I always thought I would be an amazing mother. My maternal and caretaking instincts were sharp. Although I was not the woman who went starry-eyed when I saw a baby, I did picture myself being an awesome pregnant bikini-clad woman walking on the beach.
The comment of “You’ll be a great mom,” was shared amongst friends and in my mind, I knew it to be true.
So what happened that I did not fulfill this apparent destiny?
I am the generation of women who were told we could have it all. We bought into the propaganda we could get an education, have successful careers, and put off having children well into our 40’s. No problem.
It was not entirely true.
They forgot to mention our eggs become less viable the older we get, and the ease in conception diminished exponentially.
According to the Office on Women’s HealthTrusted Source, one-third of couples after the age of 35 experience fertility issues.
Raised by a liberal single mother, I was never pressured to give her grandkids. She confessed, although happy to have had my brother and me, if she were to do it again, having children would not be in the picture. Instead, her concentration would have been on her career and her sense of spiritual and personal fulfillment.
The freedom from her lack of pressure allowed me to make my own decisions regarding motherhood.
In my early 40’s, with my career flourishing, I was involved with a man, ten years my junior, who held the potential to be the father of my children. Aware of the challenges to conceive at that age, I said to him, if he wanted kids, we needed to do it sooner rather than later.
Having witnessed many female friends struggle with actualizing their deepest desire to become a mom, I knew it was a now or never situation.
Immediately I went into action, visiting my OBGYN and had my hormone levels checked. Yup, good to go. So, we tried, to no avail. My doctor suggested my partner come in for some tests; maybe he was shooting blanks. It was at this time he revealed to me, he didn’t want kids, and if I didn’t want them, then let’s stop trying.
Wow, it hit me like a ton of bricks. How did I feel about this?
Taking a serious and honest look within, I turned over the proposition of going childless, backward, and sidewards; I looked at it from every angle.
The possibility of not being that amazing mom struck me in my core. Who would I pass all my knowledge on to? What about everything which had been passed down from my mother and my grandmothers to me? What about my genetic legacy? Who would care for me when I was elderly? Never to become a mother or a grandmother, what did that look and feel like?
Pangs of sadness would hit me, usually unwarranted and out of the blue. When I heard parents speak about the love they felt for their child was unlike any love one could ever experience, or sometimes it was due to the exclusion from the discussions even from my closest friends, with sideward comments, “You wouldn’t understand, you don’t have kids.”
It was a time of deep introspection. For three years, I processed what the new picture of my life looked like. I realized I was mourning the child that I would never have. My womb would remain empty, and motherhood would allude me.
It was during this period I was made keenly aware of the expectations society placed on having children. Aside from “Are you married?”, which I wasn’t, the second question was, “Do you have children?”. An awkward silence and shifting of the feet always followed my response of “No.”
Time heals all, and as more of it passed, the picture of what my life was beginning to morph into continued to grow.
The pangs became less frequent, until one day it was clear, the transition was complete. Gone was the pressure of the biological clock ticking. Or the weight I had once allowed perfect strangers to place upon me. Gone was holding on to any of the old pictures of what life could have been. In its place, I found lightness, freedom, with endless opportunities and possibilities.
The world of childless women is enormous, with more younger women making a choice never to bear offspring. Although the reasons for not having children vary and the process of how we experience our mourning is different, the outcome remains surprisingly similar. Most of us feel fulfilled, and we cherish our lives as they are, often with the comment, “I would not change a thing.”