Childless by marriage vs. childless by infertility

Being childless through infertility and being childless by marriage, when the issue is not lack of eggs or sperm, are two very different things. With infertility, couples try hard to conceive and deliver a child. They undergo all kinds of invasive treatments, spend huge amounts of money, and ride a rollercoaster of hope and disappointment, only to end up still childless. Some suffer multiple miscarriages and a grief those of us who have never been pregnant can only imagine.

They have no choice in this outcome. They did everything they could. Adopt? It’s not so easy, especially if you have already used up all the time, money, and energy you can spare.

When a couple is infertile, whether the problem is from his sperm or a problem with her reproductive system, their only choices are to accept their fate, try whatever they can, and ultimately to stop trying. They do it together because they both long to be parents.

It is possible to be childless by marriage because your spouse is infertile. You may not know that in advance. When you find out, you have a choice: stay and face the same choices as other infertile couples or split up and look for someone who can give you children.

Is that your story? I know some of you reading this are in that situation.

What if you knew going into the marriage that children would be impossible with this person? So many men, especially those who were married before, have had vasectomies. Is it possible to get them reversed? Yes, but the surgery doesn’t always work. The longer it has been, the less likely the man will be able to provide healthy sperm.

What if there’s no physical reason you can’t have children together? What if it’s just that your mate does not want kids? That’s quite different. I wonder about relationships where couples disagree on something so huge. What else will they clash on? Money? Career? Where to live? But you love each other. So maybe you can accept a marriage without children. Or maybe you can’t. You do have a choice. You can take your healthy sperm or your fertile ovaries elsewhere.

What if you never find anyone else? Ah, that’s the risk. It’s a gamble. But unlike those struggling with infertility, at least you get to roll the dice.

Last week’s webinars at World Childless Week got me thinking. A majority of the speakers were childless due to fertility problems. They are grieving and trying to build new lives after years of fertility treatments and disappointment. As I sat here with my healthy never-used uterus, I could identify with much of what they said because we are all lacking children. We all deal with insensitive comments, feel left out at family gatherings, and grieve the children we might have had, but suddenly it came at me with big flashing lights: I had a choice. They did not.

What do you think about this? How is it different being childless due to infertility and being childless because you chose a person who doesn’t want kids? I’d love to hear your thoughts.

If you missed any or all of the sessions at World Childless Week, you can still watch the recordings at worldchildlessweek.net.

Thank you all for being here.

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A Letter to My Younger Pre-Childless Self

Those of us participating in the childless elderwomen online chat today (Sept. 14) at World Childless Week were asked to write a letter to our younger selves. Knowing what we know now, what would we say if we could? Here is what I came up with. I invite you to try this exercise for yourself and share it in the comments.

Girl reporter on the job, I had no idea what was coming.

Dear 20-year-old Sue,

If I told you how much the world would change in the next 50 years, you would not believe me. If I told you your life would be nothing like your mother’s, you would not believe that either. But it’s true. Everything will change. The only thing that will stay the same is you. Fifty years later, you will still be writing poems and playing music. You will stay up too late reading. You will keep doing yoga, even the shoulder stand.  But you will not be Doris Day married to Rock Hudson (before we learned he was gay). You will be none of those movie heroines who live happily ever after with the husband, kids, and house with the white picket fence.

I don’t want to frighten you, but you will never celebrate a 50th wedding anniversary with this man you think you love. Nor will you be a mother, grandmother, or great-grandmother, surrounded by the family you and your beloved created. No. You will look like your mother. Same brown eyes, black hair, soft padded breasts perfect for comforting a weeping child. You will know how to make cookies and knit tiny sweaters, how to teach a little one to read, to spell, and to love God. You will have mother love to give but no one to receive it except your dogs. You will have dogs.

It could be different if you take a different path now when there’s still time. You got a late start. You were the girl who never had a date in high school, whose parents were so strict you stayed home sewing or knitting when your classmates were going to parties and dances. Now that you’re in college, you’re just beginning to experience what others did back in middle school. First dates, first kisses, first sex. It’s okay. Sex is natural. And it’s good that you went to the student health center for birth control. It’s not time for babies now. Finish your education. You will need that degree to support yourself. You will never be a housewife or stay-at-home mom. 

Lose yourself in your lover’s arms. Enjoy it. But you do not have to marry him. And if you do, it’s all right to demand of him everything you need. Do not assume it will come naturally. This is not a movie, with love and marriage followed by the baby carriage. Talk to him, insist on answers. He has this way of clamping his jaws and refusing to talk. But he needs to know you expect to have babies. Just like you expect to keep writing and singing. If that scares him away, let him go. He is not your only choice. 

