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.