I want to share with you my journey to accepting my childlessness, which was not by choice. I hope that what I share helps those of you facing the same challenge of not being able to have children. And helps those with children better understand what it can be like to not have had the opportunity to become parents.
Like you, I dreamt of holding my baby for the first time. I dreamt of being there for their first steps, their first day of school and supporting them in becoming their own unique selves.
Yet, unlike you, my dream was never realised despite eight years of trying to conceive and then adopt.
I had to let go of holding my baby for the first time, to then let go of meeting my child for the first time at an orphanage.
I now carry my childlessness as a scar that everyone can see.
Not being able to have children when you desperately wanted them is like having a scar that everyone can see. It is a scar that is revealed whenever someone innocently asks if I have children.
Although there is nothing inherently wrong with this question, and it is something that we ask in society to connect with others, for me, it exposes a little of my emotional scar.
Often I shrug off the ‘do you have children?’ question with a quick no, and then direct the conversation to another topic. This minimises the chances of someone probing further into that wound. Or needing to explain my situation or feelings to acquaintances or complete strangers. Yet I can’t always protect myself from this sometimes innocent, sometimes invasive questioning.
When the question ‘do you have children?’ hurts
When I answer no to the question ‘do you have children?’ less empathetic individuals make comments such as, ‘you’d better get on with it, the clock is ticking’, or ‘have you considered IVF or adoption’. They mean no harm, but it feels as if they are taking a needle and poking into that tender scar. Most days, I can shrug off these comments as I know it is their own beliefs they are projecting onto me.
However, there are days, especially when someone who doesn’t know me at all makes such comments, it hurts or annoys me. Some days I redirect the conversation to hide these emotions. Yet other days, I feel like sarcastically saying, ‘seriously, wow, I’ve never heard of or considered IVF, if only I thought of that ten years ago!’ Unfortunately, I’m not that rude.
Other times, when I answer no, more sympathetic people may state that they are sorry. Yet rather than asking me how it makes me feel, how I am dealing with it or how my life has changed as a consequence, they project a positive spin on my childlessness with comments such as, ‘there are many other joys in life other than children’, ‘if I had my time over again I am not sure I would have children’, or ‘you have so much freedom’. I know these comments are intended to help me accept my situation and make me feel better. However, they do more to dismiss and suppress my feelings.
Expressing the grief of losing a child you never conceived or never met is hard to describe, yet the sense of loss is real.
To this day, tears still well up in my eyes when I hear the song, You’re Beautiful, by James Blunt. The words of this song rang so true for me when we decided we had to put an end to our dreams of having children and allow our hearts to heal. To me, this song expresses the love and loss you can feel for someone that was never in your life.
You’re beautiful, it’s true
There must be an angel with a smile on her face
When she thought up that I should be with you
But it’s time to face the truth
I will never be with you.
—James Blunt, You’re Beautiful
Opening up about my childlessness, not by choice
Although I desire the understanding of others, I acknowledge that it must be difficult to comprehend the sorrow and grief I feel for children I’ve never conceived. I acknowledge that I’ve played a role in this lack of understanding by shielding myself from the difficult conversations that expose this wound.
For years, I could not describe the grief and loss I felt. I didn’t feel ready to talk about it. It was a scar I keep hidden.
Having children and being a parent is such a normal part of life’s trajectory that we don’t talk openly about other options. Or accept that this may not be the journey for all of us.
Each of us forges our own unique path in life, and yet, we are not alone in our journeys. Many others have experienced the same choices, losses and heartbreak.
The Tears of a Woman
— A Novel —
The story of a woman’s emotional struggle to become a mother while navigating weight bias and self-doubt.
The Tears of a Woman is the sequel to The Weight of a Woman, although it is enjoyable as a standalone read.
We are not alone
As a childless, not by choice, woman I am not alone.
A quarter of all women share a life journey that children will never be a part of. A life journey, often not of their choosing, but life circumstances such as infertility, relationship dynamics, illness, finances, genetic issues, sexual orientation and so on.