This marriage will not last. You will be alone for a while. By the time you find Mr. Right, he will have already had children and will not be willing or able to father any more. And no, this is not “The Sound of Music.” His children will not adore you. But, you will have a love worthy of any movie. It’s your choice. Love or children of your own?

No, your life will be nothing like your mother’s or anything like you expect. But it will be good. When you were playing with your Barbie dolls, were they mommies? No, they were not. They were singers going off to the “club” to perform. Who was your idol in middle school? Jo in Little Women. The writer. You will be these things. Your obituary will list your book titles instead of your children and grandchildren. That is not a terrible thing.

You still have time to change your fate. Make other choices now, and you might live a life like everyone else, filled with family who call you “Mom” and “Grandma.” But I suspect this is how your movie is supposed to be. It’s all right. Everyone can’t be Doris Day.  

Love,

Sue at 70

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World Childless Week, Sept. 12-18, is Your Chance to Feel Less Alone

poster for World Childless Week, white type of blue background

Next week is World Childless Week. Founder Stephanie Joy Phillips offers seven days of webinars, workshops, and access to resources for those of us who are childless not by choice. Some of the sessions focus on those who have struggled with infertility. If that is not your issue, you might want to skip those, but there is still a lot to be gleaned from these free online sessions. See the poster below for a list and register for the sessions that interest you. They will be recorded, so if you can’t make it at the time they’re aired live, sign up anyway. Many of the speakers are in the UK and their time is many hours different for people like me on the U.S. west coast.  

Each day has a theme. On Wednesday, Sept. 14, the “Nomo Crones” group, which includes me, will read letters to our younger selves. What would you say at 40, 60, or 80 to 20-year-old you? I will share mine in a Zoom session with the other crones at noon Pacific time and publish it here in the blog next week. I would love for you to try that exercise yourselves. It doesn’t have to be long, just a page or two. If you are willing, I can share them with the readers here at Childless by Marriage.

Here are Stephanie’s instructions:

Picture of Stephanie Joy Phillips, multi-colored dress, short red hair, big smile
Stephanie Joy Phillips

“Do you wish you could send your younger self the strength, confidence and love to face the future you’ve already lived? Let them know they are worthy and perfect just as they are, no matter what decisions they make and what life throws at them? Write that letter and share with them everything you can to help them realize how important they are, how much they matter and what positives they bring to the world and those around them.”

I would add: Knowing what you know now, what is your advice for your younger self?

White on blue, webinar schedule for World Childless Week

An alternative: If you feel like you’re too young to write to your younger self, try writing to your older self. What would you say to 60-year-old you?

I usually write more in this space, but you have your assignments, should you choose to accept them: Sign up for at least one event at World Childless Week and write that letter to your younger self.

***

Brief side note: Did you watch the Bachelorette episode where Gabby booted a guy she really liked because she wasn’t ready to become a stepmother? I welcome comments on that, too. It’s a dumb show, but I’m hooked on it.

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How Has COVID Affected Your Decision to Not Have Children?

White sign on wooden table, orange background. Sign says: Not today, #COVID 19

When COVID hit us in 2020, people predicted a new baby boom. After all, with so many people forced to stay home together, wouldn’t they be having more sex? Wouldn’t people emerge from lockdown preggers or showing off new babies? 

So far, it hasn’t turned out that way. Birth rates actually declined for a while. The surge may still be coming, but maybe not. Things are different from when we had baby booms after the Great Depression and World War II. Pandemic or not, people are already having fewer babies in many parts of the world. Although couples may have been spending more time together in 2020 and 2021, perhaps working remotely on their laptops side by side at home and maybe even having more sex than usual (did you?), there are lots of reasons why they might keep using the birth control, including:

  1. Fear of illness. What if they got COVID while pregnant? What if they got very sick and died? 
  2. Lack of access to medical care. Remember when you couldn’t get a doctor’s appointment unless you were dying, when you had to jump through many hoops to get in the door of a clinic or hospital, when non-emergency procedures were canceled or postponed?
  3. Fertility treatment centers closed or greatly curtailing their work 
  4. Financial upheaval, people losing their jobs, businesses closing, nobody sure what would happen
  5. Adoption agencies closing or limiting services
  6. Bad news every day: illness, climate change, mass shootings, war–why bring a child into such a frightening world?
  7. Watching friends and relatives with children struggle with lack of childcare and remote schooling
  8. The difficulty of dating during a pandemic

The isolation period has pretty much ended, although we know it could come again. Things have reopened, but COVID is far from over. In fact, there’s a new booster shot coming soon. More people I know have gotten the disease lately than did before, although fewer are being hospitalized and dying.  

