I yield the floor today to S.C., who offers this guest post:
As I prepare to celebrate my 65th birthday, I have been thinking back on my life’s journey and some of the truths that have lived with me since I closed the door on my dream of being a mother 25 years ago. I now lead a happy life with my husband of 36 years, but I hope for a brighter journey for the young childless women of today who are still coping with many of the same challenges my generation did. Although things are changing slowly, our pronatalist society still seems to be most comfortable sweeping childless women under the rug, one of the last of society’s unrecognized disenfranchised groups, written out of the dialogue because people don’t quite know what to do with us.
This post highlights some of the things that have shaped me and helped me grow into the resilient woman I am today.
I always wanted kids, and everybody knew it. I was the one at family gatherings who played with the younger kids because I enjoyed their company. I babysat as soon as I was old enough. I majored in Early Childhood Education in college and envisioned what my kids would look like, who their father would be and how we’d all live happily in the house with the picket fence, never giving a thought to how ordinary it all was but delighting in the dream of being a family. I grew up during the feminist movement and I was convinced I could do it all, family, career, personal life.
At 28 I married a wonderful man eleven years my senior who admitted to being unsure if he wanted children. I was convinced he’d be as happy as I was once they came. After a year of being married and no pregnancy, my doctor told me we should find out why. It turned out my fallopian tubes were very nearly non-functioning, with major blockages. After years of tests, procedures and being monitored for fibroids, I was finally told I had to have a hysterectomy at 39. Strike one.
With natural childbirth off the table, our only chance to become parents was adoption or surrogacy. Now my husband openly balked. He had been willing to go along with trying to have “our own” kids, but raising “somebody else’s” kids didn’t appeal to him at all. Surrogacy using his sperm was the compromise we came to agree on. Finding birth mothers for “hire” was complicated, involving contracts and lawyers, so we agreed to talk to family and friends who qualified as birth mothers. It didn’t pan out. Strike two.
Although we were down to his most objectionable option, I convinced my husband to start down the adoption path and see where it led. We pursued it for six months, but it was mentally grueling after all we’d been through, and I could tell his heart wasn’t in it. All along the way, I had felt my dream of having a family becoming less and less likely, but I knew this was my last chance. By forcing adoption, our once strong marriage would be on shaky ground and there was a better chance than not we’d end up divorced. I was faced with the impossible decision of staying in a childless marriage or leaving in hopes of finding another mate and adopting in my mid to late 40s. I didn’t want to raise children alone, and I loved my husband. Deciding to stay was strike three for my dream of having kids.
I’d be lying if I said the next five years of our marriage were great and I was sure I had made the right decision. I was in and out of therapy, and although I didn’t want to admit it to myself or to him, I resented our outcome and pinned the blame squarely NOT on me. I didn’t say, “You did this! It’s all your fault.” Instead, I lashed out at him for things he didn’t deserve to be lashed out about. I became sullen and moody. I felt like I was in quicksand sinking fast.
And then I did something that would turn the tide on our future. With my husband’s full support, I made the terrifying decision to quit my corporate job and took early retirement from a successful but largely unsatisfying career. Combined with no kids, an unfulfilling career had been a drain on my energy, strength, and happiness. We had planned for early retirements financially by banking my check and always living well below our means, but this accelerated the plan for me by close to ten years.
Things didn’t magically turn wonderful overnight, but they gradually got better. I began exploring career options I had always thought I might enjoy: teaching, cooking, coaching, starting my own business. I ended up working as an independent consultant in my profession of Human Resources, and my husband and I even did some corporate training together. We traveled. We reconnected.
We’ll be married 37 years this October. I left the corporate grind 18 years ago. I occasionally think about the what ifs and I’ll always be sad about not having kids. But I made the right choice. Striking out doesn’t always mean going down.
Although I didn’t get to be a mother or a grandmother, it doesn’t define who I am today: a vibrant, happy woman whose gifts include the unique perspective and wisdom gained by traveling the challenging road of the involuntarily childless.
Thank you for sharing your story, S.C. Readers, what do you think?
4 thoughts on “Three Strikes, No Kids, and Still Standing”
Thank you for sharing your story. It is encouraging to me that you stayed married and found fulfillment. I know that the road was super rocky at times and that you probably wavered many times if you were doing the right thing. Also I’m just reading between the lines on this but it sounds like your husband was not empathetic toward what you were going through emotionally. The loss of so many dreams. For that I’m sore he wasn’t there for you. (Mine is not empathetic so it’s a touchy subject for me.)
I am also in HR but not as a consultant. Thanks again for sharing.
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Hi SilverShiloh. You’re not wrong about my husband, but interestingly, I wasn’t empathetic to myself either at the time. Just angry and confused. He knew I was hurting but he didn’t know what to do for me . . . and neither did I. As we got older, I was able to share my feelings more openly with him because I better understood them myself. He has been extremely understanding and empathetic the more he has come to understand what we both lost. I wish we knew then what we know now, but I’m not entirely sure it would have changed our outcome. He has apologized for not doing and being a certain way back then, but I no longer feel any resentment toward him. We both did the best we could at the time and as you know, it’s complicated. I hope you find your way and that your husband comes to understand and offer the support you need. Thanks for commenting.
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Thanks for sharing your story. I appreciate knowing that those 5 years were not “the best” (really difficult even) but that you pushed through and found real happiness and acceptance in the years following.
I’m feeling very unsatisfied with my life right now and while I don’t think that lack of children is the reason, it’s certainly not giving me any focus on what to do next. Many women my age are planning graduation parties and sending their kids off to college. Or planning weddings. Some late bloomers are still enjoying t-ball games and running Girl Scout cookies sales for their kids. I’m doing none of these things.
I have a wonderful life. I really do. And I completely love and enjoy my husband. But without children I don’t fit in with my peers and I’m a bit at a loss. I feel like a juvenile, but I’m not. I’m old. A bit saggy. I used to be the “the young one” at business events and I was plucky as hell. Now I’m not so peppy. And I’m not yet of an age to be the seasoned wise one. Just a middle-aged woman trying. Really hard.
So thanks for the spark. The idea of trying something different. The encouragement to do something large and dramatic if I really want to. There are a lot of adventures to be had if I align my head and my heart.
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Thank you for writing this post. I find myself in similar shoes, and I am not sure what move to make yet in order to find fulfillment without children in my life. I am blessed to be surrounded by amazing, also childless, friends. Day by day, I question my profession. I am very successful, but not happy anymore in what I am doing. It is not fulfilling. I thought this job would provide a good life and security to me and my family, but without children, I am wondering if I need this security, and if I should take the step outside of my comfort zone.
I too work in Human Resources. Many women I work with are also childless. Reading this post and comments makes me wonder… What is it about Human Resources?
Thank you again.