Can a childless author write believably about motherhood?

Can a childless woman write believable stories about pregnancy, babies and raising children? That’s something I often wonder as I write my novels and stories. In my most recent book, nobody has babies. My main character, PD, and her late husband were never able to conceive. The people she interacts with either don’t have kids or have children who are grown up. That’s pretty much what my life is like, too, although PD’s story is not about me.
I recently read a wonderful book by Oregon author Monica Drake called The Stud Book. It’s not what you think. The title comes from the records zookeepers keep of the animals’ mating and breeding activities. However, in addition to the zoo animals the character Sarah is monitoring, she and her friends are all dealing with babies. Sarah keeps having miscarriages but desperately wants a baby. Georgie just gave birth to her first child, and Nyla has two older kids but is now pregnant again. The author, who is a mom, describes their experiences in such great detail that it’s obvious she has experienced this stuff. The chapters about Georgie and her new baby are so real they must have been based on real life. Drake seems to know exactly how the C-section stitches feel, how the breasts feel when she’s nursing, and how it feels when the baby’s skin touches her own.
I don’t know these things. I can guess. I can imagine. I can ask other people to describe them. I can read and search the Internet, but down deep, I’m faking it. Does that mean I can never create fictional characters who have babies? Then again, can I write about men, people of color, people of different religions, people working jobs I’ve never done, or people younger or older than I am? I hope, with enough imagination and research, I can write about all kinds of fictional characters, but I wonder if that’s true.
What do you think?

4 thoughts on “Can a childless author write believably about motherhood?

  1. I recently read “We need to talk about Kevin” from Lionel Shriver, who despite the name happens to be a childfree she. I loved the book. Some passages were disturbingly similar to how my mother and I interacted, and some were really tapping into the darkest fears I have regarding my son. Then halfway through the book, I had a hunch that the author didn't have children (I also thought it was a he and was annoyed that he wrote about a woman) so I googled and read about her. I also read a few “mommy's blogs” criticizing the book, pointing out that the author was childfree and that no mother could be that lame. I realized that those comments were missing the point because, yes, mothers can be really lame and the point is not to write believably about motherhood but to write something catchy and interesting about it. And Shriver definitely does that.


  2. Hi Lara. So in this case the author wrote believably sometimes and less so at others. Maybe mom writers would do the same because everyone's experience is different. Thanks for sharing this.


  3. You have had a stepchild, so he's you know some measure of motherhood. I've never carried a baby full-term, but there are some aspects of motherhood I imagine I could write with great fervor & passion. I would like to encourage you by saying that God called me into women's prison ministry even though I have never been incarcerated. At first, I thought, they'll never listen to me. How can I ever identify with their daily sufferings? They will blow me off. Boy was I wrong! The Lord has put the right words as I needed them on my lips or in my letters. Please go out on a limb & write with confidence about babies, kiddos, adult kiddos, grandkids, etc. You are more equipped than you think. Besides you can always do your best, then have it proofed by an understanding mom for her respectful input.


  4. Thank you. I really appreciate it. Actually I have three stepchildren, but only one of them lived with us. You make a good point about having a mom check my work. I can do that.


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