You know all of this. What I want to ask is how it affected the baby discussions at your house. Did you and your partner talk about changing your plans to have or not have babies? Or did COVID make no difference at all? Did the troubles of the last few years just cement your partner’s refusal to procreate? Do you know anyone having pandemic babies? 

Let’s talk about it in the comments. I really want to hear what you have to say. 

Photo by cottonbro on Pexels.com

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Novels’ Main Character is Childless Like Us

When I started writing my novel Up Beaver Creek, I did not intentionally make my heroine childless. She just came out that way, probably because I don’t have children. Her non-Mom status has not changed in the sequel, Seal Rock Sound, which has just been published.

Book cover for the novel Seal Rock Sound features an ocean scene with black rocks and fluffy white clouds tinged with orange.

I don’t automatically give my characters the full family package because I have never had that. A writer whose main identity is Mom might create people who either have children or are planning to. Often the happy ending includes a pregnancy announcement. My girl PD Soares will never be pregnant. In her case, she suffered through a bad childless first marriage, infertility with her second husband, and then widowhood when he died. Now 43, she’s sure she’ll never be a mother. But the question keeps coming up, as in these excerpts from Seal Rock Sound:

On a date:

Arlo delivers a basket of warm bread. Donovan grabs a slice and slides the basket over to me. “Did you ever want to have kids, PD?”

Yikes. I should have known this question would come up. Everyone expects a woman my age to have children. I nudge the breadbasket away, trying to resist the temptation. “Yes, we tried to have children. My husband and I could not seem to get pregnant. His sperm and my eggs just wouldn’t do the job. We were starting to look into adoption when he got sick.”

“It’s not too late.”

“Yeah, I think it is. I’m 43 and single. That ship has sailed.” Change the subject before you stress-eat all the bread in that basket. “How about you? Any children?”

“Well . . .”

Talking to a friend:

Cover for the novel Up Beaver Creek shows a peaceful river running through green trees and bushes. The sky is blue with a little white cloud in the upper right corner.

“It all washed away in one night. Now I have to support my family. Maybe in 20 or 30 years, I can paint again.”

I picture her in a bright room overlooking the ocean, painting on silk with delicate brushes. Her painting was like my music. Because I have no husband or children, I’m free to keep doing it.

“Helen, I’m so—”

She holds up her hand. “Don’t say sorry again. I know you are. But you don’t know how it is when you have a family to take care of.”

Ouch. But it’s true. “Can I buy you a blueberry scone and another cup of tea?”

She checks her watch. “Yes. Thank you.”

I return to the counter, order and top off my coffee. It’s time to change the subject.

Car-shopping:

I sink onto the black leather. I’m up higher than in my old car, but this one is considerably smaller than the rental I’ve been driving. I study the dash.

“They went for the whole package. It’s got Bluetooth, Wi-Fi, backup warning system, the whole shot. Plus four-wheel drive. The back seat folds down if you need to haul stuff. Do you have kids?”

I look at this cookie-cutter white guy in a suit. “No. It’s just me.”

“It’s great for dogs, too. I’ll bet you have a dog.”

 I’m not in the mood to tell him the story of my life.

At work helping a frightened teen who just got her first period:

I escorted her to the restroom and closed us up in the handicapped stall. It was crazy intimate for someone I had just met, but I got her “bandaged” up with a maxi pad and retied her sweatshirt around her waist so no one could see the drying blood on her pants.

As we washed our hands, she smiled at me. “I guess I remember some of my friends talking about this.”

“Sure. We all get our periods. Even me. It’s normal. You’re just becoming a woman. Soon your breasts will grow, and you won’t be a little girl anymore. It’s actually pretty cool.”

“Thanks, PD.”

“You’re welcome.” I hugged her and returned to my desk.

I couldn’t help thinking about how I could have had a girl that age if nature had cooperated. An ache bloomed inside me. I was never going to be the mom giving her daughter “the talk.” I would never see my little girl grow into a woman. Never send her off to school dances, help her with her spelling, attend her graduation and her wedding, or cuddle her babies in my arms. I blinked back my tears. Not here, not now. Just do the job.

