Monday, 19 March 2012

The little C's

Hi Vaginistas,
The desire to become a mother is obviously a significant contributing factor to women who seek treatment for Vaginismus. When I first saw the gyno she kindly reassured me that V is a very treatable condition, and told me about a cousin of hers who had been diagnosed with it a few years before. She had been successfully treated, and had even recently become a mum. This is a wonderful story, and another example of how very treatable a condition vaginismus is. It also demonstrates the way that to lots of women vaginismus can seem a big barrier to conception, which can naturally be very traumatic for women who want to start a family. It is naturally for many women one of their primary reasons for wanting to be treated, and understandably so. For me however, this isn’t the case.
I’ve reached that age when you look around at your friends and realise with a shock that they have grown up. Ten minutes ago it felt like everyone was happily juvenile, then you turned your back and by the time you’d whipped back around, “what’s the time Mr Wolf” style, everyone had become “uh adult”. Lots of them are married or as good as, and a lot of them are even now……*gulp* starting families. This is a horrible betrayal, and I am angry with them all. Obviously I’m actually happy and excited for them; becoming a parent fills people with love and joy and fulfilment (so I’m told), and no doubt all of my friends will make wonderful parents – they’re already wonderful people, so it seems a logical step. I’ve recently met a friend’s baby who was beautiful and her parent’s couldn’t be happier and I’m super excited for them, it’s an amazing thing, it really is.
But now I’ve given the proper disclaimers, I can say that on a purely selfish level I also feel horror and dismay. I mean, come ON now, my friends want to make children! Actual, real-life, screaming, snotting, poo-making children!
When I (very occasionally) have dreams that I’m pregnant, they usually start with me looking down in horror at my poor swollen belly, wondering how in the jiminy-crickets it happened and who the wanker was that did it to me, and end in me crying loudly and unattractively, snot and tears streaming from various orifices, grabbing the nearest person to scream at them “But I CAN’T give birth, I CAN’T! YOU DO IT FOR ME!! WHERE ARE THE DRUGS??!!!!” while I shake them with all my might. When I wake up I am always relieved.
“Ah” people who are usually perfectly reasonable will say to me when I tell them that I don't particularly want children. They’ll half-close their eyes, flash a small, smug smile and nod sagely “You say that now, but you just wait. You wait for those hormones to kick in. Then you’ll change your tune!” I’m not sure exactly what these new hormones I’m waiting for are, and why they weren’t gifted to me at puberty with the other confusing nonsense, the hair and the irrational periods of rage, and the blood, DEAR GOD THE BLOOD. Maybe it’s something new, something that’s been developed by proctor and gamble? Mumstrogen perhaps? (Fnar). But then, people have been saying these sorts of things to me since I was 16 and starting to look slightly less like a scarecrow made of toothpicks and a little more like a confused teenager. To them I say, I still love “Smooth” by Santana, which I had on single (tape, natch) and played on repeat all day way back then, and I have it on my ipod now. Quite literally, I have not changed my tune.* In a less literal way, I have no plans to change my biological tune either. Maybe these people are right, maybe I will suddenly wake up one day and realise that I just have to be a Mum, but it hasn’t happened yet and frankly I don’t expect it will.   
Some people who know about my condition have asked why it matters for me to have treatment for V if I don't want children. After all, it’s not a particularly fun process, and all told quite a lot of effort for what some people would think is not necessarily that crucial an issue. It's not as if sex can't be fun unless penetration is involved. Further, it’s not a condition that puts my health at risk, in fact it’s quite the opposite – a sweet widdle virgin is far less likely to be at risk of cervical cancer for one, not to mention the many sexually transmitted diseases floating around out there. I understand why they are asking, because what after all is sex for, if not procreation?** Really though, a lot of the time what people are really asking is: “How can you say you don’t want children?”
