When Being Childless Feels Empty

I get told all the time that someday I’ll have the family that I crave. I’ve given up on that dream. Family doesn’t always mean children in your future. A family is what you make of it. I’m the type of person that loves with my whole heart. But it really angers me when society says that if you don’t have a child/children that you don’t fit in. What about the millions of folks who struggle with infertility? Or how about people who choose not to have children? Do you think they have an easy life? Do you think that it’s easy for them to be around others who do have kids only to be pressured into conforming to what others believe is ideal? Unless you have walked in a person’s shoes that do not have children, you have very little room for an opinion. Even if you know someone who has struggled or is currently struggling with this issue, you can’t begin to comprehend the emptiness that person feels. There are so many unknowns that childless couples face. Even those who are single and for whatever reason can not have children face conversations that others take for granted.

Some of my friends have large families. If you count my Dad’s side of the family, I would fall in that category except that most of my family lives far enough away that seeing each other is difficult. I have one cousin who just had her seventh child. She has six boys and one girl. I don’t envy her with that many kids because I wouldn’t be able to keep up. I’m happy for her though. As long as she has the stamina and wants a lot of children, that’s all that matters. All of my cousins have had children. At times, it’s made me feel like a reject because there are components of their lives that I will never be able to share in. Any time someone without kids is part of other’s lives with children, it can be challenging because there are emotions at play that can feel despondent and unfulfilling.

Struggling with infertility and decisions to not have children are not made lightly. There’s a couple of my friends who will never know what it feels like to hear they are pregnant. When I was first told that bit of news, I was scared stiff. I had no idea what kind of mom I would be. Little did I know at the time that mother nature would not allow me to carry my child to term. Anyone who has ever lost a child can relate to the sickening and empty feeling you carry with you. There are families who are able to conceive and carry to term after a miscarriage but that joy isn’t always felt. When a person wants a child so badly and can not have one of their own, it’s a very tumultuous time in their lives. Society doesn’t want to deal with the issues of grief for those who will never have a child of their own. The stigma of settling down and raising families is ingrained in many and there is little to no consideration for those who are walking this journey in what feels like their own portals to hell. Instead of being able to grieve for the child I lost, I was left to grieve for too much at one time. The loss of my child, the loss of my marriage, and the fact that my father’s health was declining along with the loss of my job were too much. Stress didn’t kill me but it felt as if it were winning. It was later determined that medically I had some problems with fibroids. This was causing me to miscarry and be unable to carry it to term. It was also causing extreme pain three out of four weeks every month. This became something I learned to take a lot of ibuprofen for and deal with over the years. When I finally made the decision to take the control of the pain and have a medical procedure to fix it, I had to deal with the finality of never having a biological child. It was gut-wrenching. I can’t tell you how many times I wept for the family I would never have.

My friends who are childless deal with many of the same emotions. We are all constantly discriminated against in our jobs because we don’t have children. The assumption that we can work so that others can spend time with their families is infuriating. All of us have been told in various positions that since we don’t have children, we should be able to work so that others can spend time with their young children on special events and occasions but when we needed time away, we could never get it without a fight because we didn’t have children. Let me be clear. Just because people do not have children does not mean they do not have families or a life. For those who think I’m exaggerating, ask some of your friends who may not have children about the kinds of discrimination they face on a regular basis. It might surprise you.

I’m not saying that those with kids have perfect lives because they don’t. The grass isn’t always greener on the other side but what I am saying is before society judges each other based on its perceptions of what should be in this world, maybe it ought to re-evaluate what the needs really are. For instance, when the Affordable Care Act was passed, it made maternity care a mandate. That’s great for those who needed it but not every insurance plan is for everyone. What about those who will never have to have that need? When we start throwing a one size fits all mentality, we take away options. It’s the same principle with people who either choose not to have children or who can’t. It’s no one else’s place to determine what is best for someone else. Society needs to get a grip and stop living in the thought processes of everything that revolves around children. Yes, they are the future but please stop discounting the people who can’t have children. They are valuable in their own way. Their contributions are helping future generations in the long run and what do they get for thanks? They get told that they don’t matter because they are childless. Words hurt. As a woman with no children that have survived, I can tell you this. Every person on this earth matters. It’s time society stops assuming that we all have the same needs because we don’t. That’s what being an individual is. It’s about working together to create solutions for the long term and not making each other feel empty.

If it’s that important to society to make someone feel bad about themselves, then society needs to take a look at how it treats each other. I don’t disagree that children are extremely important to the continuation of our society. What I disagree with is that we are measuring each other by the fruit of our loins and not our contributions. We have to stop assuming that we know what everyone is dealing with and start looking at the world with new eyes and some compassion. There are support groups that people can join and talk about these kinds of issues. But sometimes it isn’t enough. If we aren’t getting support around us, the support groups are just a stepping stone. Being barren isn’t something that is easy to talk about but the reality is that when you are not a part of a family, it does become lonely. I just hope that someday the world can unite and accept one another for who they are and not what they can do biologically. There’s enough scrutiny in this world. Let’s stop adding to it and start healing with each other.

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