Thursday, October 10, 2013

A Non-Parent's Belated Defense of Miley

Things I don't need Target to sell
Last weekend's opening sketch on SNL featuring Miley Cyrus (you can watch it here) prompted me to finally go and watch her infamous twerking performance at this year's VMAs. I had, of course, heard all about it, mostly from a dear friend who is the mother of a one-year old daughter. Her Facebook posts immediately after the VMAs made it clear she was concerned with the normalization of over-sexualized behavior in young women, i.e., if the media kept this up, by the time her daughter was twelve she'd be swinging from a pole.

Now it may just be because I don't have a daughter to visualize swinging from said pole, but my response to Miley's "show" was precisely this: what was all the fuss about? I stopped watching MTV sometime in the '90s, but I do catch the odd music video in the gym and can confidently state that young, scantily clad women dancing like strippers is hardly groundbreaking stuff. Instead, for all my mother-friends, I offer two signs of hope from Miley's performance.

First, she was surrounded by plus-sized back-up dancers. Setting aside the fact that they were wearing over-sized teddy bears on their backs, let's hear it for seeing some babes with back front-and-center on a major awards shows. Isn't it a positive trend to show some normal-sized asses on TV?

Second, she was wearing sneakers. Granted she wasn't wearing much else, but, at least from the ankles down, Miley Cyrus looked age-appropriate. She could dance in those shoes, which is more than you can say about Madonna in her Superbowl performance a few years back when she could hardly stand up in her stiletto boots. I am far less outraged about a young pop star gyrating in a sequined leotard than I am about the way stripper shoes have now become part of mainstream women's fashion. It used to be that platform, 4+ inch heels were only available at Frederick's of Hollywood, but these days you can get a pair anywhere from Target to Barney's. And ladies, I didn't spend five years of higher education studying economics not to notice that's down to one reason and one reason alone: we (at least some of us) are buying them!

In my mind, the beginning of the shoe apocalypse happened one morning when I spotted Ann Curry on the Today Show (yes, it was back when she still had that job) wearing a pair of stripper shoes with her otherwise staid attire. I was so outraged I even posted on Facebook about it. Since when did shoes you can't even walk in become go-to professional attire? What ever happened to Audrey Hepburn and the kitten heel definition of femininity? In my mind, it was far darker day for feminism when Ann, a woman representing a strong, successful role model, broke out the stripper shoes than it was when Billy Ray Cyrus' daughter twerked.  

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Taking Turns as Trailing Spouses

Without a doubt, not having kids has made it easier for my husband and me to be mobile, taking advantage of opportunities to work in London and Berlin. Along the way we have both been in the position of being a trailing spouse, i.e., the person following the one who has a job. We wrote about it on a piece over on, which you can read here. You'll hear all about our failed attempts to re-invent ourselves: I as a modern-day Julia Child, my husband as "David Bowie in the late '70s, but fatter and decidedly less creative." Hope you enjoy.

Monday, September 2, 2013

How to Play & Other Stuff I Learned from my Five-Year-Old Niece

Image from
Based on a very unscientific examination of the childfree community on Twitter into which I have self-selected, my stance on the subject is middle-of-the-road. I am neither a principled objector to kids on the basis of environmental or population issues, nor someone who hates kids. I simply lacked ambition in the arena of motherhood; my life without kids failed to seem incomplete. Congruent with my feelings on the matter, I am entirely comfortable admitting that by not having kids I am missing out on certain things. This seems no stranger to me than acknowledging the equal and opposite truth: that parents make sacrifices for their children.

Last week I spent some time with my five-year-old niece, who lives in another state, and caught up on some lessons I may have otherwise missed. On our first evening together I babysat for a couple of hours while my sister went to an appointment. I had arrived armed with a Disney Princess activity book, and, given my niece, M, is something of a princess aficionado, was feeling rather confident that we would have no problem entertaining ourselves while my sister was away. Upon unwrapping the book, M immediately tore open the pack of gemsplastic rubies, emeralds and topaz with sticker backingsignoring the colored pencils and stencils and coloring book pages of princesses on which we were supposed to draw ball gowns and adorn them with said jewels. Much to my distress, she took straight to sticking the gems to one and other, announcing "I'm making jewels!"

