One woman's journey through childlessness
Grief-stricken and hopeless
I’m sitting on the floor of the bathroom, it’s 2 am. I’m crying, but very quietly, so no-one can hear. After a few minutes, I make myself stop, because after all, what’s the point? It won’t change anything. I creep back to bed and lie awake, counting the hours until morning, but dreading it at the same time. I know there are going to be a million and one painful moments to contend with. I push my feelings away. I feel completely alone.
Ashamed and inadequate
I’m walking down the high street in my home town and it feels as if everyone can tell what has happened just by looking at my face, as if I’m wearing a badge that says ‘can’t be a Mum’. I feel so ashamed and embarrassed. Some of my friends have pulled away from me because they’re not sure how to cope with the situation. Being ostracised makes me feel simultaneously invisible and as if a spotlight is shining on me and highlighting all my flaws and mistakes. I’m not good enough at anything.
Scared and confused
I’m feeling so confused, I don’t know what to do for the best. Whatever I do is going to hurt me and others. If only I could get someone else to make the decision for me. Everything is just going round and round in my head. There’s no good outcome here, and I just can’t decide what to do. I’m so scared that things aren’t going to work out. I’m not sure I can take any more disappointment.
Guilty and lost
‘Sometimes I stand in the middle of the floor, not going left, not going right.’ This song from ‘Follies’ by Stephen Sondheim goes round and round in my head. I just don’t know what to do with myself these days. When I get home, the house seems so quiet. Evenings and weekends stretch emptily in front of me and I spend them trying to do something productive and failing and then feeling guilty that I’m not making the most of all the free time I have because I don’t have kids. Surely I should have written a novel by now or created some kind of project to help others! What’s the point of my life? I feel completely purposeless.
Angry and jealous
My friends with children sometimes complain about how hard it is, I wish they could see how hard it is not to be able to have children. Sometimes I just can’t join in with their conversations, and I just nod and smile as they talk. I feel so angry – at them, at myself. If only I had made different decisions, I could be where they are now. I feel so jealous and envious of their lives. We’re on totally different sides of the fence and we’ll never understand each other. Why did this have to happen to me? Why can’t I join them?
Comforted and heard
I begin to meet other women who have had experiences like mine, and although I still feel very sad, I know I am not alone. I feel recognised and accepted as I am, and I feel heard and acknowledged and held. I attend courses, meet people socially and get involved with childless women across the world. I hear a million different stories, and begin to reach out, learn and grow.
Excited and optimistic
I’m walking home in the dark and the stars are shining above me in a cold winter sky. I’ve just finished a one year course with 12 other childless women, and had a profound experience of being heard and understood. For the first time in many many years, I feel both giddy with joy, and a profound sense of freedom and possibility. I’ve realised for the first time that there is a life beyond involuntary childlessness and it’s a good one, an exciting one, in which wonderful things can and will happen. I tried my best to have children and it didn’t work, and it broke my heart, but I can see beyond it for the first time into my future. I feel the pieces of my heart knitting back together, and it feels good.
Accepting and happy
I post this on Facebook, ‘I am building a happy life for myself without children...I am stronger and hopefully kinder. I know how it feels to have my heart broken and to feel ashamed, humiliated and purposeless. I have a good life now, different but as good as the life of someone with kids. I am happy. I wish I had not had this experience as it has left its mark on me but I have nothing to regret as I tried as hard as I could. Onward and upward!’. I contact friends, family members and fellow women who are also childless not by choice and acknowledge that where I am now would not have been possible without them.
I’ve learned that I needed to grieve in order to heal.
I’ve told my story and I begin to forgive others and myself for things that happened in my past.
I’ve found people who understand and learned that I’m good enough exactly as I am despite everything that has happened.
I’ve learnt to celebrate every step I make towards my future.
I’ve learnt to speak to myself as a loving mother would and changed my inner voice to one that encourages rather than blames and supports rather than criticises.
I’ve listened to my friends with children and acknowledged their experiences. I feel the joy of reconnection as they listen to and acknowledge mine. Our lives are neither better nor worse than each other, just different. We are equally worthy.
I know I have as many possibilities for happiness, for fulfilment and for living a life of meaning as a mother or father has.
I feel happy and content with my life as it is, encouraged and supported, hopeful and positive.
I move forward with acceptance, with joy, with relief, with forgiveness, with understanding and with compassion and love.