Choosing whether to have children
One hundred years ago, people didn’t have to make a choice about whether to have children or not. Contraceptives and terminations were unavailable. Marriage was seen as the expected outcome of achieving adulthood, unless an individual chose a celibate life of religious service, or was not chosen by a suitable marriage partner. And marriage meant children. Of course, in some communities these assumptions still operate, but for the majority of people in the West in 2011, becoming a parent is an active choice and doesn’t happen by default.
Both in the media and in my everyday life, I’m noticing more and more people for whom this choice is not straightforward. Young women may worry because they feel no ‘maternal instinct’ or are not sure whether they do. If they delay having children, will this instinct magically kick in when it seems too late? Couples agonise because one partner wants kids and the other is reluctant. Some women report such strong fear of actually giving birth that they can’t imagine trying to get pregnant. Many people have very mixed feelings, trying to balance fears for their potential child’s future, worries about finance, anxieties about ‘screwing up’ their children emotionally, against strong impulses to nurture and build a new family unit.
Because parenthood has become a conscious choice rather than something we do without thinking, counselling can be very helpful. Talking through the issues in a confidential environment, at your own speed, can really let you work out what is important to you. The counsellor is trained to be non-judgemental, meaning you can say out loud things which maybe would be unthinkable in front of your relatives or friends. Also, a counsellor will help you notice where your feelings of confusion or fear are coming from. It may be that deep down you hold strong views because of the way you were brought up, but you haven’t realised that these views are influencing your thinking. It may be that your emotions are in conflict with views you have developed from a rational viewpoint.
Each client is different and individual, and the counsellor allows you to explore the issues from various angles to help you gain more perspective, enabling movement towards a decision which makes sense to you and feels right for you.