"Shouldn't we save some to decorate the princess' necklaces?" I asked, trying to mask my rising sense of panic while vainly flipping to one of the coloring book pages to try to interest her in a princess stencil.

But it was too late. She was going to use all those stickers right up before she even noticed there were pictures of princesses to decorate with the darn jewels. Gems were everywhere: in the carpet, on her elbows, and, yes, a few successfully stuck together to make what I can now, with the benefit of hindsight, see were her logical attempts at facsimiles of real-life, three-dimensional gems.

And then it dawned on me that my agitation was because M was not playing "right." Of course not being a form from the IRS, the Disney Princess activity book doesn't come with a set of rules. This is just as well because M. doesn't yet have a concept of how to play according to the rules. And long may it be until she gets one because then she'll turn into someone like me who thinks there is a right way and wrong way to do everything, even PLAY. After taking a moment to briefly hate myself, I joined in with M in sticking some jewels together. Later when she used up all the Little Mermaid stickers on the very first page of the coloring book, I didn't even flinch.

My second lesson of my visit came the next morning. When M. woke up, still groggy and in her Disney Princess P.J.s, she went straight to the coffee table, which hosts a selection of construction paper and markers and such, and began work on various crafts. She had produced a kite, a butterfly and a handful of ice-cream cones by the time we lured her to the breakfast table. When I left for work she was busy composing a song and dance about vegetables (admittedly the vegetable angle was my sister's idea). M wasn't going to be nominated for any Grammy Awards, but she didn't care. Her urge to create was native, and there was nothing she couldn't do armed with a ball of hot-pink yarn and a red ukulele.

M reminded me that the act of creation was the ice cream and the hot fudge and the whipped cream of that particular sundae. Any assessment of whether or not the end product is any good is the maraschino cherry, and everyone knows opinion about maraschino cherries is as polarizing as Hilary Clinton. The magic is in the doing. And so, after two days, I left with one of M's creations, a heart-shaped kite, tied to my carry-on bag. It's not as subtle as a string tied around my finger, but I'm keeping it as a reminder to write and live with fewer rules and more abandon.

Thursday, August 29, 2013

Americashire FREE Kindle Download

From August 29-31, my childfree memoir, Americashire: A Field Guide to a Marriage, is available as a FREE Kindle download. To download it from the US Amazon store click here. To download it from the UK Amazon store click here. Happy Labor Day weekend reading!

Thursday, August 22, 2013

David Sedaris on the Madness of Modern Parenting

One of the funniest things I've read this summer is David Sedaris' Let's Explore Diabetes with Owls. My favorite essay in the book is Attaboy, in which Sedaris ponders the madness of modern parenting. He skewers everything from the penchant for presidentially-named toddlers (think Madison) to the way children today can apparently do no wrong. When the piece veers down the path to the good old days of when he was a kid, Sedaris draws a stark contrast to the toddler-tyrant-run homes of today, writing of his own parents: "They did not live in a children's house. We lived in theirs." In other words, he articulates what every sane person has thought when subjected to, say, watching a mother ask her three-year-old if he or she would like skim or 2% milk in their babyccino as you stand behind them in a five-person deep line at Starbucks while running progressively later for work (or does that only happen in L.A.?).

Buy the book, but you can also listen to Sedaris read the essay, Attaboy, aloud here.

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

The Childfree Life: The Oprah Problem and Other Myths

Photo-illustration by Randall Ford for TIME
Last week's Time magazine coverstory caused a backlash for, among other things, propagating certain stereotypes about the childfree life. In the aftermath, I thought I would republish a slightly revised version of my own piece on myths about being childfree, which first appeared back in June 2013 on the Choices blog.

