There has been a great deal written in the media recently about women and the ‘right’ to remain childfree. Yet, still it seems to be a topic that only exists with two sides – those who choose to be mothers and those who choose not to be.
Still it is unusual to hear from women who never had that choice – or who”ve had it taken away from them. To hear honest accounts of the reality of being in such a position. It’s with pleasure, then, that I welcome Claire Plaskow to my blog – who has written an open, heartfelt and extremely moving account of what it feels like to be childless in your forties.
There has been much debate, or should I say ‘discussion’ around childless women in their forties. The general consensus and thus narrow-minded opinion of most is that those who are childless in their forties are so for two simple reasons:
1) They put their career first and missed their prime baby time.
2) They are selfish.
What they fail to ‘discuss’ are two reasons that, to myself and the majority of women who are childless, is the true cause. Firstly, the simplicity of the fact that they were not lucky enough to find the right man at the right time. Secondly, illness.
Let’s look at the first. Meeting a man who you want to have children with and a man who will be a present father to them all of their lives is not an inevitability, it is a blessing. To have timings aligned so that you are with the love of your life at the right age and are equal in your desires, goals and vision of future, is nothing short of lucky, and people would do well to appreciate this.
Secondly, having a child is a miracle, not a God-given right. There are untold numbers of reasons as to why a woman’s body will not allow a baby. Some are known, some are not – and will no doubt be discovered with research in years to come. What we do know though, is that illness in whatever form it may be, can reduce or, in my case, cancel out any option of bearing a child.
Yet this is rarely given the attention it deserves. In media, people are quick to taint everyone with the same brush, in your forties? Childless? Well, it’s your fault then.
This doesn’t infuriate me, it saddens me. For not all women get a choice. And I now find myself in that position.
I have never been overly maternal, I knew that from a very young age. I didn’t want a baby because I just, well, wanted a baby. I didn’t long to be a mother and feel that no other path in life would be acceptable. I didn’t count the years that went by thinking ‘ I have to find a man, fall in love, spend a few years with him, then have a baby soon’. However what I did know, (and to me this is what is so important in having a child) is that I wanted one with the man I loved.
I wanted one with the man who I could see being an amazing father and partner. Someone with whom we shared that connection that made you feel that making a child together, bringing them up, and seeing them through the trials of life, was the right thing to do. Because we fit.
But whilst this did happily happen to me, the man I loved at the time unfortunately didn’t reciprocate it. And so that feeling of ‘yes’ I want children with this man was just that, a feeling, which never became reality.
But I didn’t give up, on the contrary, as I had assumed, like many, it would happen eventually. The stars would align at the right time and I would realize my dream of having a child with a man I loved.
And that gave me comfort, not fear.
Fast forward to my current situation. I am a woman of 42 who has been plagued with an eating disorder for 25 years. Whilst it manifested in physical form at nineteen it then became purely mental, as I used drink and drugs to disguise the eating disorder and in turn, keep much weight on. I looked normal, I was far from it.
I was aware that what I had done to my body at a young age may have devastating effects on my ability to have children, but it was always a thought buried deep in my sub-consciousness. But when it returned with a physical vengeance at 39, things became very different. Regardless of my age, the fact that I have not had a period for three years now pretty much secured my thoughts that a child was not on the horizon.
But last year I was told that I have done so much harm to my body that I am most likely going through menopause without even knowing it and having a child is not going to happen.
When I was told this news, news I wasn’t naïve enough to think wouldn’t come but was still naïve enough to truly believe, I just went blank. My mind just blocked it out as my mind is so very god at doing. There was no big drama, no uncontrollable sobbing, and words of comfort from family and friends, understanding from those in my life that things may be different now. There was none of that. I listened, I accepted and I barely told a soul. And when I did I just dropped it in to conversation as though I was fine with it.
But I am not. Not because I will never bear a child, but because I will never be a mum.