I matter.

umzila kawulandelwa
11 min readJan 17, 2023

This is a personal story which I wasn’t sure I wanted to share then decided to share in case you know, there is someone who could benefit from it the same way I benefitted from hearing other people’s stories.

I am a 32yr old childfree and single woman in Johannesburg, South Africa and yesterday I got my tubes tied. For those who don’t know what tying tubes is, I had a tubal ligation. I was sterilised.

I have known I did not want to have kids since I was 19. And of course I was told many times that I would change my mind. Here I am now at 32 even surer than I was back then that the path of motherhood is definitely not for me. Motherhood is too much work for no pay. I’m just not prepared to put in that kind of effort into raising another human being.

At 19 I dated this guy who told me we’d get married when I turned 24. That made no sense to me. What was so special about 24? What about 24 said I would be ready let alone want to get married? I knew that if I married this guy I would have to fall into the stereotypical role of wife and him the husband and self appointed “head of our household”. That thought always filled me with dread. There was something about being a wife, especially to that guy, that made me feel like I would be handing over my life and power to him. And that wasn’t appealing to me.

While my peers were hoping their then partners would end up as their husbands, I was praying to a God I wasn’t even sure I believed in begging him to spare me from marriage. Already society was making me feel like something was wrong with me. What was so bad about a guy loving me so much he was committing to marrying me?! To be honest, it wasn’t the idea of marriage that scared me. Marriage can be undone. I’m a huge proponent of divorce. So I wasn’t fazed by that. It was the babies I felt I would HAVE TO have if I got married to him that freaked me out.

I am the youngest child at home so I never really got any experience with babies when I was growing up. I had always been the baby. So I can’t pinpoint what it was about babies that first made me say nope, not for me.

I remember a time when I was on school holidays one time and I was taking extra lessons over those holidays which meant I had to be up earlier than usual to make it on time to my classes. I just remember being so tired on one particular day cos my nephew had managed to keep both my mom and I up the previous night. I didn’t know much about babies but gosh, they could cry! And steal one’s sleep.

Now you see the sleep thing was already a big problem for me. I don’t know anyone who is able to function well on little to no sleep. If there are people like that, I am not one of them. My mood and my mental wellbeing depend on me getting a good night’s rest. So babies and I just stood no chance. If I had to choose between a baby and myself, I chose myself. I choose a good night’s rest over having a baby.

I eventually summed up enough courage to end things with that boyfriend from when I was 19 and decided that from then on babies and marriage were off the table for me. I would meet another guy who had me convinced I wanted to marry him and give him a baby! But you see, that was the problem. I never saw future baby as my baby or OUR baby. It was always something I would do FOR HIM. Whew.

Thank God for books and the internet. Seriously, thank God for the internet. Cos it was during my university days that the internet really sucked me in. I discovered blogs and omg twitter!! It was on these blogs and twitter that I discovered more women like me. Older women who were sure they didn’t want to get married and/or have kids. I didn’t know anyone in real life who felt the same way as I did so those women on the internet became my tribe! I wasn’t crazy and there was definitely nothing wrong with me. I did not owe a man or anyone really a baby. I didn’t have to prove my love by making a whole baby. The permanence of babies scares the shit out of me.

I value my freedom to change my mind and I make sure I use it whenever I can. I have the right to change my mind about anything and everything. Unfortunately babies are so permanent that even if you change your mind about them, you have to keep them forever. Omg. There is no divorce court for children and their parents. They are here, they are yours FOR LIFE. I could never, ever commit to anyone or anything like that. Making such a commitment means I give up my right to change my mind. That’s too high a price for me.

Even when I think of marriage I know the vows say forever until we die. But I honestly can’t make such a commitment. Marriage for me will be for as long as we still like each other, want to be with each other and such. Not just a declaration that come what may, we’re staying together. That’s unrealistic. I’m not making such a promise to anyone. I can only make that commitment to myself. I, without a shadow of doubt, commit to myself forever and beyond this life. I will ALWAYS be with me and stand by me.

So I left that guy I was going to give a baby to. I didn’t owe him that and frankly, I had stayed with him for as long as I did for the kind of husband and father I thought he’d make. I believed he would have been able to take care of the child I gave him and that gave me some comfort. But after I realized I didn’t have to do any of those things I vowed to myself I would never do those things out of a misplaced sense obligation.

So when I met the late love of my life I told him on day 2 of us being a couple that marriage and babies were off the table for me. Turned out he also didn’t want either of those things so him and I were perfect together. We did eventually change our minds about marriage cos if shit went south, we could always get a divorce. However we stayed committed to our no babies decision because those can’t be undone.

I was thirty when my boyfriend died. During that time I had taken so many pregnancy tests cos I was shit scared of an unwanted pregnancy even though I had an IUD the whole time him and I were together. I have just always been paranoid about an unwanted pregnancy. I have heard of babies who’ve been conceived while the mom was on some form of birth control. So I was scared I’d have that really determined baby who couldn’t be stopped by my Mirena. In a way I feel like I have always been haunted by my fertility. It was always that dark cloud that hung over my head in my relationship with the love of my life.

It may not make sense to some people that I would decide to tie my tubes while single.

But here’s the thing. It was very important for me to do this now while single, clear and sure of what I want. I don’t want anyone to waste their time trying to change my mind. I want them to know that babies are just off the table with me end of discussion. I really have no time to waste listening to someone trying to change my mind.