I already know what you’re thinking. You’re about to read something fabulous and envy-inducing. Because surely, since I chose not to have kids, I must be living the life exotic AND making a difference along the way. It’s not your fault for thinking this. It’s not even Time magazine’s fault for printing that cover featuring a childfree couple relaxing on the beach. No, that blames lies directly with Oprah.

While the childfree life has become quite stylish with celebrities today–everyone from Rachel Ray to Ellen and Portia to John Hamm and his girlfriend, Jennifer Westfeldt, are doing it–the flagship celebrity for the childfree cause is Oprah. And this is a problem because the woman is such a damn overachiever. It would be one thing if I could quietly rock the corporate life mediocre and write a bit in my spare time. But no. Thanks to Oprah, I am expected to own my own television network, publish a magazine with my picture on the cover every month, and educate all the girls in South Africa. Anything less and I am failing to live up to the career superwoman assumptions that have been mistakenly bestowed up on me as a childfree woman.  (My sincere apologies to all my exhausted, discriminated against, working-mother friends. I know I am supposed to be smashing glass ceilings on your behalf, and I really do feel bad about this when I use my middle-manager paycheck to buy a third glass of wine.)

Hang on to your seat because, now that I have busted the first myth about childfree women being career powerhouses, there’s more to debunk. Let’s start with the polite but misplaced belief that my marriage must be awesome because my husband and I have so much time to focus on each other. Au contraire, my naïve mother-friend. In fact, sometimes I think it was a mistake that my husband and I didn’t have kids, primarily because we don’t get the benefit of having that distraction for eighteen years or so. There are no exhausting efforts getting a little one to eat or sleep, or, later, crazed schedules chauffeuring them around to school and soccer and ballet.

In the absence of such demands, you actually have to make conversation with your spouse.  Like every day.  And because my husband is the one between us who’s in touch with a feminine side, his favorite insult to throw at me in a fight is that we don’t have anything to talk about anymore.  My instinctual reaction to this is, “What on earth do you expect after twelve years of marriage?  What, exactly, is the quality level of discourse you require during every single breakfast and every single dinner of every single day?” The irony is that, of late, our go-to topic of conversation is one that is also popular in the homes of parents of young children. This, of course, is poop. I chalk this up to being middle-aged–I certainly don’t remember being so scatological before forty. But now, the morning contents of the toilet bowl, or lack thereof, are a reliable topic of conversation. 

I have just one final bubble to burst for all the moms out there, which is you would be full-figured at forty even if you didn’t have that kid. That’s just what happens to our metabolism when we hit middle age. I am embarrassed to tell you that I’ve gained the best part of twenty pounds since I got married. Admittedly, this is also because I get to drink a lot more wine than you do, moms, and that goes straight on the belly. I never had to cut back for a pregnancy, or to breastfeed, or because I might get drunk and drop my infant.  Hell, I wish I could blame my post-marital weight gain on not being able to lose the baby weight.  It’s much more dignified than being an old wino.

So what does all this tell you about the childfree life? Well, for me, choosing not to have kids wasn’t a sacrifice I made for something else I wanted to do (be a CEO), have (a “fulfilling” marriage) or be (unnaturally super-hot well into middle age). Lacking sufficient enthusiasm for what is quite possibly the hardest job on earth, it was simply a choice I made. And so here I am, a childfree woman in all my middle-manager, scatological, slightly bloated, wine-drinking glory.
Jennifer Richardson is the author of Americashire:A Field Guide to a Marriage, the rural idyll memoir for every woman who ever questioned having kids. You can find Jennifer online at:

Thursday, July 11, 2013

Great British Summer Goodreads Americashire Giveaway

Last summer the UK had the Olympics, but this summer isn't too shabby either. The Stones finally played Glastonbury, Andy Murray won Wimbledon, and, according to Twitter, Kate Middleton is in labour as I type. Yes, yes, I know it's off-message to write about childbirth in a childfree blog, but even I'm excited by the imminent arrival of the royal heir. My Anglophilia is trumping my childfree-ness in this instance.

