TIME movies

This Movie Is Changing the Way Pregnancy Is Shown on Film

Unexpected
The Film Arcade

Unexpected, out July 24, stars Cobie Smulders as a teacher coming to terms with a surprise pregnancy

It wasn’t until it came time to figure out the labor scene that Kris Swanberg realized her movie about pregnancy was unusual. After all, there are lots of movies out there about people having babies. But, when she sat down with her director of photography to look at some examples of how delivery had been handled in those forerunners, she noticed something strange: almost every on-screen birth that she watched was portrayed from the point of view of a man in the room.

“I didn’t set out and say, ‘I’m going to make a movie from the female perspective, dammit!’” Swanberg says. “But because I’m a woman and I wrote it and a lot of it was based on my own personal experience, it just sort of happened that way. Not until after the fact did I realize that it’s actually very rare.”

The film, Unexpected (in theaters, on demand and on iTunes July 24), directed by Swanberg and co-written with Megan Mercier, is the story of a high-school teacher (played by How I Met Your Mother’s Cobie Smulders) facing a surprise pregnancy at the same time as one of her most promising students (impressive newcomer Gail Bean). As they both face variations on the same question—how a baby will affect their plans for the future, whether it’s a dream job or a college education—they form a friendship; unusually, it’s that relationship, rather than their romantic ones, that’s at the movie’s center. Smulders’ character’s mother is played by Elizabeth McGovern, who starred in She’s Having a Baby, which perhaps the ultimate example of a movie about pregnancy and birth seen from a man’s perspective.

The personal experience on which Unexpected is based is a combination of Swanberg’s time spent as a teacher in Chicago’s west side and her experiences juggling work and motherhood. Swanberg’s husband is the filmmaker Joe Swanberg, so they’ve been able to alternate work and primary-parenting when it comes to their son, but the question took on an extra layer of meaning around Unexpected: their second child is due right around the same time that the movie is.

“Everyone asks, without ill intentions, what I’m going to do [about working]. Everyone asks every pregnant woman that,” she tells TIME. “Everyone expects a man to go back to work.”

That conundrum had an extra layer of meaning for Smulders too, who was already pregnant when she was offered the part. (Her baby was born in January, and she jokes that the best part of the coincidence was that the Unexpected production was able to save money on belly prosthetics.) It’s important to have movies about motherhood that focus on the identity-crisis aspect of being pregnant, she notes, because those pop-culture depictions determine many people’s ideas of what that life change will be like in reality.

“It was so unknown to me [before having children]. You have a general idea of what it’s going to be and that is formed by film or commercials or people you know,” she says. “I think if I were really fully informed by the things I watched on TV I would think that kids were really quippy and had amazing comedic timing and learned life lessons so fast and so easily, just with a conversation at the end of the bed.”

So balancing out Full House and Party of 5—a major source of information about families for a younger Cobie Smulders—is a big deal. And there’s already evidence that the message is getting through.

“Showing the film, I’ve gotten a lot of people come up and say, ‘This is exactly what I went through,’” Swanberg says. “And men coming up and saying, ‘Now I really understand.’”

Read next: How an Unplanned Pregnancy Ended Up Being the Right Choice for Me

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TIME Research

5 Weird Ways Ovulation Can Affect Your Body

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Getty Images

Your senses might seem heightened

Once a month, women of reproductive age go through ovulation—the process in which an egg is released from an ovary into the fallopian tubes, which can then be fertilized by sperm. At the same time, our hormones begin to fluctuate and our brain chemistry shifts, which may be an attempt to help the baby-making along. These changes are thought to increase chances of conception, with research in recent years revealing that ovulation may affect your brain, body, and behavior in surprising ways.

“Hormones affect the entire body, not just the reproductive organs, so it makes sense that our thinking, our behavior, even our appearance can change throughout our cycles,” says Carol Gnatuk, MD, assistant professor of obstetrics and gynecology at Penn State Milton S. Hershey Medical Center. Here are some of the more surprising, even mysterious, symptoms you may notice during your most fertile time of the month.

