Childless by circumstance.
What does this mean, ‘childless by circumstance’, this way that many of us name our experience as women without children?
There are lots of women who choose not to have children and gladly call themselves childfree. But freedom is not the experience described by many, many women who have always wanted to have child, and never got, will never get the chance to do so. It is not their choice to be without children. Rather it comes about because a number, often a combination of circumstances.
They are women whose partners don’t want to have children; women who have fertility issues; women committed to partners who have fertility issues; women who haven’t met the right man in their fertile years; women who are in unhealthy /abusive relationships and not good environments for a child; women who eventually leave these relationships, only to find their fertility clock has stopped ticking before they meet a suitable partner; women with disabilities that prevent them from having a child or meeting someone who wants one; women who have successfully become pregnant, only to lose their babies in a series of tragic miscarriages.
These are only some of the circumstances that lead women to being unable to have a child. You can find many more in Ch1 of Jody Day’s groundbreaking book Rocking the life unexpected, available through Amazon.
For every women who calls herself childless rather than childfree, there is a unique story, a unique set of circumstances, and as you will read from my own example, many of those circumstances are driven by particular sets of conditioning from their individual backgrounds and are interwoven with the wider socio-cultural environment they inhabit.
I found one of the hardest things to deal with was people’s assumptions. Many assumed that because I didn’t have children, I didn’t want them, I had ‘chosen’ not to have them and they believed that if I had really wanted a child I would have tried harder or sooner.
The truth is I was quite typical of my generation, fairly ignorant about the limits of the female fertility clock. I am one of eight children, and my mother had my youngest brothers, twins, at the age of 43. I had my own set of assumptions as I entered adult life. I assumed I would be like her and when the time came I would have no trouble conceiving. I didn’t think about babies too much, but I assumed that one day I would settle down with the right man and start a family. In the meantime there were many other adventures to be had in my twenties and early thirties,including higher education, travel, career opportunities and along with that, financial independence. The late sixties and seventies were wonderful years to be a young woman in the developed world. We were part of the first wave of feminism, and for the most part our mothers encouraged us to enjoy the opportunities that they had never had. We were the first generation to enjoy the sexual freedom offered by the contraceptive pill, which didn’t turn us into crazed sex junkies, but it did mean we had more control of our lives and didn’t have our hopes and dreams dashed by unplanned pregnancies.
Many of my friends and contemporaries did eventually find suitable partners and started families in their thirties, some even in their late thirties. They became fine mothers who raised beautiful children. Through a combination of bad timing and faulty tubes I was not so lucky. But this doesn’t mean I chose not to have children.
For every woman who calls herself childless there is a unique story and a unique set of circumstances leading to her childlessness. Behind each woman’s story there is also profound grief ; and more and more, a growing tribe who reach out and resource one another, to honour the stories, to break the taboo of silence around this subject, to connect with the mother energy that is within us all, and to bring that out into the world in a way that is meaningful.
I am proud to be a member of this tribe and my passion is in being a resource for other women who are childless by circumstance. …. where ever you are …and I know you are everywhere, in growing numbers.
Do not stay isolated in your grief, your stuckness, or wherever you might be. Reach out to your tribe.
See my workshop page on this website for information on the workshop I am offering September 19 2015 ‘Embracing the Future.’