I forced a smile at an old woman in pink sweats. “Hi, what I can do for you?”

***

Will I ever write a novel about someone who has children? Probably. The majority of adults are parents. Just as I used to do when I was writing articles for parenting publications, I’ll do my research. All of my characters can’t be just like me. If I want them to be doctors, police officers, or truck drivers, I have to find out what that’s all about. Likewise, if I want to create fictional moms. Meanwhile, I have added my books to the limited number of stories about people who don’t have children.

Up Beaver Creek and Seal Rock Sound are both available at Amazon.com and by order everywhere books are sold. I am available for talks and book-signings, live on the West Coast, via Zoom everywhere.

Do you have some favorite childless heroines from books or movies? Do you think we’re seeing more characters without kids these days? As always, I welcome your comments.

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Why Your Marriage Might Be Happier Without Kids

I don’t usually venture far into the “childfree” community because the anti-children rhetoric makes me grit my teeth, but when I came across this 10-minute video on Facebook today, I decided to ditch my planned post and share this with you because, well, wow.

If you have time, watch it and come back.

In this video, “Childfree Kimberly” aka Kimberly Fisher shares “Why You Should Get Married and Not Have Kids.” She offers a list of advantages to having a childfree marriage. They include: privacy, quality time with your partner, no requirement to “stay together for the kids” but a chance to choose every day to stay together, freedom to grow together rather than fall into separate mom and dad roles, spontaneous dates to do fun things together, and no child getting in the middle of your marriage.

Here’s the thing. She’s right. All of these points sound like great advantages to not having children. Kids do interrupt your privacy and make it hard to spend quality time together. They are a consideration in everything you do, whether it’s going out to dinner or deciding to split up. They’re also expensive, messy, and frequently annoying. When children enter the picture, your relationship changes and not always in a good way.

We could argue the other side, the advantages of having children, the magic of creating a human being, the joy of having a big family, the satisfaction of carrying family genes and traditions into the next generation, the companionship of grown sons and daughters, help in old age, etc. We would be right about that, too.

Many parents would say that raising children is difficult but rewarding, that you feel a love like you’ve never felt before. Kids can also break your heart. People who never wanted children might say, “Who needs all this drama?”

I wanted to share this video at Childless by Marriage because it may help us understand why our partners are unwilling to have children with us, especially if they have already gone through it with someone else. They want the privacy, freedom, and connection uninterrupted by little ones screaming, “Mommy!” or “Daddy!” It makes sense, but what if you can’t imagine life without the little ones? What if you want all that drama? It’s certainly something for you and your partner to talk about.

If you are physically unable to have children, maybe this video will offer some consolation.

Let’s talk about it here, too. What is your response to this video? Would you show it to your partner? What would he/she say? If you were to make a list of reasons why you should get married and HAVE children, what would it include? I’m so glad you all are here to talk about this stuff.

For more on Kimberly, visit her Instagram site: https://www.instagram.com/kimberlyfisher.cf/ or her YouTube channel: https://www.youtube.com/c/ChildfreeKimberly

Without Children, We Need to Find Different Milestones

Milestones mark the seasons of our lives. They come quickly when we’re young: first teeth, first words, first steps, preschool, kindergarten, puberty, driving, graduation, first job, leaving home, falling in love. Traditionally, marriage and children would follow. But if we were living that traditional life, we wouldn’t be reading this blog, right?

Merriam-Webster defines a milestone as either an actual stone marking a milepost in the road (we have green numbered signs here in Oregon) or a significant point in development, such as graduating from college. I interpret that as meaning something changes at that moment. It’s a turning point. But if we don’t have children, what changes, aside from getting old? Where are our milepost markers?

Our parenting peers mark their adult years with their children’s progression through the milestones of their lives. You know you’re fully an adult when someone is calling you “Mom” or “Dad,” and you know you’re getting older when a little one calls you “Nana” or “Papa.” You know you’re truly old when your first great-grandchildren are born. For each child, you note the milestones, the first steps, graduations, weddings, and babies. As for your own milestones, what’s left except retirement and Medicare?

I don’t feel as old as the numbers say I am. I don’t feel as old as people my age who have children and grandchildren. Although the mirror tells me otherwise, in some ways, I’m a perpetual child. I’m not complaining. I like that. But sometimes my life feels kind of formless without the framework of a family progressing through their lives. I’m not “Mom” or “Nana.” I’m still just “Sue.”