Your face may get (ever so slightly) redder

First, a new study published in the journal PLoS One found that women’s faces become slightly more flushed in the days leading up to and during ovulation. This makes sense, Dr. Gnatuk says, since hormones affect blood flow throughout the body. “Higher estrogen levels during ovulation can cause blood vessels to dilate, and when vessels dilate close to the skin you get more of a glow,” she says.

The study authors had assumed this affect might be noticeable to men, and might begin to solve the mystery of how and why men seem to find women who are ovulating more sexually attractive. But the slight increase in redness was only detectable via very sensitive cameras—not to the naked eye, which means the jury’s still out.

You might feel more frisky (and express it in interesting ways)

Evolutionarily, it makes sense that a woman’s libido goes up during the time of the month she’s most fertile. But ovulating women don’t just consciously think more about sex; it’s on their mind in sneakier ways as well. According to a 2010 study in the Journal of Consumer Research, during ovulation women may be more likely to unconsciously buy and wear sexier clothing.

Research has also suggested that women dream more about sex in the first half of the menstrual cycle, when the body is gearing up for ovulation, compared to the second half, when your body prepares for your period. One small study found women may even have more erotic interpretations of abstract artwork (think Georgia O’Keeffe flower paintings) when they’re ovulating versus later in their menstrual cycles.

“Libido isn’t totally driven by hormones—if it were, sex would only be about when and not where or with who,” Dr. Gnatuk says. “But certainly, estrogen and testosterone, both of which are higher during ovulation, can increase a woman’s desire.”

You may be more attracted to a certain type of guy

Not only might you feel more “in the mood” during ovulation, but you may also be more interested in some guys over others. Studies have shown that women tend to prefer men with sterotypically masculine traits and pay more attention to traditionally attractive guys during fertile times of the month, especially if their current partners lack manly facial features, like a square jaw.

“When we’re in reproductive mode, we look for traits that we associate with good health,” Dr. Gnatuk explains—and that includes healthy testosterone levels, she says, which suggest that a man is well able to produce and protect offspring.

Another 2011 study from the journal Psychological Science suggests women are better at judging men’s sexual orientation when they are ovulating, perhaps since, from an evolutionary perspective, there’s no sense in going after a guy who isn’t interested.

Your senses might seem heightened

Ovulating women seem to be better able to detect musky odors and male pheromones than those taking oral contraceptives (which prevent ovulation), according to a small 2013 study in the journal Hormones and Behavior; another study that same year found that women may have a heightened sense of smell in general during ovulation than during other times of the month.

You may even be better at detecting potential threats to yourself and your future offspring: A preliminary 2012 study by Kyoto University researchers found that women in the luteal phase of their cycles (which begins with ovulation) were better at finding snakes hidden in photographs of flowers.

You could avoid male relatives

And finally, here’s perhaps one of the most bizarre side effects of ovulation found in the research: According to a 2010 UCLA study, women avoid talking to their fathers on the phone during their most fertile times of the month. (Those who were ovulating or about to ovulate were half as likely to chat with Dad, on average.)

The researchers speculated that historically, it was in a woman’s (and her offspring’s) best interest to avoid male relatives—and potentially incestuous couplings—while they were fertile. Dr. Gnatuk has an alternate interpretation: “You might also argue that you don’t want to talk to Dad right now because he always told you you couldn’t go out with guys, and now’s the time you want to do that.”

This article originally appeared on Health.com

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TIME families

What You Really Need to Know About Egg Freezing

Some call it an "insurance policy" for modern women. But does it really work? Watch TIME's investigation of the latest fertility craze

Egg freezing has been hailed as a game-changer for women, an “insurance policy” to revitalize waning fertility, a breakthrough as revolutionary as the birth control pill. But how well does it really work?

In this week’s issue of the magazine, we took a deep dive into the promises and pitfalls of egg-freezing. If you’re reading this, you probably already know all the facts about how egg quality and quantity deteriorate with age, which is why some women consider freezing their eggs until they’re ready to use them.

Here are eight key takeaways from six months of reporting on whether procedure lives up to the hype:

1) Egg-freezing is taking off among professional women. Doctors say they’ve seen more interest in the procedure since Apple and Facebook announced last year they’d cover egg-freezing in their employee health plans, and younger women are beginning to ask about how they can preserve their fertility. In 2009, only about 500 women froze their eggs—in 2013, almost 5,000 did, according to data obtained from the Society for Assisted Reproductive Technology (SART.) Fertility marketer EggBanxx estimates that 76,000 women will be freezing their eggs by 2018.

