Childlessness by marriage: It’s a question of timing

A friend told me about a family member of hers who is dating a man who wants to have children. He’s not interested in adoption, only in having a biological child of his own. But she’s 42. She has already had children from her first marriage, and she has had her tubes tied. It’s the reverse of the situation many of us women face. I don’t know these people, but I feel for them. There’s no happy solution, is there?

It comes down to a matter of timing. In the days when most people only got married once and stayed married for life, they would have their children together. Now, with divorce being so common and people delaying marriage into their 30s and 40s, we have men and women who didn’t have children marrying people who have already had them and don’t want any more. Sometimes there’s an age difference, but it’s more often a difference in life experience. Those who are parents lived through the baby-making stage of their lives with other people. If you weren’t doing the same thing, you missed your chance. Maybe you can convince your partner to start over, but he or she would probably rather not. It’s a tough situation.

Your thoughts?


Thank you for your birthday wishes yesterday. It was a good birthday. It was a little light on the family side, but a wonderful group of woman friends treated me to lunch and showered me with music, cards and gifts. Afterwards, Annie and I took a long walk on the beach. I treated myself to raviolis for dinner and talked to a friend on the phone for over an hour, the way we used to do when we were kids.

I really didn’t miss having children yesterday. I was surrounded by women approximately my age. Most do have children and there was some talk of them, but I have known their children since they were little and I care about them. Now that the kids are grown, their mothers have lots of other things to talk about. In some ways, this was easier than celebrating with children and grandchildren, with whom I would have less in common–and whom I would probably have to feed and entertain. I feel as if I have made a good start on building a community of sisters with whom I can spend the important occasions of my life.


5 thoughts on “Childlessness by marriage: It’s a question of timing

  1. My husband and I married when I was 32 and he was 45. He has two grown children from a previous marriage. They are nice kids but they don't need, nor want, anything from me except the occasional bit of financial support. I used to believe I was ok without kids, but that has changed, the longer I have been with my husband. I'll be 40 in June and the biological alarm clock is ringing so loudly now that I can hardly hear anything else these days, but he has no interest in starting a second family at this late date. You know what the worst part is for me? Having everyone around me basically dismiss my deepest, most honest desires. Even my own parents, the very people who taught me just how important family is, are encouraging me to count my blessings, to dwell on the things I have and not the huge and gaping hole where my child should be. “He's such a good man, you should be so thankful.” Well of course he's a good man. He's the best man I've ever known and I love him so dearly. I waited a long time for a real partner in life, and now I have one in so many ways. But what the hell does that have to do with anything? Some days are better than others. There are still days, once in a while, when I don't think about it much. And there are days when I wonder whether I'll explode all at once or just slowly unravel at the seams.Libby


  2. Dear Libby,
    Thank you for sharing this. Your story is so similar to mine and to that of so many people. It hurts. You have suffered a big loss, the loss of the children you might have had, and people should acknowledge that. Unfortunately, they don't understand. Hang in there. It is good that you have such a wonderful man. And it's okay to remind people that you are hurting over not having children. You don't have to “get over it.” Take care.


  3. That's such a tough situation you've described. We think of choices and options and freedom as being such a good thing, but the downside is that they leave us with so many variables to navigate. It can make it difficult to make peace with the way things are.

    To Libby, the previous poster, it is a terrible feeling to have your deepest desires dismissed like this. Often people who are encouraging others to 'think positively' have no idea of the pain they're bulldozing through.


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