Here's a post I wrote and shared with some friends in June 2019. I've not written here much about how I came to be without children. This website is about providing support, regardless of 'how' one has come to be childless. Because every person's grief is valid - the how we got here does not make it more or less so.
I want to post this now, as tonight I have created the 'How to be Supportive' page with hopes to build understanding and compassion for our experiences and community. May my story contribute to this.
June 28, 2019, I wrote...
If you had asked me in recent years how I came to be a woman without children, you would have heard me stumbling through my story. I couldn’t keep my story straight around how I wasn’t a mother because I couldn’t process that reality or any reasoning around it in my mind, much less articulate what had happened.
When telling my story, I would have focused on my belief that I started trying too late. I would have starting by saying that I always wanted children. Though there was a time in my twenties I questioned that, I always thought I would eventually be a mom. I kicked myself for a long time for ever having any doubt.
I would have told you how I had two long relationships, both times thinking that this would be the man whom I would have children with. Despite knowing in my heart and gut that neither man was right for me. In the first relationship, we were young. We met in university and were together for about seven years. I long doubted the relationship, but he was educated and ambitious so I envisioned us having a conventional and happy enough life together with children. The second man decided he didn’t want to have children after we were together for about four years. When we met in my late twenties, he would go on about how beautiful our children would be. We talked and dreamed about having children together, but he already had a daughter and when I was 31 he decided he didn’t want any more children. The relationship ended. We told people we wanted different things, although I knew deep down it was a troubled relationship that I should have ended in its first year.
I stayed in two long relationships that were not good for me because I wanted children. Before I wrote these words just now this hadn’t occurred to me. I’ve always blamed myself for my decisions to stay with these men as part of why I wasn’t able to have children.
From age 31 to 35, every man I dated knew I wanted children. I made that clear.
At 37, I got married and thought I still had a lot of time to finally start trying to be a mom. And, I kept trying until I was 47. First naturally, then later by trying to adopt. These were demoralizing and soul-crushing years and experiences.
As I write this, I am thinking that this is the most linear version I’ve ever used to explain my how-I-came-to-be-childless story. When asked, my mind has always been a jumble. I feel like I have been trying to explain myself in a way that will make people have sympathy, since I have had so little for myself. I've relentlessly blamed myself for what I’ve always regarded as my ‘bad decisions’ that led to me being childless.
Today, I am getting ready to meet my mother, my sister and my mother’s long-time friend and her daughter for lunch. We are meeting because my mother’s friend’s daughter is going through a biopsy for a nodule in her thyroid. And, my sister and I both were diagnosed with thyroid conditions in our thirties. It should be easy to talk about and reassure this woman that probably everything will be ok. I’ve had three biopsies on a nodule and have been reassured by doctors that nodules in a thyroid usually are of no concern.
So why all these thoughts this morning? Because I will be the only woman at the restaurant table without children. And as I usually do, I am anticipating the situation and the dynamic that usually unfolds. When the other women at the table, all moms, bond over the stories about their children. When I feel out of place and awkwardly silent. When I feel like someone might ask me why I am not a mom.
And, today, this morning with this anticipation and these thoughts being dredged up, I realize something else. That my story has really changed. That I feel that I would be able to tell my story without my usual self-recrimination. That, for the first time, I no longer feel that I have to explain these backstory parts of my story to anyone any more.
That today, if I were to choose to explain to someone how I became a woman without children, I would simply say, “Because of early menopause.”
When I was 43, the new endocrinologist treating my thyroid condition told me I was post-menopausal. That means I would have been menopausal throughout the many years that I was trying. I would have been peri-menopausal throughout many of the years that I was dreaming and hoping I would be a mom.
I didn’t know this at the time. And it’s really not been until this morning, anticipating today’s lunch with thyroid being a topic of discussion, that I’ve realized…this is a big part of my story. I wasn’t able to have children because I experienced early menopause. All this other backstory of my life that I’ve used to explain myself and blame myself does not matter. And, while I certainly won’t be sharing this realization at lunch today, this is progress in my own thinking.
I grieved my inability to be a mom heavily for about 15 years. Only with the connection, conversation and company of other women without children have I been able to move through my grief and find the space and time to fully process my story. To stop stumbling through thinking my story is about the way I lived my life and the decisions I made. To stop blaming myself. To finally be kinder and gentler on myself.
Sadly, it has taken me until my early 50s to stop feeling like the loss of my dream and hope to have children was my fault. There is no fault when a woman or man who wanted children finds themselves unable to enjoy that as a part of their life. There is no fault in that. No matter what decisions were made or how a life was lived, there is no fault. There is soul-crushing grief and that grieving person needs kind support and gentle understanding. I know this because this is my story.
Inspirations and otherwise, as a woman without children. Welcome to share yours too - please be in touch using the Contact form.