As told to Kathleen Guthrie Woods
Rosie suffered a miscarriage early in her current relationship, which prompted her partner to reveal he didn’t want any more children other than the daughter he already has. However, he also said he “might” be willing to have a child with her, if that’s what she really wanted. For Rosie, it’s a difficult moral and ethical dilemma, and she would “hate to have to choose between him and motherhood.”
Meanwhile, at 32, she’s noticing “time ticking on,” and it’s becoming more and more painful to her to acknowledge she may never have children on her own.
Should she stay with the partner she loves, or choose a chance at motherhood over him? Here’s her story, one that reveals a different reason why some people end up childfree.
LWB: Are you childfree by choice, chance, or circumstance?
Rosie: I’m childfree by circumstance. After I was devastated by the end of my first long-term relationship, some lousy dates, and a couple of disastrous, short-term relationships, I finally met my current partner. He’s older than I am and has a child from a previous relationship. A contraceptive failure meant that I accidentally fell pregnant within the first year of our relationship. It was a rollercoaster of emotions, but my boyfriend was supportive. Then I miscarried at 11 weeks. It was really tough, emotionally and physically. My partner and I had some heart-to-heart discussions, and it came to light that he would prefer not to have any more children. I’m just not sure I could push for us to have kids when it’s not something he really wants. It could lead to resentment or a breakdown in the relationship—and I love my partner.
LWB: Where are you on your journey now?
Rosie: I honestly don’t know. Most of the time I feel like I’m perfectly content with my partner and the life we have. My relationship with my young stepdaughter is great, and I value the bond we have. But I’m not her mother, and I’m reminded of this at various junctures during the time we spend together. For example, when she falls and grazes her knee, it’s her daddy she seeks for comfort. Sometimes, when I have a meeting at work with someone who’s heavily pregnant, or I hear a colleague talk about her child starting school, I feel sad about the child we lost and I feel like I can’t cope with being childless for another second. I’m still considering what to do and how to move forward. Should I stay in a relationship with the man I love, who may or may not want children (and risk never being a parent), or should I move on…but to what?
LWB: What’s the hardest part for you about not having children?
Rosie: The feeling that there is so much love in my heart ready for a child, but that this may never be realized. The sense that there’s a whole other world of love, joy, and wonder that I cannot be a part of. That my life hasn’t fully “started” properly yet, because I don’t have children. Dealing with insensitive (and sometimes ridiculous) comments from friends, family members, and colleagues about my childless status (such as “It’ll be your turn next!” “If you want a baby, just stop using birth control and don’t tell your partner.”).
LWB: What’s one thing you want other people to know about your being childfree?
Rosie: That there are numerous reasons why some people don’t have children, that it’s not just a case of “didn’t want/couldn’t have.” The reasons why people are childfree are unique to each individual and should be treated with compassion and sensitivity. Sometimes I might wish to finish work early, or not always be the one to work the holiday shifts, even though I don’t have children. I may not understand what it is to be a mother, but I do understand what it is to experience love, pain, tiredness, illness. I know what it is to be a part of a family, struggle with work/life balance, and make ends meet. I may not have children, but I still would like to be regarded as a human being of worth and be valued equally as those with children.
LWB: How has LWB helped you on your journey?
Rosie: Before I found LWB, I felt so alone with my feelings. These aren’t the sort of thoughts and feelings I can share with friends, colleagues, or family (most of whom have children), as they just don’t really seem to “get” where I’m coming from. Finding LWB has been a really enlightening and positive experience.
Rosie mentioned in her cover letter what a healing experience it was to write and share her story. I hope you’ll share your story with us. Go to the Our Stories page to get more information and the questionnaire.
If you’re not quite ready for this step, I encourage you to check out the Community Forums and other Our Stories, where you will find support from LWB readers who have traveled paths similar to yours.
Kathleen Guthrie Woods is a Northern California–based freelance writer. She is mostly at peace with her childfree status.