2) While there is no widespread published data on the live birth rate from elective egg-freezing, initial data provided exclusively for TIME by Dr. Kevin Doody, former chairman of the SART Registry, gives us the clearest picture so far. Of the 353 egg-thaw cycles in 2012, only 83 resulted in a live birth. After 414 thaws in 2013, 99 babies were born. Those are the most comprehensive live-birth rates for egg freezing, and they’re just under 24%. (It should be noted that some of these eggs may have been frozen with an older slow-freeze method, which has a much lower success rate.)

3) Elective egg-freezing gained popularity after the American Society for Reproductive Medicine removed the “experimental” label from the procedure in 2012, in part because a new quick-freeze vitrification method radically improved success rates. But in the same document, the ASRM also warned against using egg-freezing to electively delay motherhood, citing lack of data. “Marketing this technology for the purpose of deferring childbearing may give women false hope,” they wrote.

4) That marketing is happening anyway. Fertility companies and specialists are hosting egg-freezing parties and other informational gatherings to encourage women to consider freezing their eggs as an “insurance policy,” and in some cases offer Groupon-style discounts if they commit immediately. One of these fertility companies, EggBanxx, recently merged into a new company, Progyny, that’s privately held and funded in part by Merck Serono Ventures. Merck Serono Ventures is the strategic corporate-venture arm of a biopharmaceutical division of Merck KGaA, which just happens to make three major fertility drugs.

(MORE: You can read the full story here: Buying Time: More women than ever are freezing their eggs to use later– but success rates are lower than you think)

5) Freezing your eggs is expensive. The egg retrieval process can cost $10,000-15,000, and that’s not including storage fees or the cost of fertilization and embryo transfer. And it can be physically grueling as well—patients give themselves daily hormone injections for two weeks before eggs are retrieved from the ovaries. The good news is that the procedure doesn’t take very long—most patients said it was over in about 15 minutes.

6) Nobody knows how many babies have been delivered from a mother’s own frozen eggs. When you ask doctors about success rates, they tend to compare the procedure to IVF (which is done with fresh eggs) or egg donation (which often uses frozen eggs from women in their early 20s). And while anecdotal evidence suggests egg freezing is comparable to IVF because frozen eggs behave like fresh ones, IVF itself is hardly foolproof—even in women under 35, the majority of cycles don’t result in a live birth. But because IVF is such a common procedure, women are often reassured when they hear the comparison.

7) Even young women have a high percentage of eggs with chromosomal abnormalities. And while genetic testing of eggs is technically possible, it’s too expensive to become part of the regular procedure in the U.S.—so genetic testing only happens once a egg has been fertilized and grown into a blastocyst (a pre-embryonic state.) That means women don’t know if their eggs are genetically healthy until they’re thawed and fertilized, which means they could be freezing—and pinning their hopes on—bad eggs.

TIME Parenting

How an Unplanned Pregnancy Ended Up Being the Right Choice for Me

xoJane.com is where women go to be their unabashed selves, and where their unabashed selves are applauded

I’m still amazed by how something so poorly timed and so unexpected can result in a life with such significant purpose

I wasn’t ready. I did not plan to get pregnant. I was completely uncertain of everything about my future — my relationship was new, my “career path” took a temporary detour, and my finances were basically nonexistent and nowhere near in order.

Four months before I took a pregnancy test and saw two distinct lines indicating a positive result, I celebrated my 21st birthday. On the night of that celebration, I fell off of a barstool and decided to stay there, lying on the floor, laughing and staring at the ceiling. I thought about my carefree immediate future — I had just quit my job and decided not to enroll in any classes for the fall semester.

I was about to embark on a cross country road trip with a young man that I knew well enough to travel with, but not well enough to even attempt to plan a future together. I imagined crossing state line after state line before finding a waitressing or bartending job and settling in somewhere in California for awhile. I was willingly lacking direction. Flat on my back on the dirty bar floor, I was thrilled at the thought of aimless, careless travel.