In any case, to celebrate all things great about this Great British summer, there's a Goodreads giveaway for my book, Americashire, running now through August 8th. Hurry on over and enter now. It's open to UK residents as well as many of the notable former colonies (by which I mean Australia, Canada and the U.S.).

Goodreads Book Giveaway

Americashire by Jennifer Richardson


by Jennifer Richardson

Giveaway ends August 08, 2013.
See the giveaway details at Goodreads.
Enter to win

Sunday, June 2, 2013

A little shout-out for Americashire

Yesterday I attended Book Expo America to get a little writerly inspiration – graciously provided by Neil Gaiman – as well as pick up the 2013 IndieReader Discovery Award for travel writing for my new travel memoir, Americashire: A Field Guide to a Marriage. Alongside the English country life travelogue, Americashire is also the story of my decision not to have children; you could call it the origin story of  Baroness Barren. Check it out along with the other winners of the 2013 IRDAs here.
With Amy Edelman, "Founder, President, and Cheerleader" of IndieReader

Saturday, June 1, 2013

The Glamour of Childfree Life

Yesterday's stop on the blog tour for Americashire: A Field Guide to a Marriage was all about the glamour of childfree life. You know, celebs, wine, and, ummm, other stuff.  Head on over to Madeline Sharples' (author of Leaving the Hall Light On) blog, Choices, and check it out.

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

The Question of Motherhood

The blog tour for Americashire: A Field Guide to a Marriage is underway. Today's stop is about "The Question of Motherhood" -- head over to All Thing Audry, Audry Fryer's blog, to check it out.

Friday, May 10, 2013

What To Do When You're Mistaken for a Mom on Mother's Day

One morning about a year ago I was in my local supermarket buying bacon and eggs. It was Mother’s Day and, as a childfree woman, the one Sunday a year when I wouldn’t consider going out for breakfast (unless of course it was with my own mother, although that usually doesn’t happen since we live in different states). Brunch reservations on Mother’s Day are the domain of moms, and I wouldn’t dare compete for a table—a reservation at Gjelina is hard enough to get, even when it’s not a major breakfasting holiday.

So back to the grocery store: I was just paying for my breakfast-to-be when the checkout clerk wished me a happy Mother’s Day. I momentarily froze, disoriented by his assumption that I was a mom. It was, of course, a perfectly reasonable assumption to make about a forty-year old woman grocery shopping in a family-oriented Santa Monica neighborhood. But I was fresh from several years of working up the courage to admit to my family and the world that I didn’t really want kids, and had only just recently embraced the mantle of a “childfree” woman.  It is a title that is reasonably used to distinguish those who don’t want to have kids from those who want to but haven’t been able to—the childless by circumstance—but it asserts a certain confidence and clarity in the situation that belies my experience.

You see, I would like to be able to say I always knew I didn’t want to have kids, but the truth is a lot less clear. Sure, there were indications early on that this might be the case, like how as a teenager I used to stand in front of the microwave when it was on and proclaim I was radiating my uterus to prevent impregnation. (In retrospect, I’m pretty sure I did that because I enjoyed shocking my mother.) Then later, as my friends started to have babies, I was not blind to my uncanny ability to make infants cry instantly upon contact.

But still some part of me held out for the possibility that my biological clock would start ticking. This was what was supposed to happen, right? After all, I had grown up in the eighties when well-meaning feminists were still pushing the belief that women could and should do it all: husband, kids, and a glass-ceiling-breaking career where you got to wear jewel-colored power suits with linebacker-worthy shoulder pads. Convinced I, too, could and should want to do it all, in my late twenties I even went as far as to threaten to break off my engagement to my anti-children fiancé if he wasn’t willing to leave open the possibility that one day we may have kids. He caved, and I was a married woman at twenty-nine.

