Only Connect - Finding Meaning after Childlessness
I've been wondering how we find meaning in our lives, when, for whatever reason, we can't have a child or children of our own. There is no one answer as we are all different, but I'd like to share some of the things I've learned over the years both from my own experience and from the wonderful community of childless not by choice (CNBC) people I am honoured to call my tribe.
The key for me is connection, finding something that connects us to the wider world and to our human tribe, to life, and to joy.
Connecting to nature through gardening, walking, wild swimming, running or cycling.
Connecting to people through voluntary work, organisations for those who are CNBC or groups such as Meetup who link those with common interests.
Connecting to change through getting involved in campaigning on local, national or international social and environmental issues.
Connecting to creativity through working on your home and garden, baking, blogging, writing, knitting, sewing or crocheting or a visual art like drawing, painting or ceramics.
Connecting to learning through evening classes, further and higher education or skill sharing.
Connecting to animals, birds and insects - beekeeping is an increasingly popular hobby, or nurturing a rescue animal.
These ways of connecting are not ‘fragments…shored against my ruins’ (T.S. Eliot), but bold steps into a new world where we matter enough to support ourselves, to enjoy ourselves and have fun, to connect and to see that we are worthy of living a life of meaning. E.M. Forster wrote in ‘Howards End’ (written in 1910, and with a wonderful childless heroine in Margaret Schlegel), ‘Only connect!...Live in fragments no longer.’
You matter, and your experience matters, and being bold and brave enough to connect can help us to learn this for the first time, or to relearn it after the often traumatic and painful journey through childlessness.
Dealing with feelings
As well as connecting outwards, it is also important to connect inwards, to make space for your feelings, and to hold them with compassion and love. They are an essential, natural and inescapable part of being human, they are completely OK, and they are not going to break you. They are a normal response to the losses and changes you have experienced.
If the feelings are so strong that they are affecting your every day life, then finding someone to talk to about them may help, either via the online or social media groups for CNBC people such as Gateway Women or The Dovecote or through some face to face support or counselling.