By the time we reached Tennessee I felt like something was a little “off,” but I assumed it was due to the constant travel and inconsistent sleep. We ran out of money as we approached the middle of Arkansas, so we decided to settle in Louisiana for awhile and find jobs and work our tails off to make money to stash away for the rest of the trip. I woke up one afternoon after working the graveyard shift as a cocktail waitress on a casino boat and went out and bought the pregnancy test.

The two lines appeared within less than a minute. I didn’t expect this to happen to me. Back then, I still blindly believed that odds would always be in my favor and that because I was “smart,” something so life-altering could never happen. I almost cried, but disbelief and shock kept me from sadness.

I assessed my options and I spoke to my sister, my mom, and a close friend. And then I sat in the sparse, humid living room of our temporary rental and made my decision.

I want to tell you about that child. That unintended child. That child that I carried in the midst of uncertainty and instability. The child that many might say it was not the “right time” for. A child that many might say I wasn’t equipped or prepared for or mature enough to raise.

The first sight of him on a pixelated ultrasound screen at a clinic in Shreveport, Louisiana poured a confusing mix of hope and anxiety into my heart. For the first time in my 21 years, I was brimming with both awe and fear. It seemed that these two feelings alternated every other minute. I had no idea how I was going to do this — how I was going to handle being a mother.

I could not picture my future with a baby in my arms whose life would become my main responsibility. I wanted to believe that “everything happens for a reason” but the truth was that the only reason that I was pregnant was because I chose to be careless and irresponsible. My youthful ignorance that conned me into believing I was exempt from life-altering consequences died swiftly when saw evidence of his life.

The monthly, then bi-monthly, then eventual weekly trips to the clinic to confirm his health and growth seared the reality of impending overwhelming responsibility into my mind.

Watching the days (actually the minutes) tick by as his due date approached, then passed put me in a state of complete confusion. Which did I want more: for things to stay exactly the same or for my world to change forever upon his arrival? His birth occurred about a month before my 22nd birthday.

I spent most of my first year of legal drinking age pregnant and diligent about what I did/didn’t put into my body. Had another choice been made, I’d have been living it up, out til the wee hours of the morning, coming and going as I so pleased, and focused on my appropriately self-centered future.

With this baby’s arrival came absolute bewilderment. I didn’t know that the word “love” was so weak and wrong and overused until I spent my first few hours with him alone in my hospital room. I used the word “love” all my life to describe strong feelings of adoration, fondness, and attachment to others, but this feeling I had while holding this tiny boy, would make any other feeling of love I thought I had seem so insignificant compared to what took up permanent residence in my heart that day.

The English language failed to produce a word that can describe the way I feel about this child. Merely proclaiming “love” does not do justice to the way it feels when every section of your heart feels like it’s bursting with every possible wonderful feeling: elation, happiness, contentment, exuberance, delight, excitement, suspense, and hope.

The word “love” does not begin to cover the feelings of protectiveness, devotion, and loyalty. And if “love” indicates adoration, what I felt for that fragile little baby (and still feel for that boy who is now almost a man) made that word seem trivial and soft. Whenever I saw him or thought of him, my world seemed to spin more smoothly.

My feet felt more firmly planted on the ground, yet at the same time, my heart and mind soared with joy and promise at an unbelievable speed. No one told me this could happen — that a brand new helpless baby, who can’t even speak or reciprocate affection, could sweep you off your feet and make you walk with certainty and deliberate purpose.

As this unintended baby grew, the mix of all of these feelings did too. Sometimes, I wished that someone warned and prepared me for this before he was born. And at other times, I’d feel grateful that I was surprised. Being stilled with awe from unrelenting delight and devotion is indescribable. When his first brother, then his second brother arrived, this love only multiplied.

The sweet alliance these sons of mine formed as they grew together made me wonder if indeed, everything happens for a reason. I could never imagine these brothers without my first son for a single second. Their identities were carved from his precedence. Their personalities molded by his example. The bond between the three brothers is so sacred that I will dare to say it may be as sacred as the bond they each have with me.