The widely held perception that women choose to either become a mother or not is close-minded. A woman without children may have chosen to be childless. Or she may be cradling wounds of losing a child she never got to hold.
So rather than assuming that I have chosen not to have children, I am selfish or career-driven, or that I am oblivious to IVF or adoption, I ask that you don’t jump to conclusions. I ask that you don’t judge us, illicit advice, or project your own views of motherhood on us.
Instead, I encourage you to grace us with a sympathetic smile. And if appropriate, invite us to share our feelings and our unique story that led to our childlessness.
Let’s stay in touch
I’d love to hear if you resonate with this blog and invite you to read my other blogs on childlessness and fertility:
- Living a meaningful life without children, where I share how to reorientate ourselves to create a meaningful life when we’ve been unable to have children.
- A Wellness Diet that Promises You’ll Get Pregnant, where I share how it feels to have alternative health professionals promise you’ll get pregnant if you just follow their diet plan.
You can also learn more about our childless journey in these podcast interviews:
- Happy and Childless, Tansy Boggon: Joyfully Living Without Children
- Childless Not by Choice, Episode 141–Downriver Nomad, where my husband shares our failed adoption journey and where it has now led him.
A novel that explores childlessness
My novel, The Tears of a Woman, is a fictional story of a woman navigating weight bias while struggling to conceive and then adopt. In writing the story, I drew on our childlessness journey. So, although it is fictional, many of the incidents are based on our own experiences. I am so excited to share this story with you.
It’s so rare to find anybody writing about a combination of infertility and failed adoption that doesn’t end in “we tried everything and finally got our rainbow!” 🤮. We are 2 years out from our final failed adoption where I had to walk away because it was killing me physically and mentally, and 5 years out from our final failed IVF. I find that it is more difficult for me, and not just because of recency, to deal with the multiple failed adoption attempts, and was wondering if you have any blog posts out there that more specifically talk about your experience with failed adoption and deciding not to go forward any longer in that direction. Our family and friends have ghosted us, and my depression is destroying me as I get closer to 50. I can’t find a therapist that will see me face to face (everyone in my area of the US wants to do it over video, and I’m nauseated by that ) nor anyone who I feel like I can trust after my last therapist (who I can’t go to because she’s out of state now). I’ve tried to find meetups for those who are childless not by choice and trying to become child free but most of them in our city our focused on the people who never wanted kids in the first place or who are still trying to have kids. As you know, failed fertility treatments are very different than failed adoption attempts as the child is out there that you wanted to mother, so I’d love your thoughts on that or point me to a link where you may have discussed your journey in a more detailed fashion…? Thank you.
Aimee, thanks for reaching out.
You’re right, there is little out there about failed adoption or how hard the process is, and similarly to IVF, the stories often shared are success stories with the moral that all the hard work was worth it in the end.
It is so hard when the end of our story is no children. However, I suppose that is not the end of our story, it is just a chapter in our life. Yet, that doesn’t mean that concluding the chapter and beginning our next is any less difficult.
I hope you can get the support you need and find a community of other childless not by choice people that get you. I recommend Gateway Women. You are likely to find others on a similar journey and who can support you.
I have shared some of our story on the podcast Tansy Boggon: Joyfully Living Without Children and my husband has on the podcast Childless Not by Choice, Episode 141–Downriver Nomad. I think hearing others stories can help us feel less alone and process our own thoughts and beliefs. I hope you enjoy them. I will also be on the Childless Not by Choice podcast later this year, so watch out for that too 🙂
I am also about to release my first novel, The Weight of a Woman, about a 39-year-old woman who has been holding herself back from living her life full out due to her weight. On completing the novel, I decided to write a sequel that shares our failed adoption journey in a fictional way. My hope is that it will not only help those who have been through a similar journey but those who don’t understand the sense of loss that we feel.
The sequel novel, The Tears of a Woman, won’t be out until early next year. So, stay in touch. You can sign up for my newsletter at the bottom of my website.