Last year, I 'stepped out of the shadows' and submitted a piece of writing for the World Childless Week website in response to their invite for submissions about comments that hurt.
Over many years, I've certainly heard a lot of hurtful comments and questions. For a long time, I didn't know how to respond. Now, the more I write here (and the older I get!), the more openly I want to speak about my experience and the more likely I am to have the words and courage to respond.
It Hurt When
It hurt when a woman at a fertility clinic trying for her second child said, “If you want a baby enough it will happen.”
It hurt when a new neighbour asked, “Do you have children?” then said, “Oh...why not?”
It hurt when overhearing a longtime friend say, “We just find it easier to hang out with other parents.”
It hurt when a therapist said, “Maybe you didn’t want children enough.”
It hurt when a sister said, “You’re not a mother so you wouldn’t understand.”
It hurt when a heartbroken childless friend said her brother told her, “You really need to grow up and move on.”
It hurt when a woman who was drinking too much at a friend’s dinner party said, “Wow, to not have children. To not be a mother. How does that make you feel as a woman?”
It hurt when a formerly childless friend whose husband decided he didn’t want to try for a second baby cried to me and said, “I’m so worried that I’ll regret not having a second child.”
It hurt when that same friend posted photo after photo of herself out with other moms and said, “Sorry, it’s been so long since we’ve gotten together. We miss you both but we’re just so busy.”
It hurts at work and in social gatherings when the others are all parents and they bond over stories about their children or grandchildren and no one tries to engage me in the conversation.
It all hurt. Questions and comments hurt. Even unasked questions and silence hurt.
Finding community with other people who are childless not by choice has softened the memories and a lot of the pain. It’s also given me the strength to avoid such exchanges as much possible, and the words to respond in ways that I never imagined possible, back when it all hurt so much.
This year, World Childless Week is 14th-20th Sept 2020.
For more information, visit worldchildlessweek.net.