Then, in what seemed like the blink of an eye, thirty-five arrived and there was still no sign of my biological clock. This state of affairs made me uneasy. I knew beyond that age I was entering into high-risk territory for a pregnancy, my parents were highly vocal about their desperation for grandchildren, and my husband—eager to know once and for all if his life was going to involve children or not—was becoming as vocal as my parents in expressing his desire for me to just make a decision already. I caved to the pressure and, that Christmas, my husband and I announced to my parents that we were going to “try” for a baby in the next year.

But even this game of chicken I had played with myself and my poor, unsuspecting family was not enough to kick start my biological clock. This became clear as the next year wore on and each month I somehow ended up at the pharmacy to pick up a refill of birth control. Despite the fact that it made me feel somehow less of a woman, I was finally starting to admit to myself that I didn’t really want to have kids. It was both a surprise and a relief when I finally said aloud what I had felt for a while: I was complete without them.

Despite all logic to the contrary, I was somehow surprised the grocery store checkout clerk hadn’t been able to intuit my entire backstory of my struggle with motherhood. For a fleeting moment I wondered if I should correct him. It felt odd and somehow dishonest to impersonate a mother, however passively, especially on this particular day. If I said thank you, I was taking credit for "the hardest job on earth." If I corrected him, I risked sounding a little crazy and making him uncomfortable. He was, after all, just a well-meaning teenager trying to be polite. I thanked him, gathered my groceries, and headed home.

Monday, May 6, 2013

Americashire Blog Tour

The Americashire: A Field Guide to a Marriage blog tour kicks off today @ the Muffin with an interview and a giveaway. Check it out here.

Thursday, May 9 @ CMash Loves to Read
Jennifer Richardson reveals what it’s like living with a chronic medical condition. Enter to win a free copy of Americashire: A Field Guide to a Marriage.

Friday, May 10 @ A Writer’s Life
Check out “Five Things You Won’t Want to Miss in the Cotswolds,” according to author Jennifer Richardson.

Tuesday, May 14 @ Words by Webb
Jodi interviews Jennifer Richardson, author of Americashire: A Field Guide to a Marriage.

Wednesday, May 15 @ All Things Audry
Author Jennifer Richardson discusses “The Question of Motherhood” theme from her book Americashire: A Field Guide to a Marriage.

Thursday, May 16 @ Words by Webb
See what Jodi has to say about the memoir Americashire: A Field Guide to a Marriage.

Monday, May 20 @ Misadventures with Andi
Travel and food blogger Andi Fisher interviews Jennifer Richardson about her adventures in the English countryside.

Tuesday, May 21@ Books I Think You Should Read
Jennifer Richardson discusses how her memoir developed out of a blog and what the writing process is like for her.

Wednesday, May 22 @ Kristine Meldrum Denholm
Her husband’s depression has played a part in her marriage for as long as Jennifer Richardson can remember. Stop by for tips on how to write about mental illness in memoir.

May 27 @ Books I Think You Should Read
Liz Parker reviews Americashire: A Field Guide to a Marriage and offers readers a chance to win a free copy of the book!

May 31 @ Choices
Learn more about Jennifer Richardson’s decision to live a child-free life in a guest post at Madeline’s blog.

June 4 @ Tiffany Talks Books
Jennifer Richardson, author of Americashire, shares her experience living the life of an Ex-Patriot and participates in an interview.

June 5 @ Thoughts in Progress
Ever wondered about the hybrid publishing model? Jennifer Richardson shares her publishing experience regarding her book Americashire: A Field Guide to a Marriage

Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Americashire Out Now and an Invitation

Hi Everyone,
My book, Americashire: A Field Guide to a Marriage, is out now, and I would love it if you check it out. Even better, join me in Berkeley this Thursday evening, May 2, where I will be talking books and drinking wine with eight other recently published writers. If you are in the area, please join us. All the details of this free event are here.

