As told to Kathleen Guthrie Woods
Holly is in that horrible ugly weird limbo in which she’s grieving her loss of the dream of motherhood, kinda still “hoping for a miracle a little bit”, while also trying to work through her anger and figure out a Plan B. Sound familiar? I thought so.
Read on to see how she’s doing, and consider sharing some of your journey with her in the Comments.
LWB: Please briefly describe your dream of motherhood.
Holly: I have never been a particularly child-orientated person, meaning I didn’t obsess over other people’s children or coo at strangers’ babies. But there did come a point in my life when I just felt ready to have my own. It felt natural and not at all scary.
LWB: Are you childfree by choice, chance, or circumstance?
Holly: Circumstance: I ran out of time. I have been with my partner for 17 years. He is 22 years older and has four grown-up children. At first, he said he didn’t want any more children and it didn’t matter to me because I was young and didn’t know that I wanted them myself. At the start I was so in love, I couldn’t contemplate life without him and I thought it would work out somehow. I realise now that I should have thought ahead.
More recently, though I still love him, I have considered leaving him. But I know it would take me a long time to get to a point where I can start a family with somebody else. I might even have to go through a few somebodies before I find “the one”, then I would need to wait until we’re at the right stage of our relationship before starting a family, and then how old would I be? Although there’s still some sliver of possibility, I made the decision to stop believing, stop wishing, and start accepting a life without children.
LWB: What’s the hardest part for you about not having children?
Holly: A lot of my friends are getting married and having children. When they break the news to me, I have to look all excited and interested. I’m not doing either of those things. A friend of mine who had been trying to convince her husband to get a cat told me she had some news. “Ooh, are you getting a cat?” I asked. “No,” she replied, “I’m having a baby!” I just replied, “But you can still have a cat, can’t you?” It’s knee-jerk reaction for me to find something jokey to say when I get that kind of news because I’m concerned that if I just say “Congratulations”, they’re going to hear the insincerity in my voice.
What I hate most is the ease with which they do it; most of them fall pregnant a few short months after getting married. It’s like they say, “What shall we do now? Have a baby? Yeah, okay. Let’s do that.” Like they’re just deciding to walk through a fucking door, and they don’t seem to appreciate that some people are bricked in.
LWB: What’s the best part about not having children?
Holly: I always dreaded the baggage that came with having children. I am very glad to have escaped having to be friends with parents who have no personal identity and talk constantly about their children; having to go to (or host!) children’s parties; and being forced to talk to strangers and give them updates on my son/daughter.
LWB: What’s one thing you want other people to know about your being childfree?
Holly: Never take anything for granted. Younger woman should not take it for granted that they are going to have children and start thinking about a Plan B. Mums and dads should not take it for granted that everybody can have what they’ve got. (And try to exercise a little tact rather than parading their children around like they’re the second coming, or saying “you’ll understand when you have children”.)
Also, this pain isn’t that of wanting something that I cannot have; it’s more a loss, a grief. Years ago I imagined that my baby already existed somewhere and I was just waiting to meet him. I bought a little jumper and an elephant toy for him, things that I had seen when out buying things for my sisters’ babies and thought I would save for the future. So there were already traces of him in my life. When it became clear my boyfriend did not want children with me, I sat and held these items and talked out loud to my baby. I told him that I loved him and that it wasn’t his fault. I’ve never said any of this to anybody and I know why: it sounds ridiculous. What I mean by this is that I’m not coming to terms with not being able to have a baby, rather I feel I am having to lay my baby to rest. I would never want to compare myself to a grieving parent, as that must be the worst imaginable nightmare, but I do feel this is loss I am feeling.
LWB: What’s your Plan B?
Holly: I don’t have a Plan B. I’m still trying to work that one out. Right now I am not living my life like somebody who is free of children. I don’t travel, I don’t follow my hobbies or my passions. I need to start doing something with my life, otherwise it’s all just a waste, but I don’t know what that’s going to be yet.
Where are you on your journey? Are you angry? Grieving? Outlining a Plan B? All of the above? We’d love to hear from you so we can better understand our own journeys and so we can support you! Please visit the Our Stories page to get more information and the questionnaire, and consider sharing your story with women who truly understand what you’re going through.
You can find more of Our Stories here.
Kathleen Guthrie Woods is a Northern California–based freelance writer. She is mostly at peace with her childfree status.