My unintended son graduates from high school this year. He will start college in the fall. He has friends, old and new, and a girlfriend that adores him. He is full of creativity, passion, integrity, and grace. Whatever path he chooses, and through all of his mistakes and victories, he will exude these things.

In subtle and incredible ways, he will continue to cause others to be grateful and appreciative of his presence. He loves, has been loved, and will be loved by countless others as he navigates through life.

He is the beacon, the pillar, the fire and the home to my maternal heart. His arrival swung the door wide open and paved a path for his younger brothers to travel alongside of him and me, their determined young mother, holding their hands and guiding them on their journey to adulthood.

When I think about the day that I discovered that I was pregnant, I’m still amazed by how something so poorly timed and so unexpected can result in a life with such significant purpose. My unintended son is also the oldest brother, the cousin, the nephew, the grandson, and the friend that completes and comforts and delights so many people. He was never an option — he was undoubtedly meant to be.

So many memories, decisions, lessons, and plans for the future began with him. So much more lies ahead.

Every woman’s choice is hers, and hers alone. I would never imply that what I did is right for every young woman in my position. But when I look at who my choice grew to be and I watch him with awe from a distance, and when I experience his gentle and genuine kindness and witness the way his presence brings joy to others and then I try to imagine all of our lives without him, I can’t even finish the thought.

The world, as we who love him know it, would not exist without him.

Tina Plantamura wrote this article for xoJane

TIME Ideas hosts the world's leading voices, providing commentary and expertise on the most compelling events in news, society, and culture. We welcome outside contributions. To submit a piece, email ideas@time.com.

TIME Drugs

Some Antidepressants Linked to Higher Risk of Birth Defects

Drugs Prozac and Paxil are linked to certain defects in a new study

A new study finds women who used certain antidepressants could be more likely to have babies born with rare birth defects.

According to the study of 28,000 women by the Centers of Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), certain birth defects were more common among users of antidepressants Prozac and Paxil.

Prozac usage was linked to defects like misshapen skulls and Paxil was associated with defects such as intestines growing outside of the baby’s body and missing parts of the brain and skull. Both drugs were linked to heart defects, according to the study.

The study’s authors note that the risks are very small and that there is no proof that the drugs cause defects, but they did discover a link between using the drugs in early stages of pregnancy and some defects. Women were asked if they used certain antidepressants in the time just before they conceived and during the first three months of pregnancy.

The study, which was published Wednesday in the British Medical Journal, follows several studies that linked the entire class of antidepressants to defects. The study, however, did not find links with birth defects in antidepressants Celexa, Lexapro or Zoloft.

 

TIME Mental Health/Psychology

These Antidepressants May Be Riskier For Pregnant Women, Study Says

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Alfredo Ausina—Getty Images/age fotostock RM

Treating depression properly is important, but a new analysis found a link between certain SSRIs and birth defects

In a study published in the BMJ, researchers conducted the most thorough study to date looking at how popular SSRI antidepressants taken by pregnant women affect their unborn children.

Previous studies, most of which investigated individual medications and their potential effects on the still-developing fetus, have resulted in conflicting results; some have found associations between the antidepressants and birth defects, while others have not.

In the BMJ study, Jennita Reefhuis, team lead in the birth defects branch at the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and her colleagues analyzed data from six existing studies of selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors, called SSRIs—a class of antidepressants—and their relationship with birth defects, as well as the National Birth Defects Prevention Study, which collected birth defect information from hospitals in 10 U.S. cities. The added data from nearly 18,000 mothers who had children with birth defects provided more power to the analysis that Reefhuis and her team performed.

MORE: Therapy and Antidepressants Work Better Together Than Just Pills Alone

Overall, they found that two SSRIs—fluoxetine (Prozac) and paroxetine (Paxil)—were linked to seven specific birth defects, including those involving heart structures, abnormal brain formation and the growth of the intestines outside of the body. The other SSRIs studied—citalopram (Celexa), escitalopram (Lexapro), and sertraline (Zoloft)—did not show strong associations with birth defects.

The researchers don’t yet know exactly why these SSRIs were linked to birth defects, and Reefhuis stresses that the risks she uncovered are small. For example, a heart structural defect occurs normally in about 10 per 10,000 births, and for women taking paroxetine, that risk doubled to 24 per 10,000. “But two times a small number is still a small number,” she says.