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Giveaway: 15 Free Advance Copies of Americashire

Goodreads Book Giveaway

Americashire by Jennifer Richardson


by Jennifer Richardson

Giveaway ends April 23, 2013.
See the giveaway details at Goodreads.
Enter to win

Sunday, March 31, 2013

Easter and Chinese Restaurants

In honor of Easter, I am posting a little excerpt here from a chapter in my forthcoming book, Americashire: A Field Guide to a Marriage. It's all about the lovely Cotswold village church we sometimes frequented while living there and how I managed to relate the resurrection to our local Chinese restaurant.

...Well rested and hangover-free, we made it to church the next morning. We were greeted by the usual suspects, our six elderly ladies and the fiftysomething man who I suspect attends mostly out of civic duty to the golden girls of his village. The upside of a measly church population is everyone gets a job. Jean says matins when Godfrey is tending to another church, the lady who drives her red Nissan Micra like a bat out of hell for the couple of blocks between her cottage and the church reads the Old Testament verse, the lady with the Danish accent takes the New Testament, the gentleman collects the offering and rings the bells, and Dorothy, in her orange peacoat, recites the Collect. This last one is my favorite. Dorothy’s prayer reads like an überletter to Santa Claus, her requests ranging from a pony (“good health for the Queen”) to a trip to the moon (“peace on earth in our time, Lord”). I say this not to poke fun at her earnest and childlike approach, rather in humble admiration of a person who has managed to retain these qualities after ninety years.
I, on the other hand, am totally godless. That’s the only way I can explain why Jean’s Lenten sermon made me think of the saga of our local Chinese takeout place. Jean was preaching about when Jesus had to prepare the disciples for the fact he was going to die. They responded with the textbook five stages of grief—denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance—not unlike my fellow villagers and me when faced with the recent shuttering of Dynasty. But then, just that week, we had been given an early Easter miracle. D, playing the unlikely herald, burst through the back door of the cottage asking if I wanted to hear some fantastic news. He was so jubilant I was sure that Inspector Clouseau had been fired. But no, he brought good tidings that the Dynasty woks were firing once again, like a phoenix risen from the ashes. Just like that, Kung Pao chicken Friday nights were back. I suspect Jean would fail to appreciate my loose interpretation of Easter theology, but it was nearly spring and I was taking my themes of rebirth and renewal where I could find them. I didn’t know it yet, but I was going to need them.

Sunday, February 10, 2013

Make It Count

Yesterday I read a blog on the Huffington Post that managed to annoy me for the entire day, Ann Brenoff's "Midlife Ramblings: What I Don't Get About My Childless/Childfree Young Friends." It started out just fine: a couple anecdotes about young people Ms. Brenoff had recently encountered who expressed an interest in possibly not having children and her surprise at learning this. It then teetered into the well-trod territory of the economic woes of not having a birth rate above the replacement rate. Even here Ms. Brenoff caught herself before she started blaming the childfree for problems her generation will have funding Medicare and Social Security, asserting "even I am not that selfish."  But then, with this, she fell off the cliff:
Parenting, in my opinion, also presents us with the best opportunity to have our days on Earth count for something: Producing a child who can make us better as a civilization, turn us into a kinder and gentler nation. It is our last best-chance to make a difference and answer the question of why we are here. And no, we are not here to simply try every hip new restaurant or tweet about what we watch on TV.
There are three fundamental problems with this assertion. The first is the (terribly American) underlying assumption that life is supposed to "count" for something at all, a belief system I have struggled with before on this blog here. But even if I generously allow Ms. Brenoff this, I must dissent when it comes to her subsequent assertion that kids are the answer. After all, I could make a persuasive argument the guy who makes the coffee at Peets is in the running for the job with "the best opportunity to have our days on Earth count for something." Ms. Brenoff should really take a look at Gateway Women's Gallery of Childless and Childfree role models to get a sense of the breadth of ways women without kids are making their days on earth "count." And why do you have to produce a child to make us "better, kinder, gentler." Isn't that our personal responsibility first?

