That dreaded question: Why don’t you have kids?

February 6, 2017

My husband and I have been married 26 years, and I am 50 years old. We are childless, and that was never our choice.

We are often asked why we don’t have children. I suppose folks mean well by asking personal questions and expecting an answer. It always leaves me wondering what to say. Do I lie and just say we didn’t want kids? Do I mention the heartbreak we lived through losing two pregnancies? Do I laugh it off and ask why in the world would we want kids?  Why do people turn what probably starts off as an innocent (albeit nosy) question, into a personal interrogation that rips your heart to shreds?

When we were trying to have kids, people were very free with their advice. Just relax, they would tell us. The only real empathy came from other couples who struggled with fertility issues and pregnancy loss. Strangers and friends alike would embarrass me with their unsolicited advice about intimate methodology.

One neighbor, who no longer lives near us, actually stated out loud that because we didn’t have kids….he didn’t trust us to be around his kids. His gut…..he said….told him that we were not to be trusted because we’re not parents. Imagine what it is like to be told you are not trustworthy because of something beyond your control. 

Our second loss was much more difficult, in my late 30’s. I experienced a ruptured ectopic just a few days after finding out I was pregnant. That week for us was pretty rough. We went from total joy to total despair in about three days. Because of the resulting surgery that saved my life, I ended up with one tube and ovary being removed, and then being told the remaining tube was horribly scarred, making pregnancy nearly impossible. We simply gave up after that.

It took me many years to deal with this emotionally. I have regrets about that now. I wish I could have picked myself up, dusted myself off, and marched my butt to the nearest adoption agency and applied. Being adopted as a baby myself…..this inaction on my part at the time…..haunts me. I was so sucked into my own misery and loss, that I never embraced the option. I wish I would have been stronger. Now our age and current financial circumstances are unfavorable. Fact. However, every day I get better at not dwelling on this regret. I can’t change it. I choose not to live in this past mistake.

I watch friends on social media (many of them child-hood friends) share photos of their now grown children, and grandchildren. I am so happy for them. I have never been the kind of person that feels bitterness because another has joy. But sometimes, that loneliness that is so hard for me to describe…..the pain of never meeting the children I’d envisioned…..rears it’s ugly head and comes knocking my my door. I am better equipped to handle it now, I allow myself to feel it, and I put it away. I’ve managed an uneasy peace with what is. But, it took me a long time with a lot of help, to get here. I’ve also learned to keep it to myself, because I have discovered that my childlessness, makes some parents feel awkward.

Yep. I hide my hurt, because my hurt bothers people.

 

Now we experience the opposite end of that nosy rudeness, often being told how happy we must be to not be encumbered with children, to not have the stresses teenagers bring, to not have all our finances thrown into college educating our young.

We never know how to respond to that either.

We wish we could have been given the chance.

We wish we didn’t have to answer questions like that. The better wish would be…..we wish people didn’t ask questions like this to begin with. Maybe next time you find yourself asking questions like this, you will stop and consider if it might be a little insensitive.

Sadness aside, we’ve carved out a good life for ourselves. We’ve worked hard to have a good marriage. We try hard to be good people. We enjoy and appreciate what we have.

We wish people would ask us about those things instead.

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16 thoughts on “That dreaded question: Why don’t you have kids?

  1. I have the same problem, albeit different reasons. While I knew at an early age that I really didnt want children, my situation during my first marriage only confirmed that fact. the fact that ALL of my ex husbands aunts on his dads side died of breast cancer.
    Mental illness was rampant in my family as well as his. I didnt want to try the odds. I have friends that jumped thru major hurdles to try to have a baby. most came up empty witha ton of heartache. I dont ask. I love the example you and don set for marriage…

  2. You write from the heart …. and ‘hold’ the reader in the palm of your hand. That is a rare gift. I love your musings Maria …. poignant and transparent … thank you for sharing … xx

  3. My Momma struggled with fertility problems before anything was really known about them. She, too, had miscarried about 2 years into their marriage but at that time she didn’t realize she would have problems conceiving so it wasn’t quite as devastating. After going to doctors for about 5 years with some horrible tests performed on my Mom (see they didn’t know exactly how to find out what was wrong in the 50’s) the Dr advised they adopt. Mom and Dad put in for adoption the next week. A month later she found out she was pregnant with me. She was over the moon and there has never been a moment in my life I haven’t known how much I was loved. I feel such empathy for anyone who has problems conceiving because Momma always let me know I was a miracle, an answer to her prayers. I wish people would be more considerate when asking about children. I get the “How many children do you have?” question about once a week, but for me, it isn’t painful since I am childless by choice. I just answer I have 3 cats, no children and 2 step-children. I go a step further many times and tell them I am allergic to children, in case they don’t get how inappropriate their question really was. I know how much love you and Don give to your adopted furry children, and I know God has a special place in heaven for ones with a big a heart as yours.

      • She was an awesome lady and the best mom anyone could have. She’d have loved a house full of children, but since she couldn’t have any more, she welcomed all my friends and treated them as if they were her own. I was truly blessed.

  4. I always thought I should have kids. That’s the way it is in my family. By my late 20s I realized kids were not what I wanted. No maternal instinct. As my 30s came about different illnesses arose and it turned out that was absolutely the best decision for me. I’ve been criticized for it. I’ve been told I’m not grown up. This all mostly by family, but has occasionally been by friends. The judgement kills me. Don’t get me started on the “Why aren’t you married?” subject! Lol. We each make what decision is best for us at the time. Just like you said, you have a good life, good marriage, and ARE succeeding at being good people! ❤

    • Ohhhh, Melissa, I can only imagine the whole “Why aren’t you married” conversation! Gosh, folks just really get into business that just isn’t theirs! Ugh!

  5. I tried to get pregnant for years, but all of the very expensive infertility treatments didn’t work. And I went into a lot of debt paying for treatments because none of that was covered by insurance. Through all of the emotionally and physically draining infertility treatments, comments from people about how I must be having fun trying to get pregnant would make me burst into tears. And adopting was NOT an option for me. Well-meaning friends tried to tell me, push me, into adopting. I stood firm and said it was MY personal choice and I didn’t want to do that. I thought that I had healed myself from the hurt of not having children, a hurt that is decades old. But very recently, I uncovered the fact that I had been lying to myself about being OK with this. A flood of emotions came back, and I was deeply and thoroughly hurt and sad and depressed. But, I also discovered that having this realization, in my mid-60s, has, finally, allowed me to heal myself — and for that I am very grateful.

    I started writing down things I am grateful for each day a few months ago. It’s made a huge, positive impact on my life. I wrote about my infertility and said that I was still sad that I didn’t have children, but that I was grateful I finally realized that I was still upset about it many, many years later. Gratitude that comes from difficult experiences is the most powerful, and it’s also rather surprising!

    Thanks so very much for sharing your story, Maria. It took a lot of courage to do so, and I applaud you. You are a beautiful, wonderful person, and so much stronger than you think. I salute you — and Don — for getting through this trauma, for loving each other, and for being together. You have so much love to give and share, and doing so with all of your furry children is proof of that. I love you.

  6. This was a lovely post and although I’m way too young to consider having children, I can understand how hard it would be especially when society decides to judge you for it as well!

  7. What a lovely post, it made me tear up. I too dread this question. I had a hysterectomy due to cancer at a young age, before I’d decided if I really wanted children (I’d always been torn). When someone asks me why I don’t have children it brings up so many things for me. It’s amazing how one question can be so deflating!

    • I can relate to that, very much so, in fact. Thank you for helping me to feel less alone. Congratulations on being a cancer warrior survivor!

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