There's a running joke in my circle of friends: When do we get "no baby" showers? Just because we don't need a houseful of onesies, pacifiers, and toys doesn't mean we shouldn't get to throw parties celebrating our own non-parent milestones. Tongue firmly in my cheek, I like to say that a "no baby" shower should be only scary, dangerous, or vulgar gifts—stuff that celebrates no kids underfoot.
(It seems relevant to mention that along those same lines, many of my friends and I are in long-term partnerships and laugh about having "you stayed together" parties in lieu of some sort of ceremony and reception marking the supposed beginning of our lives together, as if that didn't begin long ago. It should be said, though, that we really are kidding. We don't need more stuff, especially from our equally cash-strapped pals.)
When I told the story of voluntarily having my tubes tied on American Public Media's The Story a few weeks ago, host Dick Gordon asked, jokingly, if I wouldn't have some sort of sterilization party. The truth is, no longer having to pop birth control pills or stress about my cycle might make me as happy as having children makes other people. Since I quit taking my birth control pills, for example, my lifelong migraines have all but ceased. While I was arguably on the path to healing long before I got rid of hormonal contraceptives thanks to acupuncture, I think we can all agree that being able to choose to end chronic suffering is something worth its own celebration of sorts.
But when we consider parties, we also ought to consider mourning. The two aren't mutually exclusive, after all. It's been touched on in the comments here before, and I'm really interested in the idea of choosing to hold space for the loss that not having a child can be, even if an intentional choice. There will never be a little me running around the house, just as I will never see my partner's fantastically sexy features replicated on a smaller scale. There are things I will never experience—pregnancy, labor, the personal biological evidence that life doesn't end with me. For many women, even those who choose not to have kids, accepting some of those hard truths is tricky or even painful, no matter how many years of babysitting our friends' kids or playing peek-a-boo with tots in public places we have ahead of us. It's important to recognize that our joy in not procreating can also come with contradictions that deserve consideration.
When I think about the idea of celebrating children, I come back to the same question again and again: Why shouldn't an intentional choice of any kind be honored? When feminists* talk about reproductive justice, it's often within the context of not just the ability to, say, have an abortion, but to raise a child the way you see fit, or to give birth on your own terms. The very notion that we should be in charge of our own bodies—that if possible, we shouldn't just wait for things to happen to us—is central to a conversation about rights, health, and justice. Don't you think intentionally opting out—in the same way that many intentionally opt in to parenthood—is worth a few streamers and noisemakers too?
*I get that not all feminists understand the true meaning of reproductive justice. In this case, I'm making a good faith attempt to recognize that many do.
Photo of me as a child, grabbing my own ass, via factory takeover