. People said I would change my mind…and I did. And it was fucking amazing. The most incredible thing that ever happened to me.

  54. Me: 36, no children, full time working, husband has chronic debilitating illness to where he could pass away any given day.
    Mother: What about babies?

  55. because kids are great for capitalism, and the goddess of fertility is pretty much always the goddess of war. Not that any of those are related by any way…

  56. i am 15 and ive come to the realization that i do not want to give birth but i want to adopt. I want to have kids, as many as I can, but I simply don t want to give birth.

  57. Mother: abuses child she regretted having
    Society: whatever.

    Me: I don't want kids, I don't think I'd be a good mom to them.
    Society: !!! How rude of you to deny us another human in this over-populated rock

  58. My thing is women that keep throwing their kids up in your face. Like it makes them better then the next person. Girl bye.

  59. Tease you like having kids makes you what🤷🏽‍♀️ some of them aren’t even birthing their own children, having kids or not having kids does not make you any less of a women. Bye

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