Saturday, January 01, 2022

Children and Childhood: The Ace Carnival Round-up for December 2021

Here it is: the round-up for the December 2021 Carnival of Aces. This topic was double-barreled, inviting aces to talk both about their own childhood and the children they might want to raise, and I got several responses in each category.

Having Children

I was pleasantly surprised by how many aces wrote in about their own desires for parenthood. I've often felt that in asexual community circles, not wanting children is assumed to be part of the package for asexuality, and it's made me feel pretty alone. This helps. I was also surprised how often vaginismus or related conditions came up - I wonder if anyone has looked into how prevalent pain with penetration is for the asexual spectrum? I, too, have vaginismus, which has affected my experience of artificial insemination and related medical procedures.

Perfect Number talks about how it felt to be pregnant and asexual in Being Asexual in Pregnancy World. She talks about how pregnancy resources assumed that a pregnant mother's pre-pregnancy sex life was fine and easy without any communication required, an assumption which boggles her mind (and likely the minds of anyone who doesn't happen to have sexual preferences that perfectly line up with what our society has decided is the norm). She talks about her sex life getting better as a result of pregnancy, instead of worse, because she felt empowered to actually set boundaries to avoid experiencing pain during sex instead of putting up with it. She also comments that giving birth cured what was most likely undiagnosed vaginismus, and afterwards, sex was no longer painful.

I, too, have noticed how heteronormative pregnancy resources are. An ongoing annoyance for me is how the pregnancy tracking app I've been using, Ovia, keeps asking stats questions that have no relevant option for me as a single parent, often surprising ones, like the question "who usually buys the groceries in your household?" assuming the only two options are you or your significant other. (I live with my parents, they usually buy the groceries.) I've also previously had frustrations with period tracking apps that don't allow for tracking sexual activity and fertilization in a way that reflects how utterly separate those two are for me.

Sildarmillion actually submitted two entries, the first of which is titled On being asexual and wanting to have a child (specifically, give birth) someday. A lot of this feels like it could have been written by me six years ago, although since I was younger when I was going through the "I wanna have a child" epiphany, I didn't look into the same options. Although my own struggles with penetration are less than Sildarmillion's (and in fact tampons have long been my preferred period product), I can relate to finding transvaginal ultrasounds painful. I can also relate to the frustration of heteronormative resources on vaginismus, one of the possible diagnoses Sildarmillion is exploring for her difficulties. I found it really tricky to find good information on what course of action would be suitable for treating vaginismus with the goal of reducing pain with vaginal medical procedures, rather than the goal of enjoying PIV sex. I finally resorted to calling up my fertility doctor to ask her what diameter the IUI applicator she used was, and comparing that to the dilator set I'd gotten.

Pigeon, aka Em, submitted Some Thoughts on Possibilities for Ace Parents, discussing aer musings on aer own desires for the future and possible parenthood, and what options would exist if ae chooses to go that route. Pigeon lists adoption as an option which may or may not be more difficult for a single parent than for an m/f couple, and mentions some aces potentially having sex to attempt pregnancy. (I recall reading, I think it was on AVEN forums, about an m/f couple who were both ace and talking about their struggles with that route to conception. Neither of them much liked sex and it was hard to push themselves to have the amount of sex that's ideal for m/f couples trying to conceive.)

Ae also talks about IVF meaning that you don't have to have sex or convince a person with a penis to help in order to get pregnant. I would like to point out that IUI is a less famous option but likely a better first approach unless you have known fertility problems, since it's less invasive and usually much cheaper.*

Ae also mentions queerplatonic coparenting, of children who may or may not be biologically related to said queerplatonic partners. On which topic, I'd like to mention a news article that made me happy in 2017, about a single biological mother and her best friend winning a legal battle to have her best friend recognized as a second parent to their son. This wasn't a planned arrangement in their case - the son, Elaan, has disabilities and his biological father isn't in the picture, so his biological mother's friend stepped up to help raise him. However, it's an important legal precedent for queerplatonic parents. Pigeon also discusses possibilities for three-parent families, both romantic and queerplatonic. This describes my situation, since I'm a single pregnant mother intending to coparent with my own parents, who are an m/f couple. However, I think people are probably going to think it's weirder to have platonic coparents if they aren't biologically related to you.

