Tag Archives: Choices

Children: On Being Childless Sort Of by Choice #AtoZChallenge

Welcome to day 3 in the #AtoZChallenge 2018, in which I share random reflections. Today, for my letter C post, I’m going to write about children – or the lack thereof. YOu see, I am childless sort of by choice. Want to know more? Read on.

As regular readers of this blog will know, I have multiple disabilities. I am blind, autistic and mentally ill, among other things. Any one of these disabilities would’ve been grounds for involuntary sterilization had I lived some forty years ago. Even now, it may be relatively easy for me to get sterilized should I so choose. After all, many people are still of the opinion that certain people with disabilities shouldn’t have children.

Now I should be politically correct and say I strongly disagree with this stance. However, with regards to my own personal situation, I don’t. I can see why I wouldn’t be fit to be a parent and the reasons are not entirely unrelated to my disabilities.

I never really had any sort of strong “Mommy feelings”. That being said, as a child and teen, I always thought I’d have children when I’d grow up. It probably was society’s expectations that planted this idea in my head, as I never quite imagined how lovely it would be to hold a wee little baby, or how I’d ooh and aah at my four-year-old’s clay sculpture.

As a child, I obviously couldn’t believe why people didn’t like children. I was a child and I liked myself. Besides, everyone has been a child at some point, so how could they not like children? Now that I’m an adult though, I don’t particularly like children. I don’t hate them either, but I don’t feel I should be having one or more myself.

Society’s expectations do not get unnoticed by me though. This I think is the main reason I’m still not entirely happy with my choice not to ever try for a child. I also sometimes wish I would be a good mother, but to be honest, I can’t be.

As such, I find myself inbetween the childless not by choice and the childfree/childless by choice communities. I am childless by choice, but I a not really happy woth this choice.

Hope Not Fear #MondayMusings

“May your choices reflect your hopes. Not your fears.” – Nelson Mandela

This quote was one of the writing prompts for last week’s Friday Reflections. However, I had already written about another prompt, and in fact, didn’t find out about this prompt until I’d written my post. Since this quote is very fitting for my life, I thought I’d write on it now.

I have often been guided by fear in the choices I made in my life. For most of the eight years of my institutionalization, I have feared taking the leap towards independence. This led me to reject my husband’s idea of having me live with him, which he had voiced long before our wedding. I’d rather live in a supported housing accommodation, because I was deathly afraid of the situation I’d been in when living independently in 2007. At the time, I’d not coped from the start but I’d been on the waiting list for mental health services and the crisis team didn’t feel my situation was serious enough. Ultimately, it took me becoming suicidal in another city to get me the help I needed.

By letting my fears dictate my choices, however, I was not taking chances, for taking chances requires taking risks as well. Because no supported housing place could accommodate my needs, I remained in the institution for presently almost eight years.

I had a boyfriend and later a husband, of course, and I was and am totally in love with him. My fear guided my choice not to go live with him, because I feared if I needed to be admitted to the psychiatric unit again while living with him, he’d abandon me. Never mind that he stuck with me through eight years of institutionalization.

yesterday, I saw a thread on a Dutch eating disorder forum I particpate on that asked where you would be in ten years. I will write a more elaborate post on this later on, but what it taught me was to have hope. Still having an optimistic attitude from last Friday’s meeting with the social worker, I realize now that I need to let this hope shine through when I make my choices.

I remeber in high school needing to make SMART goals. The S stands for “specific”, and it had as an explanation: “Write down what you want to achieve, not what you want to avoid.” For example, you’d write down “pass Latin”, not “not fail Latin”. The Mandela quote I started this post with, illustrates the difference: while in a way, “pass” and “not fail” are the same, “pass” is based on hope, “not fail” on fear.

Back to my situation with regards to my going to live with my husband. I have often based my goals on fear, saying for example that I wanted to avoid being overburdened. I could reword these, saying for example I want to be supported. That is a much clearer, but also much more optimistic goal.

This post was written for #MondayMusings, which I co-host with Corinne of Write Tribe this week (see her post too). Please feel free to join in. Click on the button below to be taken to the linky.



Everyday Gyaan

A Can of Choices?

There is a Dutch TV show where a high school class meets so many years after graduation. At the beginning of the show, a survey is discussed which the former students have been sent in preparation of the show. One of the regularly returning questions is whether life just happens or it’s a can of choices. Most people say it’s a can of choices, and at least cognitively I have to agree.

With the idea that life is a can of choices comes the possibility of looking back at life and wondering “What if”. If life just happens, this is meaningless. I mean, you can wonder what if life hadn’t dealt you the cards it dealt you, but it isn’t like you’d have any influence on it. This is easier sometimes. At least there’s no need for regrets or guilt. You could be angry with God, fate or whatever you believe in, but at least you’d know that you couldn’t have done anything different to make life not as it is now.