But the real problem, the problem that would have rendered the previous two null and void if it didn't exist, is that Ms. Brenoff chose to use the word "us" in this paragraph. If she simply would have said that she believed parenting was HER best opportunity to have HER days on earth count for something, I would have read the article, respected her opinion and choices about her own life, and carried on annoyance-free with the rest of my day.

Monday, January 28, 2013

No Regrets

This blog has been languishing for two reasons. First, the happy one: I have been busy getting my book, Americashire: A Field Guide to a Marriage, ready for publication in April. I could and undoubtedly will write more blog posts on this. But the blog post I have been avoiding writing is about what else has been going on in my life, namely being diagnosed with multiple sclerosis.

This did not come as a total surprise. Almost four years ago I had my first run-in with this mysterious neurological disease in the form of my first “clinically isolated event.” In laymen’s terms this meant I was slurring due to the inflammation of some lesions on my brain. But multiple sclerosis is called “multiple” for a reason, and I wasn’t diagnosed until I had my second “clinical event” this past December. This time the symptom was numbness in my face. It felt like I had been shot up with Novocain all along the right side of my head, only, unlike with Novocain, the numbness didn’t subside for several weeks. Despite the fact that my first neurologist had warned me there was a 75% chance I would develop the disease, I was still surprised when, after four years with no symptoms at all, the damn thing showed up again.

Four years ago when I had that first run-in with MS, it played an unexpected role in my decision about whether or not to have kids.  But first let me explain a little bit about the disease. MS is notoriously mysterious. Nobody really knows what causes it, there is no cure, and one person’s experience with the disease is no predictor of another person’s. Symptoms range from the temporary and relatively benign – like mine, thankfully, so far – to much scarier things like extreme fatigue and paralysis. Naturally, when I was first faced with such maddening ambiguity, I pressed my neurologist for specifics.  Wasn’t there anything I could do to decrease my risk of developing the disease?  After careful caveats, my neurologist mentioned there was one recent study that had demonstrated pregnancy may help reduce the risk.

His answer came as a shock. I had been considering the motherhood question for about a year at that point, and had been unable to muster much enthusiasm for the prospect. That first bout of symptoms had frankly been a convenient excuse to cease all thoughts of having a child while I dealt with brain scans and symptom treatments and multiple doctor visits. And now it was in my face. It struck me as a double- whammy of that old gem people like to use when arguing in favor of having a child: Who will take care of you when you’re old? Alongside that suddenly more tangible question, there was this more urgent variation of relying on a child to take care of me now.

But within a few weeks of getting that tidbit of information from my neurologist, I knew how I felt.  As I write in my book, having a child to lessen my chances of developing MS seemed “at best drastic and at worst teetering on the edge of unethical” – not unlike how I feel about having a child based on the wild assumption he or she would take care of you when you are old.  Now, four years later, childfree, and freshly diagnosed with MS, you may wonder if I regret my decision. Could I have held off this fate if I had given birth?

There are, of course, many things I have wondered about in the past two months: The implications of MS for my healthcare (eleven months to go until the pre-existing condition of Obama’s healthcare plan kicks in), for my marriage, and for my quality of life, not to mention how I, a needle-phobic, am going to deal with shooting up my medication every week for the rest of my life (or at least until a pill comes along).  That I should have had a child never got a second thought. 

Note: It hopefully goes without saying, but this blog is not intended as source of medical information on MS. Rather, I represent my personal experience with the disease and my healthcare providers. My current neurologist suggests the MS Society website as a reliable source of information and also gives no credence to the theory that pregnancy reduces risk.