I am childless by choice. It was a choice I made when I was a kid, after seeing the UNICEF commercials of hungry, thirsty children in crowded cities, swollen bellied with stick legs, black flies on their faces. At 9, I told my friend Susie Hollander, "I am not going to have my own kids because there are too many children in the world." My mother said a decision made so young wasn't informed, and that I would change my mind by 29 when my maternal urges kicked in. They didn't. What did change in those 20 years, however, was that the human population on the planet increased by more than 1 ½ billion people.
At 32, I met the beautiful man who is now my husband, Ian. Just before we married, he and I went to counseling to resolve the one issue upon which we didn't agree: if we had kids, he wanted a child of his own flesh and blood and I wanted to adopt. I had produced a film about overpopulation and spoken to over 6,000 Los Angeles students on the overpopulation crisis. What began as an instinct as a child was now backed by solid statistics. The world population had doubled in my lifetime. How could I be part of the problem by adding more people to the planet? Ian and I walked out of the session agreeing to have one birth child and, if we wanted more, we would adopt. It was a compromise I could live with.
After we married, people would invariably ask, When are you going to have children? My mother wept because she had no grandchildren, and she wondered what she had done to turn me off from having a family. Mom, the world population has tripled since you were born in 1936; how can I add more? To most people, the future of the planet isn't a good enough reason to forsake giving birth. I was going against my biology. It felt lonely to believe so strongly in something deemed so unnatural - even my many environmentalist comrades who recycled and drove hybrids did not join me in my concern about a world filled with 9 billion people.
There's an old legend that if you put a frog in a pot of boiling water, she will immediately jump out. But if you put the frog in water and slowly turn up the heat, she will lie there, adjusting to her increasingly warm surroundings. The frog will die before she realizes she must jump out to save her life. Are we so different? Even though the world population has gone from 2 billion to 7 billion in 80 years, the change is perceived slowly enough in our own lives that we believe humanity will be able to accommodate the 2 billion more people born within the next 30 years. We don't react to the crisis because it doesn't feel like a crisis, no matter how shocking the numbers are.
In the end, my husband decided he was no longer interested in having birth children. I was secretly relieved. I had become so alarmed about the world's growing population that "2 kids per couple" was no longer feasible - I now believed that only one child per couple could forestall the chaos of 12 billion people living on earth. But my decision to have none means that my family line ends here: my brother, worried about the world population also, chose a vasectomy at 21, and my twin has not had children either.
Ian and I explored adoption, but since my maternal instincts still hadn't kicked in, and Ian wasn't sure he wanted kids at all, we remain childless. In our society, people often feel sorry for couples who don't have kids, but don't pity us. We are still madly in love after 14 years together. Our friendships and family relationships are close and our careers are rewarding. Our life together is a loving adventure every day.
My choice feels natural, even though they say I am acting against my biology to not give birth. To me, it feels like I am acting for the planet, and the future of every living thing on earth.
Alexandra is the star of over 70 films and television shows. She has been honored by the United Nations for her environmental work. She co-wrote and produced the award winning educational film on overpopulation, Jampacked. For more on Alexandra's thoughts on overpopulation, go to her website.
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