And also it really doesn’t matter what a potential partner thinks about my decision to not have kids. It’s not his body so he doesn’t get to have a say. I’m serious. For me having a baby is not a man’s decision to make. And that’s what’s been so powerful for me about this decision. I feel like I just took a huge step to affirm to myself that my value is not tied to potential male partners and/or a baby. My existence is not validated by the presence of a male partner in my life or children. It doesn’t matter what opinions a potential partner has or does not have about my body because …. *newsflash* IT IS NOT HIS BODY.

I have 100% shareholding over my body. It is actually an amazing thing that I managed to fight every teaching I received growing up as a girl child to believe that. My body is mine. Perhaps when I was younger I didn’t really believe that. I was raised to believe that women belonged to other people. I was my father’s until he could leave me in my husband’s capable hands. I was taught that I always needed a man to sign off on all my decisions. My father didn’t trust my decisions unless he, or my brother, or my boyfriend or any man approved of it. Do you see that the odds were always staked against me? But again, thank God for the internet as it was women all across the internet who taught me that I could trust my own judgement without needing a man to validate it.

So whatever a man I don’t even know yet thinks of my decision means absolutely nothing to me. Anyway I would never be with a man who had children or wanted to have children. It’s a deal breaker for me. And no, I am not willing to compromise on that. I don’t want to be a mother and what I want matters. I would never compromise on having children cos a partner wants them. Fuck no. Children are not pieces of clothing we buy to please others. You can always give away clothes you no longer want. You can’t do the same with children. Also whatever happens between a baby daddy and I, him and I would be bound together forever cos of the children we share. God no. When I’m done with you can I please be done?

Also my gripe is that the workload of raising children falls mostly on the shoulders of women. It doesn’t matter how perfect and present one’s male partner is. Mothers in heterosexual relationships always end up carrying most of the load. Right from the time the baby is born. It is the mother who is up at night with the child while the father sleeps. No way. I would end up in jail! Please. Lead me not into temptation, I have no problems finding it all by myself!

There’s this assumption that all women want to be mothers so if you feel differently about it there must be something wrong with you. It’s crazy. I know there are women who had babies simply cos “that’s just what women do.” You reach a certain age, you have a baby. Hol’ up. My life came to screeching halt when I realized I could CHOOSE my life. Like really, I could, as a woman, CHOOSE for myself what I wanted to do with my life.

Realising that I could CHOOSE was quite frankly intoxicating. You mean? I didn’t have to blindly follow a script? I could rewrite it to something I felt comfortable with and wanted? I was never going to waste such freedoms! I got my first IUD at 24 and I was high off the excitement of realizing I could walk to my most wonderful gynaecologist and ask for long term contraception and not need a man to sign off on that decision?! OMG!!! WHAT ELSE COULD I DO?!!!!

It matters to me that I embrace these freedoms AND use them because the generations of women who came before me couldn’t even dare to dream of such freedoms!!! I owe it to myself and to the women who came before me to make sure I CHOOSE my life not settle for it. Many of them died oppressed by systems that deemed women to be on the same level as children. Unable to make their own decisions about their own lives. Oh my heart.

I feel like I just got up on a world stage and declared to the whole world that I am a woman, I am childfree, I am unmarried AND I MATTER!!! My value does not stem from children that I raise or a husband I commit myself to. I, Sanele, as I am, by myself…. matter! I feel drunk on that statement! I was important the day I landed on this earth, screaming and entirely dependent on my caregivers for my survival as I am now as a 32yr old woman with no husband and/or children.

I am under no obligation to change the world either. I am not trying to take my childfree-ness and make something great of it. I don’t owe anyone that. I just want to sleep in, travel, have disposable income, read, live in a quiet house and have the mess in the house be the mess that *I* make. I just want to live my life how I WANT to. It seems basic but that isn’t a freedom women have always had. I am grateful that I am existing in a time where women can make all the important decisions concerning their lives for themselves.

It infuriates me that there are people who really try to police what women do with their bodies because that’s just one of the many ways women are told they don’t matter. Decisions concerning their bodies seem to be made by people external to them. That’s just ludicrous! We are not children. Even children’s bodies belong to them. However decisions concerning children obviously need to be made by responsible adults as they are incapable of making such decisions for themselves. Now why are women being treated in the exact same way as children?!

Womanhood is not a curse and neither is it a disability. No one outside the owner of the body should be making decisions about said body. Why are grown ass men in women’s business?! We have made progress but are simultaneously setting generations of women back by absurd decisions like overturning Roe v Wade.

Anyway, I suppose women’s liberation will not be done until every single woman on this earth is liberated. I am most grateful to my gynaecologist who has taken my decision to not have children seriously. He has never second guessed me, never sought out a man’s approval of any of my requests. I have been asking him for permanent contraception and I had no idea what made him finally say yes this time but I am so glad he did. I have been his patient since I was 21 and so basically for a solid 11yrs he’s said no. I wasn’t going to wait a long time to go ahead with this procedure in case he changed his mind.

I am SO happy and SO deeply grateful I could do this. I am relieved. SO relieved that I never, ever have to worry about getting pregnant ever again. That was quite literally my worst fear. Always lurking, always waiting to ruin my life.

I am free now! I get to live life on my terms. Motherhood is just way too much work than I am prepared to do in the lifetime. And guess what? I don’t have to do it!!! Oh my heart.

My name is Sanele. I am childfree, unmarried and I matter.



umzila kawulandelwa

I tell stories about my experience of being alive. Perpetually day dreaming of reading and writing by the beach