So how do those of us without children mark off the years? Romantic relationships? Career achievements? Places we have lived? Trips we have taken? Concerts we attended? The year we put a new roof on the house?

Do we mark the years when we were fat, skinny, blond or brunette? Or do we go by what was happening in the world: 9/11, Hurricane Katrina, Obama elected president, Covid-19?

I find myself marking time by the losses. That’s when I was diagnosed with Graves’ Disease. That’s when we moved to Oregon. That’s when my mother died. That’s when my father had heart surgery. That’s when my husband moved to the nursing home.

Aside from my age and the people who are gone, my life is the same as it was 10 and 20 years ago. I’m still sitting here at my desk, writing. How do I mark the passing years?

It’s your turn. What are your milestones if you never have children? Maybe we can make a list.

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When All They Can Talk About is Their Kids—and You Don’t Have Any

The beauty salon is a dangerous place for childless women, not just because of the sharp instruments and the danger of a horrible haircut or a tragic dye job. Been there, but that’s not what I’m talking about today.

Since the stylist I had for years cut my hair so short just before my father’s funeral that I felt bald, I have been seeking the right person. It has been a journey. In this journey, I have repeatedly found myself in the land of MOMS. Yes, capital letter MOMS.

There was the Vietnamese woman who wielded her scissors like a chainsaw while talking at her teenage daughter in Vietnamese. There was the heavyset woman whose kid was hanging around for lack of a babysitter and required a lot of attention. Okay, stuff happens. I understand. But their focus was on their children, not on my hair.

The stylist I dumped most recently was late because of a ride situation with her kid. Okay. Things happen. Then she kept leaving me mid-cut to text with her husband about her kid. Not so okay. She barely paid attention to me. But I liked my haircut, so I went back.

The next time, she spent the whole haircut talking with a co-worker about their kids and their baseball teams. All I got to say was, “Just a trim, not too short.” Yeah, I’m just another old lady getting her graying hair cut, but I’m a person. This time, my haircut wasn’t that great, and she applied so much “product” I couldn’t even get a comb through it.

Moving on, I tried the salon next to Safeway. I think I may have found my person. I love my hair. But I will probably lose her in a few months because she is hugely pregnant with her second child. As she cut my hair, her belly bumped up against me. I didn’t mind. It was soft and somehow comforting, and I thought it would be really fun if I felt the baby move. I didn’t. I asked about her children. One at home, one in the oven. Naturally, she asked about mine. “I never had any,” I said. In the awkward silence that followed, I quickly changed the subject.

Some types of work are dominated by young mothers. Managing hair is one of them. The stylists can arrange their schedules around their children’s needs and hang out with other young mothers doing the same. It requires some training but not a four-year degree or 60-hour work weeks. That’s all good, but we have nothing to talk about.

I have also encountered the mom-centric talk with the hygienists at the dentist’s office. Mine is super-involved with her kids soccer team. I usually hang out with people closer to my own age. If they are moms, their children are grown up and usually living somewhere else. Yes, they sometimes get busy with the grandchildren, but most of the time we are living similar lives. The beauty salon is a different world.

How about you? Have you experienced places in your day-to-day life where you find yourself surrounded by moms or dads talking about parenting and making you feel left out? Where? How did you feel? Did you try to fit in? Let’s talk about it in the comments.

Photo by cottonbro on Pexels.com

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Portraits of Childfree Wealth Sting a Little

Image shows book cover, Portraits of Childfree Wealth, to accompany review and commentary on how couples without children handle money.

Portraits of Childfree Wealth: 26 Stories about How Being Childfree Impacts Your Life, Wealth and Finances by Jay Zigmont, PhD, CFP, 2022

If I were unbiased . . .

No, I can’t be. I’m childless not by choice, and I hate all these young pups who proudly proclaim that having lots of money and time to do whatever they want whenever they want is more important than having children. If they meet up with a romantic partner who is set on procreating, adios, they’re moving on. They’d rather travel or play video games. They see children as annoying time-sucks, not as future adults who will carry on their legacies.

Whew, got that out of my system. These are not my people. Period. That said, maybe there are some lessons we can learn from this book by financial planner Jay Zigmont, who was one of the speakers at the recent Childless Collective Summit. After all, if we never have children, by choice or by chance, the effect on our finances is the same as if we never wanted them in the first place. Except for the fortune we might have spent on fertility treatments.

