I’m in church playing the piano for 5:30 Mass. A baby has been gurgling and whining throughout the Mass, and now I hear him letting out a wail. His mother is standing in the aisle bouncing him. Suddenly out of nowhere I have this bone deep physical need to hold a baby. I’m not even sure I know how, but I need to. When I realize that it’s unlikely I’ll ever have the chance to do that—I’m estranged from my stepchildren and step-grandchildren and live far from my niece and nephew—I just want to wail.
I lose all track of what’s going on in the Mass for a moment because it hits me so hard. I look back on the last 26 years with my husband and think “What happened?” I was married, then alone, then married and now I’m alone again. I have no babies to hold. I don’t think there’s any amount of compensation or redirecting of mother energy that can counteract that physical need.
I know there are childless women who claim they have never felt a desire for children and don’t expect to ever feel it. God bless them. But for me and maybe for you, it’s such a deep physical need that no amount of logic will make it disappear. It’s a loss which I will always grieve. Just as I miss my mother, miss touching her, miss the way she smelled and the sound of her voice, I miss the children I never had.
It’s like when you’re so hungry that you can’t think of anything else. You can’t talk it away. You need food or you will die.
I’m thinking maybe it’s time to stop writing about being childless and go find someplace where I can hug babies. Who is going to let this 50-something childless stranger hug their children? Mothers would see me as a threat. I can hug puppies, but not human babies.
I tune back into the Mass in time to play the next song, but the feeling that something’s missing lingers.
Do you ever feel this way?