Can you let go of the dream of being a parent?

“Let It Go, let it go, can’t hold it back anymore . . .” The hit song from the first “Frozen” movie has been playing in my head since lunchtime yesterday when I read the chapter on “Letting Go” in Lesley Pyne’s book “Finding Joy Beyond Childlessness.” It’s a great song that I’ll never sing as well as I’d like to, and I wonder if I can ever do what the song says. Can I let it go?

Pyne insists that unless we let go of our dream of motherhood/fatherhood, we cannot move on to other dreams and possibilities. I have this vision of a toy boat caught in a swirling current. I send it away, and it keeps coming back. But maybe that’s how it is when you’re childless by marriage rather than physically unable to have children as Pyne and the other women described in her book are. They have tried for years, suffered multiple miscarriages, and spent great amounts of money and hope on infertility treatments that didn’t work. They reach a point where they’re 99 percent certain they are not going to have babies. The barriers of age, money, and physical limitations create a solid wall. They can mourn forever or let go of the dream and move on. Pyne suggests we hold letting-go rituals and get rid of the “grief museum” of things we have gathered for those children who aren’t coming.

I know some of you are in this boat, with you or your partner physically unable to reproduce. My heart grieves for your loss. I can’t imagine the pain of repeated attempts and losses. You should let yourself grieve as much as you need to. Pyne devotes a long chapter to grief. Unless you let yourself feel the grief, you cannot move on, she writes. You can’t run from it. Maybe you need to burn the baby clothes and remove all signs of baby prep in order to start to see a life without children.

But what if you’re not sure it’s over? What about the many readers here for whom the problem is their partner, the one who is unable or unwilling to have children with them? If you changed partners, you might become a mom or dad. The barrier between you and parenthood is not a solid wall, more like a barbed wire fence. If you decide to climb through it, you’ll get cut and scratched, but you’re tempted to try it. Are you willing to let go of the baby dream to stay with your partner? Are things good on this side, except for the not having babies bit. You’re not too old yet. How do you let that dream go? If you truly can’t, does that tell you what you need to do?

Can we let it go? Should we let it go? I find myself resisting. At my age, I know I’m not having children, but what’s wrong with keeping those crocheted baby booties I wrote about in a previous post? What’s wrong with thinking of the names I would have chosen for my children and fantasizing about what they would be like as adults?

I have always had other dreams that had little to do with children, and I have been living them all along. Even when my childless grief was at its peak, I was writing and performing and living a beautiful life with Fred. I did grieve, and it still hits me sometimes, but I have always kept living my life. Maybe I kept riding my boat in circles, but I like my boat and I like my circles.

No two childless journeys are the same, but you might want to check out Pyne’s book. It’s loaded with stories from childless women and step-by-step advice for getting out of the riptide of childlessness and on the way to a different but equally wonderful journey. Pyne, who lives in London, blogs at, and her website,, offers a wealth of resources.

We who live near the ocean are told that if you get caught in a riptide, it’s best to swim with the current until you reach a place where the tide is weaker and you can swim out. Fighting it will only get you carried out to sea. Something to think about. We will all need to let go to a certain extent at some point, but how far down the beach that is will be different for each of us.

How about you? Are you ready to let go of the dream? Have you already done it?


My dog Annie, whom I wrote about here recently, is doing much better after her frightening bout with Vestibular Disease and two weeks in the veterinary hospital. She still gets a little wobbly, but is alert, independent, and always hungry. We are so glad to be together again. Thank you all for your prayers and well-wishes.

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3 thoughts on “Can you let go of the dream of being a parent?

  1. I’ve already let go of the dream. I let go of it, along with all my other dreams, after seeing a neurologist in 2009. He told me that if the physio regime I had been following for six months did not work, there were no other options. I followed it for another six months, hoping against hope that it would work, and that was that. No baby, no return to work, no leaving my partner to find my soulmate, no leaving the house on my own.

    In 2016 – the summer after I turned 40 – it hit me hard. I cried in secret every day for three months. I felt like I had been sleep-walking for the previous seven years. I told no one and I just carried on putting one foot in front of the other until it passed. Just as I’ve always done.

    I think you can let it go, but your subconscious has other ideas. Sometimes, I feel a presence alongside me, when I’m walking between rooms or sitting quietly. A small shadow. It’s a brief sensation and happens less and less frequently these days. I haven’t admitted this to anyone because they’ll think I’m crazy. How can you feel the spirit of someone who never existed? But that’s what it feels like: it’s my Isabel or my Benjamin, walking alongside me – a mother that never was.


  2. I’m so glad that Annie is recovering, and you are both together again.

    I think couples who have unexplained infertility, or who would like to go through IVF/adopt but whose partners do not want to take that step, have the same issues as those who are childless by marriage. I mean, in a way, many of us are both childless by infertility and childless by marriage. It’s not uncommon at all for those who are infertile to feel that their partner should go and find someone they can have children with. But most often, the partners choose to stay. Likewise, I don’t know of many who leave their partners if the partner decides the last IVF was enough, or that they don’t want to adopt.

    And age makes us all infertile eventually (well, maybe not men, not totally). So I think that at least by the time we are through menopause, whether there ever was an option to have children or not, it is helpful to let that intense wish to be a parent go. It doesn’t mean we don’t feel sadness in the future, or think about the children we might have had, or hold onto little mementos of the hope we once had. But I do think it lifts a burden because we’re not constantly torturing ourselves with what-if, should-have, should-I questions. Accepting that it isn’t going to happen is actually a gift to ourselves. But it’s a process. And so many people fight against it. I’ve written a lot on this. I’ll be interested in the comments to your post.


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