I was 19 when I held a baby for the first and last time.
On a street in New York City, a harried-looking mother with an infant in one arm and a stroller piled high with shopping bags strode up to me and asked if I could hold her child while she bent to tie her shoe. Before waiting for an answer (which I think I can safely assume she had assumed would be yes), she thrust the baby into my uncertain arms.
At 5’2” and with a bit of a baby-face of my own, I’m not an especially threatening presence. Likely, this woman had selected me for the task of cradling her child because I look like the last person who would be a monster. Yet, as she straightened up and saw me holding her smiling, gurgling infant at arm’s length, a confused and nauseated look on my face, I could tell that in that moment, she thought me one.
I identify as a childfree woman, one of a growing demographic of young people for whom having children is not only not in their present, but not in their future, either, entirely by choice. (Syntactically, the childfree are distinguished from the childless — those who want children but cannot or do not have them — because the latter term implies that one is “less” something for not having offspring.) For many, the decision to be childfree is a matter of practicalities: a baby would not fit in with their career and lifestyle, or they aren’t financially secure, or they haven’t yet found The One. While all those things are true in my case, the main reason is much simpler: I basely, emphatically, viscerally hate children.