Those Childless Moments Hit Hard


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The other day I was walking the dog down Cedar Street east of where I live when a car pulled up and parked at a house just ahead of me. I watched as a gray-haired couple got out. They turned and looked toward the corner. The school bus had just let out its passengers, and now three children were running toward the older folks shouting, “Grandma! Grandpa!” I was barely past them before I started to cry.
Part of my emotion came from what’s been happening with my father. If you’ve been reading this blog, you know that I hurried to California last month when my dad became very ill with congestive heart failure and a blocked aortic valve. When I first got there, it looked like he could die any minute. He was so pale and so thin. Every time he dozed off, I looked to make sure he was still breathing. He rallied somewhat with the help of medication but faces heart surgery early next month. 
While I was in California, we looked through piles of family photos of my grandparents and his grandparents. Dad showed me where things are in the house “in case I conk out.” We talked a lot about death, not an easy subject, but he needed to talk about it, and I needed to listen.
For my brother’s side of the family, Dad is “Grandpa.” But I never made him a grandfather. All I have to offer is myself and a dog. And I will never be a grandmother. Yes, my stepdaughter’s children called me “Grandma” for a while, but I haven’t spoken to either of them in years. They have their own grandmother and great-grandmother, but I don’t have any kids or grandkids I can claim as my own. My grandparents are all gone. So is my mother. In a few days, months or years, my father will be gone, too. So I cried as I walked the dog through our muddy streets on a cold November afternoon. It was just one of those moments.
Many of my readers here are younger than I am, wondering how it will be years from now if they never have children. I tell them it will get easier. It’s true. Once you get past menopause, once the time of worrying about whether or not you will become parents is over, you accept for the most part that your life is about other things than raising children. You get a lot more comfortable with the idea. But there will be moments like mine on Cedar Street when the reality hits you like a baseball bat and the tears come. As my dad is fond of saying, “That’s just the way it is.”
As always, I thank you for being here, and I welcome your comments.
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17 thoughts on “Those Childless Moments Hit Hard

  1. I just had my first (and possibly only) child at age 45. I might not ever have anyone call me “grandma”, depending on whether or not my daughter ever has children and if so then at what age. Also, growing up I only had one grandparent alive for long enough for me to remember – my maternal grandmother died when I was 14, but both my grandfathers died before I was born and my paternal grandmother died when I was in elementary school. Anyway, these are just my thoughts upon reading that you will never be a grandmother.

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  2. Anon, Congratulations on your daughter. It's not impossible that you could live to be a grandmother. Lots of people live into their 90s now, but if not, just enjoy your girl as much as you can. I'm so sorry you didn't get to know your grandparents. I knew three out of four and had a wonderful step-grandmother. I know I was blessed. Take care.

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  3. We will never be grandparents..this is something not everyone understands..without close family members it makes it worse..plans are to enjoy the dogs while we can..they are 13..then travel & try not to worry about our future…

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  4. Hello Sue,

    Anno S here. I haven't commented in awhile. Life is busy – too busy right now for me to think about children. But with the holidays coming I find myself draw to the various sites.

    I'm so sorry life has got you down. You've certainly been through a lot recently. Add in those holidays and it's no surprise you find yourself in tears at the other end of a leash.

    I've been close myself a few times lately. My husband continues to work hard to prove himself to me and I so appreciate it. However, I look at my shabby home, my sad bank account and no children and I get angry with him for all his faults that held us back over the years. I own the fact that I chose to stay and more often then not I'm rewarded and pleased I'm here. But some days . . . Some days I'm not so generous.

    A lot of good changes are coming my way soon. I'm trying to forget my losses and disappointments so I can open myself up to the future.

    Best of luck to you this coming month leading up to Christmas. I'll be thinking of you.

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  5. Hi Sue, I'm the Anonymous who posted on November 19 – thanks for your reply. I do understand that my situation is different from yours, it's just that until this year, I felt like our situations were the same. Being childless for so many years, I have dealt with much judgment from others for not having kids, and now having a baby at an older age, I get judgment from others for having done that. Anyway, do you ever feel judged by others for being childless by marriage?

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  6. Hi Anonymous, I don't feel judged for being childless. I think that's probably because I make clear that I did not choose to be childless and that it's a source of pain for me. But there are certainly awkward moments. I was selling books today, and was asked twice about my kids. I don't know if it's judgment, but people certainly seemed confused when I said I didn't have any. Like I didn't go with the program.
    Just ignore the judgers, and enjoy that baby of yours.