Zigmont himself is childfree, which he defines as “not having children and not planning on having children.” He interviewed people at various stages of life from 20-something recent college grads trying to find their way to 40-somethings who already have over a million dollars and are planning to retire young. Throughout the book, he repeats several principles:

  • The key to financial freedom is to stay out of debt and invest all you can in retirement. It’s a simple concept, but not so simple to do. The couples in this book who are financially successful have put all their efforts into making sure they have no outstanding bills, whether it’s credit card debt, student loans, or a mortgage. They have taken full advantage of 401ks and investment opportunities to pave the way for their future. They have also had the good fortune to have well-paying jobs and no financial disasters.
  • Zigmont talks about FIRE (financial independence, retire early) and FILE (financial independence, live early), essentially saving it all for later or living it up now. For example, spend it on traveling all over the world or stash it for when you’re older? Which would you choose?
  • He suggests couples behave as “the gardener and the rose.” One partner, the gardener, takes responsibility for the bulk of their income while the other, the rose, is freed up to pursue his or her passions—starting a business, working in the arts, going back to school . . . After a while, they switch places. That’s something to discuss with your partner.
  • Throughout the book, we see that because they don’t have the responsibility of providing stable lives for children, the interviewees feel free to change jobs, change plans, change locations, and sometimes to fail and start over.

There’s no reason we can’t try some of these ideas. The “gardener and the rose” resonates with me because my husband did give me the time and support to pursue my writing and music while he worked full-time. I had some income but not nearly enough to make a big impact on our day-to-day living. He was supportive, but I also had this mantra: If I don’t get babies, I’m damned well going to write my books. And I did. I also earned my master’s degree at an age when we might otherwise have been paying our children’s college tuition instead of mine. Fred, who was older than I was and always worried about money, insisted we meet with a financial planner, and that was one of the goals we set, along with moving to Oregon and buying an RV.

I did not love this book. In addition to a strong strain of selfishness from the interviewees, I don’t think Zigmont paid much attention to couples who are struggling just to buy groceries and can’t even imagine the lives of freedom described here. But it does suggest some possibilities.

If you are not having children, maybe it’s time to sit down together and make a financial plan. If you’re not spending your income on baby food and braces, what will you do with it? How do you see your future as you age and consider retirement? Are you on the same page about how long you want to work and what you will do when you’re older?

I would love to hear your thoughts.

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With Childlessness, the Related Losses Multiply

When you don’t have children, what else do you lose?

A lot, according to Tanya Hubbard, one of the speakers at last weekend’s online Childless Collective Summit. Hubbard, a counselor from Vancouver, Canada, specializes in working with people who are childless not by choice, a group that includes most of us here at Childless by Marriage.

She spoke about secondary losses, the often unacknowledged losses that come along with a primary loss. If someone you love dies, for example, you grieve the loss of that person, but there are other losses that come with it. After my father died, his house was sold. The new owners tore it down, ripped out everything in the yard, and built a new, much larger, house. One might say it was just a house, but it broke my heart. For 67 years, it was home to me.

For people who have dreamed of having children and now realize they never will, there are many secondary losses. Your identity in the world and your role in the family change. You lose friendships, the pleasure of giving your parents grandchildren, your sense of creating the next branch on the family tree, someone to inherit your memories and prized possessions, and someone to care for you in old age. At church, at work, and wherever you go, you will be different from most people. If you struggled with infertility, there are physical losses, such as hysterectomies, scars and trauma from IVF failures and miscarriages, financial losses, and a feeling that you can’t trust your body to do what it’s supposed to do.

However you end up childless, your dream of what your life was going to be goes out the window. Sure, you can dream a new dream. It’s possible to have a terrific life without children, but there are losses. As with everything in life, when you come to a fork in the road, you have to choose one way or the other. You can’t have both.

Hubbard suggested we draw a diagram shaped like a daisy. Write “childlessness” in the middle and then fill in the petals with other things you lose because you don’t have children. Some of us are going to need more petals. When you finish with that, I suggest you draw a second daisy, write “me” in the center and fill in the petals with everything else you are besides childless. I hope you need more petals for that, too.

We need to acknowledge and give ourselves permission to grieve our losses. Other people, particularly parents, may not understand, but the losses are real and you have a right to be sad. It’s okay to talk about it and to even seek therapy if you can’t manage it on your own. Some therapists will question what you’re so upset about. Find another one.

If you are childless by marriage, I pray that your partner acknowledges what you are giving up by choosing him or her and then helps you create a new life plan that will work for both of you.

You can find Hubbard on Instagram at @tanyahubbardcounseling.

I welcome your comments.