Then again, seeing life as a can of choices has the advantage of you being able to do something about your life. In this sense, the “What if”‘s can drive you to make different choices for the future.

I often wallow in wondering what if. What if I’d gone to university straight out of high school instead of to blindness rehab and independence training? What if I had not gone to my university city at all, or had gone into supported housing out of independence training. What if I hadn’t agreed to be hospitalized when I was in a crisis. What if I’d gone to any of the numerous supported housing options that have come up over the years instead of staying in the psychiatric institution. What if I hadn’t moved to my current institution and had stayed in the one in my university city? What if I’d moved into living with my husband when we rented our apartment? What if I’d actually finished the two Open University courses I didn’t complete? What if I hadn’t stopped blogging in 2011?

The thing is, I can look back to the past and regret the choices I’ve made, but at the time, I couldn’t look to the future to see what life would be like in 2014 if I made the choices I did or didn’t make. I can only try to make better choices now. Like, I did start up blogging again last year and continue to try Open University courses. This however will not be a guarantee for a better life. In this sense, life just happens to some extent.

Graduation

In the U.S., May is the month of graduation. In the Netherlnds, high school students are currently in the midst of their final exams, which will determine whether they will graduate or not. I still have nightmares about final exams, even though I graduated grammar school with above-average grades in 2005.

As Ginny Marie points out in her spin cycle prompt for this week, graduations can mean many things. People can graduate from preschool, elementary school, high school or college, but they can also graduate from certain life events or habits. For me, high school graduation marked my graduation from pretending to be normal. Two weeks before the graduation ceremony, with me already having had my final exams, I E-mailed the student counselor to let her know I wasn’t going to Radboud University to study English after all, but was instead going to my country’s blindness rehabilitation center.

The high school graduation ceremony was okay. The principal had planned a lot of pooha about how great my school had been to accept a blind student – I was the first and so far only blind student at this school – and how wonderfully they’d helped me graduate. When I heard of these plans, I was pissed. I argued that I didn’t want to be singled out. This was one reason for my objection. Another was the fact that grammar school had been a bad experience right from the start. In September of 1999, I wrote in my diary that I knew I’d rather graduate a grammar school in six years than a low-level special education high school in four. I don’t know how much of that was truly wanting to, and how much was needing to in order to please my parents.

High school graduation marked my graduation from doing what my parents and teachers wanted me to, which was (or seemed to be) pretending my invisible disabilities didn’t exist. Even though it was my high school tutor who had arranged the initial intake interview at blindness rehab, he half assumed these people could push me to go to college better than he could. In reality, they ended up recommending the basic rehab program. My parents were initially not amused, because the program lasted only four months, but they eventually accepted that I needed to work on myself first before going to university.

Even though I graduated from parent and teacher-pleasing, I didn’t graduate from dependence. Till far into my stay at the acute ward in 2008, I did just do what my social worker or doctor wanted me to. Even though this lessened a bit when I got to the resocialization ward in 2009, I’m now at once at the opposite end of the pendulum, defying my staff constantly, and at once I’m still dependent on them. I ultimately end up doing what they want me to, after all.

Now I know that no-one is truly independent. Then again, parent/child relationships, schools and institutions instill more dependence on the child, student or patient than does ordinary adult life. Next year, it’ll have been ten years since my high school graduation. Will I move towards true interdependence then?

Disability and Childlessness: It’s Complicated

I am disabled. I am childless. For a long while, I identified as childless by choice. In a way, it is a choice, because I do not experience reproductive problems that I know of. In another way, it’s not a choice, because I would’ve wanted to be a parent. I’m not “childfree”. I am disabled, and this has influenced my decision to remain childless. That doesn’t make it not a decision, but it makes the decision tougher than had I truly been childfree.

On Musings of an Aspie, there’s a post on honoring your choices as an autistic woman (or man). It is a postscript to the autistic motherhood series on the Autism Women’s Network. The post concludes that older autistic parents have a responsibility to share what they’ve learned with the younger generation of autistics. This, in my opinion, goes for autistic childless people too. As autistics, we often feel left out, and it’s important to have people whose experiences we can relate to who are older than us and can share with us what they’ve learned. Likewise, we need to be mentoring the even younger generations.

I find it extremely hard to connect to people with whom I have enough in common that we can share our knwoledge and experiences and support each other this way. This may be because I have multiple disabilities. The Internet has opened a world for me, but when, with this current blog, I began to spread my wings outside of the disability blogosphere, it also amplified my differences. It may be just me, but I see Mom bloggers everywhere.