MORE: Why Some Antidepressants Make You Feel Worse Before Better

Still, the results should provide better information for doctors and women who want to start families about how to balance the benefits of antidepressants like SSRIs in treating depression and the potential risks the medications can pose to the baby. “I think our data points in the direction that maybe they could choose an SSRI that has not been shown to be associated with, or has been associated with fewer, birth defects,” she says. But more studies like this are needed to confirm and expand on what we know about how specific antidepressants are linked to specific birth defects. “This information is most helpful in trying to unravel this mystery,” says Reefhuis. “I really hope it provides options for treating women who need treatment for depression during pregnancy.”

TIME Research

Babies in Womb Prefer a Mother’s Touch to Her Voice, Study Finds

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Getty Images

A new study shows fetuses respond to touch more than noise

When it comes to mother-baby connections, new research suggests a mother’s touch during pregnancy elicits the greatest response.

In a recent study published in the journal PLOS ONE, researchers looked at what behaviors resulted in the greatest response from fetuses: a mother’s voice, a mother’s touch or nothing. The researchers brought 23 healthy pregnant women who were between the 21st and 33rd week of gestation into a dark room, and had them try three different behaviors.

In one, the mothers were instructed to read to their unborn child, either Little Three Pigs or Jack and the Beanstalk. In another, the mothers stroked and rubbed their abdomen. In a third, control situation, the mothers laid with their arms at their sides.

While the women performed the behaviors, the researchers used sonography to track the response of their fetus. They found that when mothers rubbed their bellies, fetuses had more arm, head, and mouth movements than when the women did nothing or when they spoke to the baby.

“Although it is speculative to suggest, it might well be that the increases in arm movements in response to maternal touch are also directed responses towards the source of the stimulation,” the authors write, suggesting that the movements are indeed responsive and intentional.

The fetuses were also more likely to touch themselves in the 3rd trimester compared to the 2nd trimester. The researchers believe this may because the skin of the fetuses becomes increasingly more sensitive.

The new study is a very small sample size, so definitive conclusions can’t be made. But the findings add to research that suggests that communicating with the unborn baby really does some good.

TIME Birth Control

Quiz: How Effective Is Your Birth Control?

IUD birthcontrol
Photo Illustration by Mia Tramz for TIME; Corbis

Test your contraceptive IQ

Teen birth and pregnancy rates are at a record low, possibly due to teens use of better birth control methods. Do you know how effective your birth control is?

Birth control methods vary widely in terms of effectiveness and duration of use. People choose their methods for a wide variety of reasons, but recent data shows that when women are informed and counseled about different forms of contraceptives, they tend to opt for the most effective types and unintended pregnancies drop. Typical use failure rates are used to determine effectiveness, and show the rate the method fails during “typical use,” which accounts of inconsistent or incorrect use of the method (think missing a pill or a broken condom).

Guess the typical use failure rates of the birth control options below:

TIME feminism

Female Perfect Imperfections Shine Through in Photographer’s New Project

perfectly imperfect ker fox photography
Ker-Fox Photography

Beautiful portraits of 16 women of all body types make up the first part of the ongoing project

In her new project Perfect Imperfections photographer Neely Ker-Fox goes out of her way to highlight the beauty in women of all sizes, shapes, ages and backgrounds. Inspired by other popular postpartum series by the likes of Jade Beall and January Harshe, Ker-Fox took photos of 16 women for the first series of her project and has made plans to shoot 10 more.

“I wanted to represent everybody,” Ker-Fox told People this week. “I didn’t want there to be anybody that saw this project and felt left out.”

The project came out of Ker-Fox’s own struggles with her body image. “For the last 9 months I have struggled with my postpartum body,” she wrote on her website, saying she “barely recognizes” her postbaby frame and has struggled with stretch marks, sciatic nerve pain and even an umbilical hernia. Acknowledging that “we as humans all have insecurities and we are all scarred, imperfect and flawed in some way physically and emotionally,” Ker-Fox said she hoped to show the deeper beauty that shines through in women.

