I am 35 years old. I was married for ten years and desperately wanted children. I never had any. It was not because I couldn't have them; it was because my partner did not want children. I know women who can’t have children because of medical reasons. If my heart breaks because my body could have children, yet it wasn't “allowed” to by another, I can only imagine the pain a woman must feel in knowing her own body has betrayed her.
Recently I read a beautiful post for mom’s over at http://www.whenathome.com concerning how lonely it can be as a mother. I can see where this is very true. Women need female companionship and I imagine between the diapers, soccer games, school plays, parent/teacher conferences, teething babies and more, that motherhood can strip you of the beautiful bonding experience you can only have with another woman. I stand in awe of the women who can balance motherhood and being a wife. Add to that those women who also have careers, are frequent members at their churches, volunteer their time to others and more…I seriously and sincerely stand up and applaud you. I don’t know how you do it.
99% of my friends, family members and co-workers have children. You get to an age where everyone around you starts announcing their pregnancy. Slowly, one by one, the friends that you used to talk to on the phone for hours or meet up with for lunch become very few and far between. The invitations to a cookout become invitations to a child’s Birthday Party. The talks over coffee become a quick text just checking in. The once uninterrupted phone conversations turn into a battle between getting a word in and waiting for the baby to stop crying.
Being a woman who wants a child in a world where everyone around you has one or multiple can be very lonely.
When I was married, my husband had a career that kept him away from home many nights. There are only so many TV shows, cartons of ice-cream, music playlists and loads of laundry that can keep you occupied before you realize that the sound of a cry would be a welcome relief to the emptiness and loneliness surrounding the core of your heart.
I couldn't simply grab the phone and call my friend for a chat when the loneliness set in. She had too many things going on with her family. The most difficult thing to realize was that not only did I not have the family I longed for, I didn't have the friendships I longed for either.
It is very easy to be misunderstood being a woman who has no children. Mothers tend to look at you with jealousy. I mean, we can sleep whenever we want to, right? We can take a bath and eat without interruption. We don’t have to spend a lot of money at Christmas. If we want to leave for a vacation, we can afford it.
For us though, there are many sleepless nights that keep us awake from the desire within to have a child that may never be fulfilled. The baths would be more fun if they included bubbles and toys. Shopping at Christmas would have a more magical feeling if it involved trips to see Santa and hiding gifts so little eyes wouldn't see. Vacations would be more meaningful watching little feet feel the sand for the first time.
It is easy to let this loneliness turn into resentment and work its way into your heart. I recall many Easter Sunday’s standing back crying. I had no children running to find eggs. I had no little girl to clothe in a new dress for Church.
Birthday Party invitations with cute characters went directly to the bottom of the mail pile. I didn't want to attend a party where I knew I would feel isolated as I watched all of my friend’s children becoming friends.
It hurt deeply at family gatherings to watch my cousins’ toddlers playing with each other and realizing that even if I had a child today, he/she would never be at an age close enough to create that special bond I was seeing develop before my eyes with the others.
I was allowing the loneliness to turn into bitterness and resentment until one day I realized that closing my heart was not the answer. I had a choice. I could let the negative thoughts consume me; like the thought of “When I turn 60 and my friends are spending the weekend with their grandchildren, I will still be alone.” I could allow the hurt to prevent me from creating memories with my family and friends or I could wipe the tears and open my eyes to the beauty around me and within me.
There is beauty in the brokenness I feel as a woman without a child. It forces me to grow stronger in my own skin. It empowers me to invest in myself, my creativity, and my spirituality. It allows me the opportunity to be the “Cool Aunt” to my niece and nephews.
Now that I am older, it may be more difficult for me to have children. Thankfully, I have found a man I will be marrying that wants children as badly as I. However, maybe now I am at an age where it will be nearly impossible to get pregnant if at all. Maybe I will go through life without ever reaching the milestones only mothers will get to experience.
If that happens:
If I never get to hold my newborn baby.
If I never get to take my child to school on their first day.
If I never hold my daughter during her first heartbreak.
If I never become a grandmother.
If I never become pregnant.
It will not define who I am as a person.
Yes, I will continue to answer “No” when asked “Do you have any children?”
Yes, I will to continue to fumble over my words when questioned “Why?”
But No, I will not be less than.
I will not let the loneliness turn my heart cold. I refuse to waste my life worrying. I will not beat myself up for wasted years. I will not see myself as anything other than a woman who is awesome and strong and beautiful. I will stand tall in who I am and I will see the beauty around me. I will hold my friends newborn today and grandchild tomorrow. I will dance and laugh and play with my niece and nephews. I will go to that Birthday Party when I feel like it and politely decline when I don’t. I will see the beauty that comes from my brokenness.
My heart is what defines me. It is what defines you?