As told to Kathleen Guthrie Woods
Like many of us, Charmaine envisioned her future children and picked out their names. She was confident she would become a mother “at the right time,” so getting the news that her husband couldn’t have children was devastating. Would she stay in her marriage, or would she go in search of a partner who could (maybe) give her a family? What would you do if you were in her shoes? (And if you are in her shoes, I hope you’ll share some of your journey in the Comments.)
Now 37, Charmaine is still wrestling with the mix of emotions that comes as a result of her choices. Read on to see how she is continuing to learn and grow and create a meaningful life without children.
LWB: Briefly describe your dream of motherhood.
Charmaine: I dreamed of the life we would have as a family. I dreamed that I would do my best to raise my children in ways that were different from how I’d been raised—more compassionate, empathetic, and understanding. I read every baby book I could get my hands on, charted my fertility cycles, and dreamed and dreamed.
LWB: Are you childfree by choice, chance, or circumstance?
Charmaine: I call myself childfree by circumstance. My husband can’t have children, but it is a choice not to pursue alternative options such as fostering or adoption. It’s been a long, excruciating journey to making that choice, but here we are.
LWB: What was the turning point for you?
Charmaine: When I seriously considered breaking my “for better or for worse” marriage vows and leaving my husband. My choice was to leave him and (maybe) find someone else to love and have a child with, or stay. I stayed. I can’t imagine loving anyone but him, and for me, betraying someone whom I love and who loves me would break my soul. Deciding not to have children broke my heart, but my soul is intact.
LWB: Where are you on your journey now?
Charmaine: Sometimes I hope for a miracle, but in reality, I’ll be 40 in a couple of years and I’m creating plan B. It’s time to look toward the future and what kind of life I want to live. I want to be happy, so while I am still sad at times, I’m working toward being the kind of person I want to be and living my life the way I want to live it.
LWB: What are the hardest parts for you about not having children?
Charmaine: Losing the majority of my friends who have entered that part of their lives. It’s also difficult to accept the jealousy and anger I still sometimes feel toward people with children. Another is that people just don’t understand why we don’t have kids. Their opinion is that we should move heaven and earth to have kids no matter the emotional, physical, or financial tolls it might take. Feeling like my husband and I are not a “true family” without children is a hard one to get over as well.
LWB: What’s your Plan B?
Charmaine: To become successful in my Grief Recovery and Life Coaching business. I also want to seek out others who are childless by circumstance and give them the support I never had…because I didn’t know it existed. I couldn’t find anyone else who wasn’t actively TTC [trying to conceive], taking fertility treatments, or adopting. I have become passionate about finding and supporting women (and men) who have made the choice (or have had the choice made for them) to live without children.
LWB: What is your hope for yourself this coming year?
Charmaine: I hope that I can continue to learn and grow and let go of my loss. That the bitterness fades even more, and that I can fully and completely accept that my purpose in life is what I make it, not what society says it should be.
Although each of our stories is unique, you can find support from LWB readers who have traveled similar paths in the Community Forums and in Our Stories and the Comments. Then, when you’re ready, I hope you’ll share your story with us. Go to the Our Stories page to get more information and the questionnaire.
Kathleen Guthrie Woods is a Northern California–based freelance writer. She is mostly at peace with her childfree status.