Historical novels. Movies. TV shows and soap operas…
All would have us believe that the fate of a childless woman is to spend the rest of her weeping by the side of an empty cot.
Or, troublingly, kidnapping other people’s babies 🙄🙄🙄
Our lives are portrayed as being empty, unfulfilling and purposeless.
We’re portrayed as being sad, grief-stricken and slightly unhinged.
There’s a gap in our lives that needs filling. An empty void.
[record screeching sound]
Wait – what??
Hold on a second, let’s have a bit of a think about this.
Is my life actually any less full than it was before I started to try to have a baby?
Am I any less busy? Do I have less to do?
If there’s a ‘gap’ in my life where there’s supposed to be a baby, then my diary begs to differ.
Sure, I’m not juggling work with childcare or trying to get my child to a variety of after-school activities and I don’t have to ‘get home’ to put someone to bed. However, I do have plenty of other things to fill my time, like building my business, spending time with friends and renovating my house #gapfilled
As women, we’re expected to be caring and nurturing – how can we fulfil this destiny without a child?? (Please imagine me saying this in an over-dramatic way with my hand against my forehead vintage Hollywood actress-style.)
Well, I have a husband – and we look after each other. I have parents who need support from time to time. I have sisters and a brother, nieces and nephews – plenty of scope for caring there. Not to mention my group of friends whom I’m able to step up for when they need me #gapfilled
What about my home life? Are we a ‘family’ without a child? Without even a dog?
Er, yes – we are. After over 15 years of marriage, we have built a home and traditions that make the two of us a stand-alone family and a part of wider families. Okay, so we bought a large house hoping and planning to fill it with children. But as we’re renovating we’re changing the original intended purpose of those rooms: spare bedroom #1 is going to be my office and spare bedroom #2 is going to become my dressing room #gapfilled
Not having a baby gave me the opportunity to find out more about myself.
I had a career before. Okay, so it wasn’t high-powered, high-paid or fulfilling, but it filled my time and even though I wanted to go and do something else, I felt I had to stay because, well, you know, maternity pay. But NOT having a child gave me the opportunity to pursue something way more fulfilling – and to play around with what that might be #gapfilled
I know most of the above relates to the more practical side of coming-out-the-other-side-of-childlessness.
There’s also the emotional gap to consider.
The hit of sadness when you see a family out and about that looks like the one you’d wished for (in our case, two little girls) – and you wonder if all the lie-ins and freedom really do make up for the fact that you didn’t get that.
When your breath gets taken away when you accidentally come across a photo of an embryo or scan that you’d put somewhere out of sight.
The deep grief of what-was-never-to-be when you realise that this month would have been your baby’s birthday, or that they would have started school this year.
The stab of jealousy when you see a pregnancy announcement on social media.
The feeling of rejection when the niece or nephew you’ve had a fun day with runs into their mother’s arms like they haven’t seen them for months when they come to collect them after just a few hours. Whoever said that the best part of being an aunt or uncle was that you get to hand the child back, was lying.
The feeling that people don’t really ‘get’ your lifestyle as a couple without children and that you’re a bit on the sidelines of ‘normal’.
These are gaps that are less easy to fill – but to allow the wound to stay raw by not trying to make the most of what you do have in your life is to subject yourself to a life of misery. It’s sad, and it’s unfair. But life isn’t fair.
These gaps get filled by giving yourself the time, love and grace to process the situation and to grieve properly.
These gaps get filled by acknowledging that you’re going down a path that you didn’t want to, but nonetheless, you’re going to make the most of it and intentionally design your life, so that you’re honouring yourself and your partner, rarer than spending the rest of your life ruminating on what could have been.
Arguably, if you want a baby to fill a gap in your life, you’re having a baby for the wrong reasons – and ultimately there’s still going to be a gap.
> Does my heart hurt because I couldn’t become a mother? Yes.
> Is my life “less than” because I’m not a mother? No.
Don’t let the societal and cultural narrative (or Coronation Street) tell you otherwise.
If you’re looking to find your way back to ‘you’ after experiencing involuntary childlessness, I’ve created a free resource for you.
Part handbook, part workbook, it’s a practical guide that will help you to reconnect with yourself after experiencing involuntary childlessness (whether that’s through circumstances or infertility).
Access your free copy here…
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