This certainty that a woman must want to reproduce seems to be something that people like to bring up a lot. There’s something about being a woman in your 20s that makes people assume you are simply desperate to reproduce, in a way that isn’t assumed of men. Perhaps it’s presumed that women have an inherent need to nurture, and men may have this need, but it’s by no means a given that they will. Well then. I DO have a nurturing side, absolutely, but it manifests itself in other ways. Rabbits, for example. I particularly love rabbits. Little, sweet, happy bunny rabbits with fluffy ears reduce me to a wobbling mass of squeaking joy. Rabbits are BRILLIANT. Rabbits don’t scream, and cry, and when they wee on you it means LOVE. Their poo isn’t a stinky goopy mess, but neat little pellets, which don’t smell because they’re mainly made of grass, and which they clean up themselves anyway by eating. Efficient! If they’re scared because there’s a cat in the garden in the middle of the night, they will stamp their feet until you wake up and scare the cat away, and then they stop stamping because you have rescued them. Rabbits are sensible. Babies don’t do these things, because babies are humans.
Now, I obviously don’t expect babies to be like pets. It’s just that babies don’t have the effect on me that it’s assumed they should have. When a rabbit stamps it's feet because it’s scared I want to bundle it up and cuddle it until it’s happy again. When a baby starts crying I want to cover my ears and run away screaming. I started writing this yesterday, and since then have seen several mothers with babies. Every one of them looked exhausted, exasperated, and all were occasionally forced to say things like “Monty! Monty, stop that! No, stop that Monty!” while little Monty blithely carried on with whatever mischief he was up to. I didn’t once look at little Monty, happily pulling the stuffing out of a bus seat and cramming it into his mouth by the fist-full, and think “OH, IF ONLY I HAD A SON!”
But really it’s more than just presumption that women must want to be mothers, it’s also a societal pressure. A judgement. There’s still this general feeling that for a woman to be truly fulfilled, she needs to be a mother. This was highlighted perfectly in the dreadful Dr Who Christmas special last year (Moffat – the guy just can NOT write a convincing/inoffensive female character. Don’t get me started on the Dominatrix in the recent Sherlock Holmes. I nearly punched my own ovaries right out of my body in disgust). In the story the little girl who stumbled upon a magical wood was almost right for the job of saving an entire alien race of trees from extinction, but much like a bear-sized bowl of porridge, she wasn’t quite “ready” yet. Good old Mum, that’s who they needed, a woman who had realised her full womanly potential by virtue of being a Mother. She not only accomplished the, in itself herculean task of rescuing a wood-full of alien tree spirits, but her pure maternal power also contrived to direct a foundering WWII fighter plane piloted by her husband safely home. All because she was a splendid old Mummy! Hip hip, hooray for Mummy what what! And then presumably she still had the time to get silly old Daddy’s dinner ready and put the kidlets to bed before finishing off the pile of ironing.
Of course, I'm not saying that it has to be cut and dry, that women are either desperate to be Mothers or like me really, really aren't. Personally, I think that for as many people who absolutely do want to have children, there are as many who just aren’t really sure either way. Maybe it seems like the next logical step in their life journey, after getting a steady job and stable relationship, maybe they are afraid of being lonely when they're older, maybe – like someone told me during a recent wine-fuelled Saturday night argument – they want to know they’ll have someone to look after them in their old age.
You know what? I think it’s fantastic that people want children, I really do. I wouldn’t be here if my parents hadn’t after all. I’m just saying that I don’t understand why it is still assumed that it’s something we all want. Personally, I’m quite looking forward to being the crazy rabbit lady, with a garden and house full of bunnies with names like “Lord Wifflington the third” and no children whatsoever, and that, dear readers, should be OK. If the bunnies don't mind it, then I don't see why anyone else should.
*I don’t just listen to that one song, that would be weird.

** I know that this is a huge and complex debate, I'm dealing only with attitudes towards women in their 20s and children here, but I do know there's loads of implications tied up in this question.

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