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  7. I feel judged for being childless sometimes but not often. Twice this week I was asked by a friends partner whom I had never met, “so Cheryl how many kids of you have?” I always get that lump in my throat and swallow, I said none. My friend knows of my situation I thought she would have told her partner before dinner but then again it was only supposed to be my friend and I but she brought her new partner along. Awkward yes considering they talked about their children (naturally) but also it was the majority of the conversation the entire dinner.
    And the second this week a distant cousin in contact after 30 years would like to meet up and said via telephone during discussion well that will give you time as I am sure you are a busy mother… I politely said I wasn't lucky enough to have children and immediately moved in. Some days are good and some are difficult and Sue, I am 45 I too can identity with many of your comments and I too become very upset and cry but never around anyone. Then I pick myself up and go about my day.

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  8. Why not adopt a youth near aging out of foster care? Maybe there is a chance you will have a wonderful parent child bond. Grandchildren..and a chance to be a forever family.. Adoptuskids.org

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  9. Anon Jan. 5,
    When I was younger, I never wanted to adopt someone else's child. It was important to have that genetic connection. Now that I'm too old to adopt, I kind of wish I had. Instead I had stepchildren, and there is no bond anymore. But someone else may want to try fostering a child and maybe adopting. It can be a wonderful option.

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  10. Hi Sue, I am 27 years old married to a 40 year old man who does not want children. He has a 6 year old from his previous marriage and feels he does not want to have any more children. I have agreed to this but I have a deep longing to be a mother. From reading this I can clearly see that the pain will never go. Something inside me says I should leave him because I will always resent him especially because he will never wonder what it is like to be childless.

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  11. Hi Anonymous Jan. 7,
    I'm sorry you're in this situation. Don't give up yet. Try talking about this some more. Too late, I found out that if I had made my feelings clearer, my husband might have agreed to have a child. So keep talking. In the end, you have to decide which would be more painful to lose, your husband or the children you might have had.

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  12. I am overwhelmed by the articles, the new-found website Gateway Women and the comments written by so many women whose words tug at my heart strings.

    I have and continue to experience a variety of the issues expressed here but I also have the additional sadness of having lost my son 2 days after birth and now years later, having a husband who just is not interested in having a child. The anger for both reasons rise it's ugly head every so often and I feel terrible for my thoughts toward my husband who I love dearly and made a choice not to leave in search of fulfilling life with a child (chances are I would end up with a deadbeat and that was more frightening), I already had a good man – just wasn't going to be a perfect family picture with the children too! I struggle with my loss even though many years have passed and I struggle with not having an offspring to pass on my legacy, not having that special person who (in most cases) loves you unconditionally and might be there for you as long you live, not having the chance to work at being a successful/committed caretaker of one of Gods angels, not having a chance to be called Mom and Grandma… oh the list goes on and on.

    Most days I am just fine but then I have bad days when the tears just flow… sadly those days are very lonely and not even shared with my husband – he doesn't get it, I expect because it is not his desire to be a parent, just mine! Now it's getting too late at 45 my chances of being a mom are very slim.

    Recently I realized that my urgent need for success in work and the community is me trying to fill the gap of motherhood. I plan to read Judy's book to find out what she suggests for 'Plan B, a meaningful and fulfilling life without children'. In the meantime, I will continue to believe that there is another life after this one where I will have the title Mom.

    I wish you all peace and love. Be Strong.

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  13. Anon Jan. 11, Thank you for sharing this. I'm so sorry for your loss of your little boy. That had to be so painful. But I think it's good that you're hanging on to your good man. Don't hide your pain from him. You have to be partners in this. I wish you all the best.

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  14. I am a 28 year old teacher, engaged to a man I've known for 8 years. We had a wonderful, almost perfect relationship until the issue of children arose. He has waffled back an forth; recently, he has said “never” and seems to think he has been clear about his feelings. He has brought up adoption (2 times, entirely on his own) and discussed children while looking at homes; yet, here we are, 10 months away from our wedding and he has told me “never” three times. He is terrified I will leave but has also said that he may not be the one for me if I want children. I think I want one child, either biological or adopted, one day. I am in no rush. I love kids and have been told since a teenager that I would be a wonderful mom. I am devestated by all this. Do you have any advice about whether I should stay or go?

    Peace and Love,

    Chelsea

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  15. Chelsea, I wish I had all the answers. The fact that he's saying “never” is worrisome. What if he never says yes? Can you live with it? Or is this a deal-breaker? I think you have to tell him that he might lose you if he keeps saying never, but also that you can wait a few years.
    Readers, can you offer Chelsea any advice?

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