See some of her photos at People

TIME women

Why I Don’t Want to Have Children

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I’ve spent years carefully crafting the most amazing life I can

What I want is to be happy.

I’m often told that I’d make a good mother. Depending on my relationship with the person making this wildly incorrect statement, I have one of two reactions: either a small, insincere smile and a “mmmm” response that does not invite further discussion or a hearty laugh followed by a firm “No.”

Don’t get me wrong: I love kids. They’re hilarious, they’re adorable, and I (mostly) enjoy spending time with them. But without a doubt, I do not want them. And here’s why.

I don’t want to worry about diaper rash and “tummy time” and I don’t want to know what colic is.

I don’t want to put a kid on a kindergarten waiting list and I don’t want to decide between public and private education. I don’t want to coordinate basketball practice drop-off with ballet lessons pick-up, I don’t want to help with trigonometry and darling, I will not deal with your teenage angst because you best believe I invented that. I’d rather have bamboo shoots shoved under my fingernails than try to figure out how to pay for my child’s college while I still owe roughly twelve kajillion dollars for my own degree. I’ve more than once done something “just to tell the grandkids about it,” but I never actually planned on there being any grandkids.

It amuses me to tell people I don’t want children because no one ever quite knows how to respond. I’ve gotten “Well, when you meet the right guy, you’ll change your mind,” which is basically suggesting I’m incapable of making decisions regarding my own life without consulting a nameless, faceless FutureMan and is, by the way, astonishingly offensive. Others immediately ask what I do for a living, as though my employer holds the key to my womb and has locked it up until I retire. I don’t really consider myself a career-minded kind of girl; I’ve always worked to live, not lived to work.

Two mothers have actually said to me, “I didn’t know what love was before having a baby. You should reconsider.” I’m happy they’re happy now but “not knowing love before kids” is one of the most acutely sad things I’ve ever heard. Occasionally, I get a hearty “yeah!” from like-minded women, some of whom will eventually become mothers and some of whom will not. I appreciate the support.

But at this point, it doesn’t matter how much anyone tries to change my mind because the decision’s been made — permanently.

Last October, I spent a wonderful morning with my doctor, during which he performed a tubal ligation on me.

Yep, I got my tubes tied at 28.

I admit that once my doctor agreed to perform the surgery, I had a moment of panic. It immediately crossed my mind that maybe everyone was right and I was wrong and I would wake up at 30 and want a baby more than anything in the world or that maybe my “hard pass” on kids was a rebellion against expectations simply for the sake of a rebellion.

Maybe I would love the complete upheaval of my priorities and schedule and life in general. Shortly after these hysterical thoughts raced through my mind, though, I regained my sanity. I picked a date for the surgery. Done. Tubes tied.

Here’s the thing: I’ve spent years carefully crafting the most amazing life I can.

I’m surrounded by people I love very much, who love me in return. I’m well-educated and well-traveled. I have endless time to learn about things that interest me and to see wonderful things and to meet the greatest people on earth. I leave piles of library books all over my bedroom and plan fabulous trips all over the world. I stay up until 6 a.m. watching Sons of Anarchy because I know no small person is relying on me to feed them in a few short hours. I occasionally eat chips and salsa for breakfast and drink beer for dinner and feel no guilt that I’m teaching anyone horrific eating habits. I spend my days finding my bliss, like all the inspirational posters beg of me.

All this being said, I can’t wait to be an auntie. Whenever my friends start popping out kids, I’ll be there with inappropriately loud and expensive presents. I’ll be the aunt who slips them a vodka martini on their 16th birthday and I’ll rant and rail with the best of them whenever they feel slighted by other kids.

And when I’m off for six months teaching scuba in Venezuela, I promise to send lovely postcards.

I get the reasons people want kids. I do. I’m not such a heartless, selfish monster that I’m incapable of understanding the appeal of a small person who loves you unconditionally and relies on you to guide them safely through a scary world. Parents are brave and strong and incredible people. But so are astronauts and brain surgeons and I don’t want to be those things, either.

What I want is to be happy.

And I’m doing that. I’m there, I’m living that dream. I’m happiest not being a mom, but hey… Call me if you need a babysitter. I’m great in a pinch.

This article originally appeared on YourTango.

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