Own Childhood

Four participants talked about childhood, taking three very different takes on the topic.

Coyote talks about eir reaction to Christmas and how this relates to both eir unhappy childhood and eir ace identity in Christmas is my Valentine's. I have heard from many abuse survivors who find the emphasis on family during Christmas difficult, but the fact that Coyote isn't inclined to build a "traditional" family of eir own means that e lacks the escape some allo abuse survivors use to make Christmas more pleasant. And unfortunately, Coyote's allo friends seem to have the common problem of valuing romance higher than friendship by default.

Cyril, from Aro By Design, also takes on the topic of how friendships are valued in comparison to romance in their piece, Growing Up Ace, where they discuss how friendships are seen as something for children. Cyril describes how children's books tend to focus on going on adventures with your friends, going through exciting and dangerous things and supporting each other through it all. And then, you come to YA, and suddenly all the books are focused around romantic relationships instead of friendship. Cyril ends the discussion by musing that adults have a lot to learn from children.

Keygoose, meanwhile, takes on the topic of childhood from a somewhat different angle in Too Young, Yet Old Enough. She talks about being a teenager and questioning asexual, and how Keygoose finds herself feeling like she's "too young" to really know if she's ace. The theme of friendship comes up in keygoose's post, too, in her musings on different-gender friendships and the taboos that heterosexuals place on such friendships. Keygoose says part of what's made her hesitate to identify as asexual is the wish to prove such taboos wrong by being a heterosexual who values opposite-gender friendships. Finally, Keygoose finishes off by settling on the label "grey-asexual", as a way to avoid having to give a yes-or-no answer to the question of asexual identity.

And lastly, Sildarmillion's second entry was a musing on the term "childfree" from the perspective of a child, titled An unpopular(?) take on the term ‘childfree’. Once again, she echoes many of my own thoughts, as she points out how -free tends to be used to refer to not having something perceived as negative, and how "childfree" implies a negative connotation to having children. While I fully support anyone deciding for themselves whether or not they want children regardless of which option they choose, I have to say that I've seen quite a bit of negativity about children from self-identified "childfree" people, including some extreme cases who basically don't want to ever even see children, especially children acting in developmentally appropriate ways. (Conversely, one of my best friends is a teacher who loves children, and describes her own stance on parenthood as "I don't want to be a parent, I just want to borrow other people's kids temporarily". So, clearly, not choosing to have children doesn't mean you have to dislike children.) I can also recall times as a child when I met adults who clearly hated children, including a few teachers like that, and I could feel the dislike coming off of them and it adversely affected me. So, please, whether you want to have children or not, learn not to hate people for simply being younger than you are and needing more assistance and guidance than most adults do.

* IVF stands for in-vitro fertilization, and involves extracting eggs from an ovulating person, introducing them to sperm in a laboratory, and then inserting an embryo 3-5 days after conception (not counting time spent frozen, since this pauses development) into the uterus and hoping they burrow into the endometrium and successfully grow. In contrast, IUI involves inserting sperm directly into the uterus right around the time of conception. Medications to regulate ovulation are optional for IUI but required for IVF, from what I understand, so if you're concerned about medication side effect, IUI can be a safer option. In addition, IUI involves one procedure per attempt, possibly preceded by one or more vaginal ultrasounds to determine the precise timing of ovulation, whereas IVF is at minimum two procedures per attempt, again not counting the vaginal ultrasounds. And the cost is vastly different. Not counting the cost of donor sperm, an IUI cycle costs a few hundred dollars, while an IVF cycle costs a few thousand. (Donor sperm also tends to cost a couple thousand, if you don't want to go through the process of finding your own donor - which, I agree with Pigeon is an utterly mortifying process!)


Blogger sildarmillion said...

Good to see all the other submissions to the carnival! A lot of great content here, and also really great commentary from you for context for each piece. :)

6:07 AM  

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