I think a lot of kids grow up playing house and dreaming that someday they will have children of their own. As a child, I believed the same. The oldest of eight children, I grew up in a religion that is very family oriented. When people asked me what I wanted to be when I grew up, I, of course, said a mom.
In 1999, I married a wonderful man. We decided to wait a bit before children. But a few years later I found out my lower back was broken, and I would never be able to carry a child. I was heartbroken, and became angry and bitter, crying when people told me they were pregnant. Mother’s Day was very hard, and I dreaded the question ‘when are you having children?’ I was frustrated with God for giving me a broken body.
One day I prayed and asked God to provide me the opportunity to influence a child. I knew I would have been a good mother and had so much to offer children. Be careful what you pray for. At the time, I was so focused on me and my sadness I did not stop to think how many children I was already helping.
Looking back on who influenced who I am today, yes, my parents did. But it was also church leaders, teachers, aunts, and uncles. I decided I wanted to be that person in someone else’s life. That decision lead me to start a small business teaching children to sew. I am a 5th-grade teachers aide and I also help in the after school 4-H program teaching sewing.
I help in my local church groups. And I know I make a difference in the children’s lives. They have taught me that helping any child is a huge blessing, and doing so has filled that void for me.
It does take a village to raise a child. There was a choice to be made. I could either spend my life angry or be part of that village. I believe it is a blessing to help any child we encounter.
And I also realized being angry at others who have children, or angry at children isn’t how I wanted to live. Just because I can’t have children does not mean others should not. A child that I bare does not define me. How I treat other people and children does define me.
Today, I have a good life with my husband and two fur babies. Is every day easy? No, but I am learning to love me and the life that I have.
Now, 33 years later, newly single, I discovered I had breast cancer. Because of the deemed severity of the cancer, the oncologist insisted I commence treatment immediately. However, thinking there was much opportunity to meet a life partner, settle down and raise a family I instead chose to first have a crash course of IVF and managed to harvest 4 eggs. The treatment caused me to go into early menopause, so I accepted IVF would be my only resolve.
At 36, I finally found the strength to put myself back out into the dating scene. But part of me was missing – my confidence went into hiding and my belief was that no one would want a barren woman, no one would love me enough to tackle IVF. My limiting belief was stopping me from experiencing opportunities that did present themselves, I was self-sabotaging.
To top it off, I discovered I had contracted an STI. That was it, my self-worth was completely shattered. I truly believed the universe was rejecting me – I had no business being in a loving relationship, I had no business bringing another life into this world. Over the years, I contemplated being a single parent, however medical advice suggested, if IVF was successful, I would be putting my unborn child at risk of cancer and/or contracting the STI. I considered donating my eggs to someone who was reproductively challenged but having cancer put a stop to that too.
Receiving my bi-annual egg storage fees was a painful and stressful experience. It was a reminder of ‘what’ I was and more to the point ‘what’ I was not. And it was not until after my mum passed away, that I knew something had to change. I realized something had to give – I was miserable, yet so sick of myself – it was exhausting playing the victim of my circumstances.
So, I started on a journey of self-development. And it has been through this journey that I have started to love and accept myself for who I am, to become aware of my thinking and emotions, their triggers and my responses and I have learned that blaming life or blaming others is of absolutely no value.
Now at age 48, I have let go of what society thinks a woman should be, and what I thought a woman should be. I have donated my eggs to research and am embracing the woman that I am, accepting responsibility for my life. I have chosen to make choices that will bring about change – I choose to be a cause, I choose to focus on risky problems, I choose to think above the line. I no longer pity myself when I answer, ‘Not married, No children’. Instead, I am proud of myself for working through my challenges and living my truth.
I believe our purpose in life is to ‘be you’ – to love, to learn, to give and to grow. I am ‘being me’ – I am loving who I am becoming. I am learning more about myself every day, learning to be vulnerable and have trust in the world again.
My mission now is to assist others in working through their limiting beliefs, face their fears, brave the world, and roar with the courage to find a renewed direction!
When I was 25, I couldn’t sleep the night before my final exam at University. I wrote a letter telling myself that the exam was irrelevant and that the degree I was completing would provide me with the best possible job only until I became a wife and stay at home mum.
By this time, I had dreamed of being a mum for 18 years; ever since my youngest brother was put in my arms. Freed from anxiety, I fell sound asleep. The next day I passed the exam which was the first step along the career path I am still on today.
I am 46 now and have had to accept that I will never be a mum. My dream has died, but I have found a way to live. In many ways, I have done this through my career. I have changed jobs from that original degree and have completed another degree to further my journey.
Along the way, I have had adventures like driving a minibus full of strangers from Scotland to the south of France -having never driven in France or driven a minibus! Twice I’ve made drastic changes to my work life that left me with almost no income for a year. Last year, at short notice, my partner and I went to Jordan for a friend’s wedding. I would not have been able to do any of these things if I’d been responsible for children.
Today I work with adults with profound disabilities in a day service, bringing meaning to their lives and value to their self-worth. They learn skills and develop talents in ceramics, art, horticulture, and other crafts.
What was originally intended as a pleasurable stop-gap, has instead been a 21-year journey that has given meaning and purpose to my life. Each time the grief of being childless not by choice overwhelms me, I think of the pain it would cause these people if I ended my life. My pain has been that deep. But my care for their well-being strengthens my will and I find the resolve to continue. And each day I live, I am blessed by being surrounded by their joy and courage.
I don’t know what my future holds, and I am not the kind of person who does a bucket list; so, I have no list of future adventures. With good health, I will be working for another 20 years. And I would like to visit my partner’s home in Iraqi Kurdistan. I will grab the adventures that present themselves to me with joy and enjoy every single day for the blessings I receive.
In every Childless Not by Choice (CNBC) online support group, I’ve seen the question: “Is it possible to find happiness after being CNBC?” A year ago, I believed it was possible, but I couldn’t say that I knew how to get there. Today, I can say that it all came down to building a new dream.
In 2016, my husband and I chose to accept that we were going to be a family of two. 2016 had been a difficult year coming to terms with being childless. As I was closing the door on 2016, I was looking forward to opening a new door in 2017.
My husband and I began to talk about what we wanted for our future, knowing that we needed to create a new dream together. We talked about what we valued, and all the things that no longer mattered. Our three-bedroom home in the family-oriented suburbs seemed too big. It no longer fit the new life we wanted to build together. We both fell in love with a city 12 hours away where we could minimize our lifestyle, travel more, and have a life that matched our values. We have a few things to accomplish before we can move there, but we will make that dream come true!
In building our dream together, I also realized a dream for myself, something I needed to accomplish just for me. If motherhood wasn’t in the cards, I was going to go back to school and pursue my master’s degree. When I graduated from university in 1998, there was a fork in the road. I chose love, marriage, and family; and left behind a dream to further my education. Since my family became a family of two, I decided to go back to that fork in the road and fulfill the other dream. In just a couple of weeks, I begin my first class!
In walking my childless path, building new dreams has given me a new sense of hope and a chance to accomplish something different. My husband and I found something that we both value, something that would sustain us, together. I will always quietly mourn the children I dreamed of, but the dreams we’ve built will allow the two of us to live a happy and fulfilled life, because it’s ours, and we chose it together!
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