Childlessness, like disability, is a minority status. And now that childlessness is no longer the only way for disabled women, it adds up to someone’s otherness. I’m not saying that childlessness should be the norm again for disabled women. What I do want to say is that it’s still a reality for a lot of disabled women (and men), and that it’s often still a painful reality that is complicated by prejudice and stimma both surrounding disability and childlessness. I do understand that the assumption that disabled people are childless by default, needs to be challenged, but this assumption should not be replaced with additional stigma for the person who finds their disability actually does make it impossible for them to become a parent.

Comfort Rooms: Not a Convenient Alternative to Seclusion

A few days ago, the owner of a blindness and mental health E-mail group I am on started a discussion about comfort rooms. Commonly, they’re seen as a kind of less restrictive alternative to seclusion or restraint, but this is a misconception. I have personally experienced being placed in the comfort room and not allowed to come out. Being blind, I also didn’t really notice the comfort room atmosphere, which should be relaxing. In all honesty, the comfort room at the locked ward in the big city institution I was in, was little more than a beautified seclusion room. While the comfort room at my current ward in the small town institution is more calming in its ambiance, I still sometimes get told that I can go into the comfort room in a tone of voice as if I’m being secluded.

In reality, comfort rooms are but one form of relaxation for an irritable patient. For others, going for a walk, listening to music or exercising on a stationary bike might help. I can see why nurses choose the comfort room over some of its alternatives, for a patient in a comfort room requires relatively little care. That is, they are presumed to require relativley little care. All five or so times I spent in comfort rooms, once in my current institution and about four times in the city one, I was left alone whether I wanted to be alone or could safely be alone or not. In this sense, the Netherlands is different from other countries, where patients in crisis are placed under special observation. Here, if you need more care than the staff can provide, you’ll be placed in seclusion or “seclusion light”, ie. the comfort room.

A key aspect of introducing comfort rooms, is that they need to be embedded in a philosophy where the patient is actively engaged in their treatment. Time in the comfort room needs to be a choice. I for one find the comfort room particularly ineffective, and would rather go for a walk or exercise. One reason why I find the comfort room ineffective, besides having been coerced into using it, is accessibility. I didn’t have a clue what was in the comfort room, so was essentially just seated on a couch or chair. Granted, the couch in my current ward’s comfort room is actually comfortable, but the chairs in the city institution comfort room were definitely not. I recommend staff acquaint patients, especially blind ones, with the comfort room at time they’re not irritable and maybe they’ll need to assist the patient sometimes again when they’re using the comfort room for relaxation for the first few times. Staff may not like this, as many view the comfort room as a convenient way not to have to bother with irritable patients while looking like saints for avoiding seclusion. However, seclusion is not a substitute for proper care, and neither is the comfort room.

The Degree, the Job, and the Child

What do these things have in common? Well, they represent goals I had for myself as a teen and thought I’d reach at some specific time prior io 2014. I not only didn’t, but will almost certainly never reach these goals.

The degree: when I was thirteen in 1999, I switched from special education to grammar school. It was pretty much expected that everyone who attended this school wanted to and would go to univeristy after graduation. I knew I would graduate grammar school by 2005, and calculated that this would mean graduating university by 2009. I wanted to major in Dutch at the time. The idea fo rmy major has changed many times over the course of my secondary school experience, but the idea that I’d graduate university by 2009, didn’t.

The job: during my first year at grammar school, I admired my Dutch teacher. She was in her mid to late twenties and had been working at the school for several years. I had a vision by which I’d be a teacher of Dutch like her by 2010. Now I know that, by 2010, most university graduates, even the excellent ones, didn’t get a teacher job a year after graduating, but I didn’t know this by 2000. My ideas about what teaching was like, were very detailed and quite screwed. Actually, if I had to fit my ideas with a job, they’d be more suited to a school counselor than a teacher. Having personally experienced a teacher overstepping the boundaries of his job, and having seen the admired Dutch teacher burn out during my second year at grammar school, I am glad I didn’t pursue a teaching job myself. Not that I’d pass teacher education, but it’s better to realize this yourself than to have someone else kick you out of the program.

The child: I never thought much about how I’d meet the child’s father or otherwise get pregnant. In fact, for a while I believed I was a lesbian. Nonetheless, I was sure I’d give birth to my first child by 2013. My ideas about her were pretty detailed, so in a way it’s good I didn’t give birth last year or I’d mess up if I got a boy. I imagined myself as a true breeder, as I thought of getting two or three more children.

I know now that it’s 2014 and none of these dreams have come true, that I shouldn’t really have clung to them as goals, but as just dreams. After all, I had control over only a minority of circumstances which would lead to these dreams coming or not coming true. I’m not saying that people can’t be the leader of their own lives, but there is only so much you can control. You can be the leader of your life in how you choose to handle the circumstances you end up in. Some of these circumstances you can change yourself, but some you can’t.