What If Your Partner Dismisses Your Childless Grief?

Does your partner really understand how you feel about not having children? Do they sympathize or tell you to “get over it?”

I got to thinking about this after listening to a podcast about “disenfranchised grief” and childlessness with new Lighthouse Women leader Katy Seppi and Dr. Nisa Darroux. Darroux, who specializes in the subject, made some excellent points. I recommend listening.

Disenfranchised grief happens when other people don’t recognize your loss. To them, it looks like you haven’t actually lost anything. When someone dies, it’s clear. People offer cards, flowers, sympathy, and casseroles and gather around for support. But when it’s ambiguous, like losing the possibility of having children, they don’t know how to relate. With death, you had something and lost it. But with childlessness, well, you never had it.

This is not news to most of us. We’re familiar with people who say things like “why don’t you just adopt?” or “why don’t you . . . ,” with people who tell you it’s your own fault if you don’t have kids, that you must not like kids or want them bad enough, that you didn’t fight hard enough, or the ever-popular “you’re better off not having kids; if I had it to do over, I wouldn’t have any.” We have heard the relatives asking when we’re going to get pregnant, making us feel guilty for not producing grandchildren, or comparing us to our siblings who do have children.

Friends say look at my adorable baby pictures, come to the baby shower, or this Halloween party is just for “families.”

People, society, the family don’t acknowledge your right to grief, but what if your partner does not recognize your grief as valid? What if he/she is the one who says, “Aren’t you over that yet?” “We’ll get you a puppy, okay?” “You knew I wasn’t going to change.” “Don’t cry over spilled milk—or spilled sperm?” “Look at all the money we’re saving.” Or, “Hey, I’m the one with the bad sperm/eggs/whatever. What are you crying about?”

You know?

What if your partner does not acknowledge the magnitude of your loss? It seems to me if a person really loves his or her partner, they would do whatever it took to make them happy, including having a child even if they’re not really into it. Maybe that’s stupid because they might be resentful and unhelpful throughout. Or maybe one of those TV miracles would occur and they’d fall in love with the child and wonder why they were ever reluctant.

But I have to ask: How can you love someone who dismisses your tears as foolish or invalid? I was lucky. I think my husband truly felt bad about my grief, although I tried to hide it most of the time. At least he didn’t dismiss it. And he did come with those three offspring for me to stepparent. “I can’t give you kids, but you can share mine.”

What if the one most dismissive of your grief is your partner? I don’t know what to tell you, except to try to make them see how it is for you. The only other possibility is leaving, and I’m not suggesting that. Or am I? I don’t know. Your partner should be the one person you can count on. If you can’t, that compounds the grief, and you shouldn’t have to carry it alone.

All I can say is talk about it, cry about it, yell if you need to. Don’t deny yourself the right to feel what you feel. Acknowledge it and hold it like the baby you didn’t have.

What do you think about this? Please share in the comments.

Processing…
Success! You're on the list.

What’s the big deal about childlessness?


What is it that makes people feel bad about not having children? That’s what the young man interviewing me over the phone yesterday wanted to know. I struggled to find an answer that he would understand. It became very clear that men and women have different ideas about this stuff, especially when they come from different generations. His questions showed he really didn’t get it.
Is it that everybody else is doing it? Are we looking for a sense of accomplishment? Do we want to leave something behind? Does it help to be around other people’s children?
Well, I could answer that last one. No. When you are hurting over your own lack of children, it does not help to be surrounded by everybody else’s. It just makes you more aware of what you’re missing. I don’t think he understood that either.
I tried to explain that it’s all of the above and more, that we’re missing a major life experience, that we have no younger generation to replace the old ones who are dying, that we have no one to inherit our keepsakes, and that for some people children are their only legacy, but none of that was really getting to the heart of it.
Why does it hurt so bad to realize we may never have children? Is it a deep-down physical need to reproduce? After all, every living thing on earth is designed to reproduce. Some can’t for various physical reasons, but reproduction is the plan. Humans are the only ones who can say, “No, we’d rather not,” the only ones who mate and don’t procreate. So maybe it’s just a basic biological need. But then why don’t some people feel that need?
Almost a quarter of women are not having children these days, and a lot of them don’t feel bad about it. They choose to be childless, preferring the unfettered life. Why do the rest of us grieve the loss of the children we might have had?
The young man segued into a discussion of social media and wouldn’t I like my blogs to be reposted in perpetuity if some company offered that service. No, I don’t think so, and was he actually scamming me to sell a product? I don’t know. But his questions about childlessness linger. What’s the big deal? Why do we feel so bad?
What do you think? Help me find answers? Why do you feel bad about not having children? Please share in the comments.