Followup: If I had it to do over again . . .


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Years have passed since I interviewed the childless women who are quoted in my Childless by Marriage book. I have begun contacting them to find out what happened after we talked. Are they still with the same guy? Did they have children after all? How do they feel now about not having children? Most recently I caught up with “Aline,” who went by another name in the book but prefers to keep her identify private.
When we talked in 2004, Aline, a journalist, told me that her ex-boyfriend had insisted she abort the pregnancy she had at age 30. She had always planned to have children but had not found the right partner to do it with. At age 34, she said she would go ahead and have a child on her own if it didn’t happen within the next six months. As you’ll see, that didn’t happen.
If you were with a guy when we talked, are you still with him?
I’ve been single for the past year.
Did you wind up having children after all? Is there any chance you still might?
Unfortunately not. Considering my age, I think it’s unlikely. I suppose I can still get pregnant, but no man I know wants a baby with a 42-year-old, regardless of how attractive she may be.
When people ask you now why you don’t have children, what do you tell them?
I want to tell them it’s none of their business, but I just smile and change the subject.
Do you regret the choices that led to you not having children?
Yes. It’s eating me up. I feel like I’ve missed out in life. I feel inadequate and everyone makes me feel so.
If you could go back and change things, would you?
Absolutely. I would listen to my mom and be less picky about men. I would also have kept the baby I was expecting at age 30 and wouldn’t take into consideration the father’s (who incidentally is now married with two children) demands that I get an abortion.
Are there stepchildren or other children in your life that fill the gap?
I wish! I have a 13-year-old niece though who often asks why she doesn’t have a cousin from me.
11. Are you worried about being alone in old age?
All the time. It upsets me that no one will be there for me in my old age. It’s a source of anxiety.
What are you proudest of doing in your life so far? Could you have done this if you had children?
I had an exciting career as a journalist and film critic, traveling all over the world. And I live much of the year in Paris. It upsets me that I have no one to share these with. My friends juggle kids and career, so it wouldn’t have been impossible to raise kids at the same time. It just takes organization and discipline.
What would you say to others who are dealing with partners or spouses who can’t/don’t want to have children?
If you really want children and your partner doesn’t or can’t, then you need to re-evaluate your relationship. Do you love the person enough to make this compromise? You may wake up in ten years’ time full of regret. It’s a big and important issue and if you can’t change his/her mind, then it’s time to move on. Never compromise your happiness for a partner. I should know—I did and it kills me a bit each year.
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4 thoughts on “Followup: If I had it to do over again . . .

  1. As a child-free woman, I can sympathise with Aline. Yet – her concerns about nobody taking care of her in her old age are less of an issue for me. I visited nursing homes and rehab centers for years (both my parents ended up needing nursing care at the end of their days) and worked part time at a nursing home front desk. The numbers of elderly residents *with* living adult children, who sit alone, day after day, having no contact with those children (who are busy with their own lives) are staggering. So the simple act of being a parent doesn't mean your children would/could/have a desire to “take care of you” or be there for you in old age – in fact being able to create non-blood-relative support networks puts us at an advantage. We look for and build strong people connections – rather than accept the families God has given us. Often times friends are there for us more than family is.

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  2. You're so right, Anonymous. I too have spent lots of time in nursing homes, and yes, having given birth does not guarantee that one's children will be around when you're old. I find that very sad. And yes, friends and other non-family connections can more than fill the gap if we reach out and make those connections.

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  3. I would not say that no man wants a baby with a 42-year-old. I am 45 and pregnant for the first time, and my husband and I couldn't be happier. He is great about it – of course, men don't need to have the same enthusiasm as women, but when I told him the cost of different options (IVF or adoption) he just said “whatever we have to do do have our baby”. That says it all.

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