As told to Kathleen Guthrie Woods
Anita has known for about 10 years that she’ll not have children. Now 42, she hesitates to describe her dream of motherhood because it isn’t something she allows herself to think about. “To much scratching on this wound can cause it to bleed again,” she says.
But she’s well aware that there are triggers all around us that scratch and wound, and she addresses some of them in her answer to “What’s the hardest part for you about now having children?”
I certainly can relate to what she’s saying, and I sense you will too. After you’ve read her story, I hope you’ll reach out to her in the Comments.
LWB: Describe your dream of motherhood.
Anita: I dreamed about nurturing and raising a child of my own, sharing her life, watching her grow.
LWB: Are you childfree by choice, chance, or circumstance?
Anita: Circumstance. My husband had been previously married, and they had a son. Before we married we discussed the “having a baby” question, and we both wanted children. A few years into our marriage, my husband decided against having children.
LWB: Where are you on your journey now?
Anita: Acceptance, and depressed. I am not really sure that one can ever really overcome this. I think this is, like the death of a parent, something you learn to live with.
LWB: What’s the hardest part for you about not having children?
Anita: In short, it feels as if being without a child has robbed me of interaction with other women. I am forever lurking on the fringes. I’m not a man, but not a “real” woman either. [Following are some of the situations she finds especially difficult.]
- Stork teas/baby showers. At work, every now and then, we have a stork tea. In the beginning, I went (because it is expected of women). It was terrible. It felt as if I was going to break apart. Everyone was having fun, but I felt like running away and weeping in my office. I felt as if I was a freak. On the one hand, you have the mothers giving advice to the pregnant woman, talking about pregnancy, birth, and caring for your baby, with little personal stories to illustrate points. Scary things, good things, funny things. On the other hand, you have the young women still able to have children. And I fitted in neither of these groups. I still buy the gift, but I arrange for someone else to take it to the stork tea.
- The same can be said for gatherings everywhere. The men stand around the fire, and the women sit around discussing their children.
- Going to a “Womanhood” lecture at our church. The conversations during tea time included “Oh, I already have one child, but I am hoping for another one” and “A woman’s purpose is to have children”. I found myself surrounded by women with many children in tow, with toddlers running around. I excused myself and walked to another room, trying to control my emotions, my despair.
- Seeing pregnant woman everywhere.
- Colleagues coming to show their babies after maternity leave.
- Knowing that you are the last of your family, a biological dead end. There is no one to whom I can pass down my grandfather’s bayonet that he had fought with in the war. No one to pass my mother’s keepsakes. All my keepsakes sold to a secondhand dealer, or chucked away as rubbish. No one to tell the story of our family to. The long line of my family will be snuffed out, and it will be as if I had never existed.
LWB: How do you answer “Do you have kids?”
Anita: “No.” Sure, I have a stepson, but he already has a mom. For a while I hoped that I could be his “other” mom, but it wasn’t to be.
LWB: What is the best part about not having children?
Anita: Listening to our neighbor’s child scream seemingly for hours every night, and feeling thankful that it is not our child.
Won’t you share your story with us? The act of answering the questions itself can be very healing, plus we’d like to support you by telling you “You are not alone.” Please visit the Our Stories page to get more information and the questionnaire.
Kathleen Guthrie Woods is mostly at peace with her childlessness.