As told to Kathleen Guthrie Woods
Ruby* wanted to feel “ready” to bring a child into the world. After a tumultuous, abusive childhood, and many years of living in fear, she found a therapist who could help her heal. Finally, she felt she could take on the responsibilities of being a parent, but was single. It would be many more years before she met her current partner, and he didn’t want children. Then he changed his mind. When their efforts to become pregnant failed, including one heartbreaking miscarriage, they ultimately decided to stop trying.
Now 48 and childfree by circumstance, Ruby has redefined what “giving birth” means to her. Read on to learn more of her story and her new perspective on being childfree.
LWB: Briefly describe your dream of motherhood.
Ruby: To create the nurturing loving supportive home environment I never had as a child. To leave the world more loving than I experienced it.
The irony is, that when I was young and fertile enough to have children, I didn’t want them. I was sexually abused by my father when I was very young. Up until my mid-30s, when I finally found a psychotherapist who could genuinely help me, I was an emotional basket case.
For most of my life, I largely lived in fear, couldn’t trust, couldn’t develop healthy friendships or relationships. To survive, I drank, did drugs, and put on weight to protect my body (to not feel sexual toward men). At 30 I fell pregnant twice, and twice chose abortion. I couldn’t bring a child into my desperate and addictive life, as I was still very messed up, confused, scared, and unable to deal with life.
LWB: What’s the hardest part for you about not having children?
Ruby: Not having the most intimate of experiences of loving a child. Missing out on this “true love”. Even though my partner loves me dearly, it is a different kind of love.
LWB: What’s the best advice you’ve received?
Ruby: As time ran out, I started to feel myself becoming more desperate, wanting to have a child “above everything”. While my partner then, too, wanted a child as much as I did, he was also my loving reality check. Was it the end of the world if we didn’t end up having children? “Our life can be deeply rewarding, whether we do or don’t have children. What if there are complications? (At our age, early 40s, a real risk factor.) What if it’s not all you dream it will be?”
I hadn’t let myself fully sit with these options until then. It was at this point that a whole lot of tension I had been holding onto started to release, and a sense of true worthiness came back into my life. It was then that I first let myself grieve, and, through this grief, connected with my heart in a deep way. I stopped defining myself through this one role of motherhood and allowed myself to own all of my life as it was, and all of my potential.
LWB: What have you learned about yourself?
Ruby: That I am a deeply loving and beautiful and worthy soul, even without children. That I am still capable of true love, and making a real difference to others, just not in the most immediate way that being a parent offers. That I am not a failure just because I am not a mother.
We had considered IVF, but the statistics they gave us were misleading, and we realized that, ultimately, IVF clinics are businesses. The whole process felt mechanical and unsupportive. After so many years of being emotionally disconnected from my heart and soul, it was the IVF process that finally made me listen to and honor my body. I wanted to love and nurture a child’s life, but I also wanted to nurture the soul of my own Inner Child that I had neglected and abandoned so long ago. As I write this now, it is this true love that I feel for my deeper self, that teaches me, reminds me, that “I am enough”.
LWB: What’s one thing you want other people (moms, younger women, men, grandmothers, teachers, strangers) to know about your being childfree?
Ruby: That “giving birth” and “nurturing life” can take many sacred forms. For me, today, it means giving birth to all the deepest joy and creativity I feel inside me. I have longed to create a book, workshops, and business revolving around emotional healing, and have finally gathered the courage in the last year to start giving birth to this dream.
LWB: How has LWB helped you on your journey?
Ruby: I was led to your beautiful, brave, honest, and authentic website through your interview with Tracey Cleantis about her book The Next Happy. Discovering your website connected me with a core truth that I had not fully owned—that I will never be a mother—and I’m so grateful that you’ve helped me to more fully own and grieve what it means to “live without baby”.
*Not her real name. We allow each respondent to use a fictitious name for her profile, if she chooses.
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Kathleen Guthrie Woods is a Northern California–based freelance writer. She is mostly at peace with her childfree status.