Making Peace With My Childlessness

I shall not ever get to be a biological mother.

I have grieved over it.

I have grieved the loss of the child I shall never get to have.

As much as I do not like using the word “never,” I think it is the more accurate statement.

Years ago, if you would have asked me about such a thing, I would have laughed, questioning if you had gone mad.

Today, it is not a joke.

It is real.

Real in ways I could not have ever imagined.

I want to share part of my journey of making peace with childlessness with you.

Problem Child

Most of my life, I did not have a desire to have children.

As a child, when girls would want to play mommy or rush over to a woman to see her baby, I was the opposite. Playing mommy felt boring and although happy for the parents, I felt no inclination to hold or spend time looking at babies.

Throughout my formative years, I compared my reactions to the reactions of other girls. I knew something had to be innately wrong with me because I did not dream of being a mommy and lacked interest in babies.

From time to time, I would ask my mother, “Why don’t I want to be a mommy like other girls? Why don’t I want to hold babies like them? What is wrong with me?”

My mom, busy with tasks, without a wave of concern, would respond, “You’ll grow out of it.”

Middle childhood years came. I would revisit the subject.

Washing dishes, my mom would nonchalantly reply, “You’ll grow out it.”

High school came, and I felt a bit of a panic that I had not started to change.  Still the usual response from my mother was, “You’ll grow out of it.”

Did she not know me?

Did she not know that the one child who went to the beat of different drummer was also probably some alien neofeminist life form?

More Than a Womb

I resisted the people who assumed that having a womb meant an automatic desire to birth babies. Their assumptions did not fit me. I could not fake a desire to have children.  I could not somehow muster it up.

Like acne that followed me through adulthood, I did not grow out of my non-existent desire to have children.

I gave up thinking something was wrong with me.

I gave up trying to make myself have a desire that was not there. I gave up caring about people who thought I hated children.

During my undergrad years, most of my girlfriends looked forward to motherhood. One of my roommates would watch these television shows where women gave birth. I would gag with nausea and turn away, asking “How can you watch this?”

Beaming with a delight that I thought was odd, she would say things like, “It is beautiful, Sam. It’s nature.”

Yeah right.

Eating chocolates or walking on the beach are both part of nature and beautiful. Two things that brought me more enjoyment than these birthing shows.

Women like her provided a market for these programs. I felt content with not being their target audience.

As much as I enjoyed guiding and facilitating the growth of children in parts of my work, the caring and nurturing work did not help me “grow out of it.”

Parents, friends, men I dated, etc. would seem shocked when asked if I wanted children. I felt flattered by the remarks like, “You’ll make a great mom.”

Flattery did not bring about change.

And although I had given up trying to desire to have children, my friends held out hope. Certain ones had hope like I had a sickness that God would one day cure. Their faith almost made me a believer.

My friends had a different spin on my mom’s “grow out of it” philosophy. For years they would tell me, “You have to meet the right man. When you meet the right man, then you’ll want to have children.”

I laughed at their reasoning every time they would mention it. No man had ever compelled me to want to have a baby with him. I could not even wrap my mind around how something like that could even happen.

My friends’ logic sounded like a verse of a bad R&B or Hip Hop song.

Just ridiculous.

Even after a failed marriage with no children, they stuck to their “meet the right man” theory.

And I stuck to not even caring.

Something Changed

Single again, I thought if I remarried, it would be wonderful to marry someone who had children.  So when I met my present husband, a widower with a child from his previous marriage, I felt excited.

He did not want to have any more children. I did not desire to have biological children. We were on the same page. Prior to marriage, we agreed that we would not have any children together.

But, something changed.

As we proceeded with blended family life, something shifted within me.  I did not know what to do with the feelings stirring in my soul.

I think taking on the role of being a step-mother, loving and caring for a child as if s/he was my own without ever being considered a “real mom,” struck a chord with me.

I did not seek to replace my step-child’s mom. I did not/do not want to. Yet, I felt so much like a mom-doing all the things moms do.

I am going to be straight with you.  One of the aspects of being a step-parent is even if your step-children call you “mom” and your spouse says you are a “mom,” they will do or say things that remind you of the reality: “You are not a real mom.”

And intentions do not matter at these points, because a cut is a cut.

A wound is a wound.

Like me, you will know these words and actions when they happen. Oh, how you know.

Nevertheless, you can seize these moments as an opportunity to reflect and grow.

Because, if we let them, wounds can heal.

If you embrace healing instead of lingering in woundedness, you might expand your vision of love and of yourself in more profound ways. You might learn to love selflessly with even healthier boundaries.

Nevertheless, for the first time in my life, I wanted to be a biological mother.

I desired to have a child with my husband. Finally, what my friends said to me all along made sense.

I desired to have what I perceived as a complete experience of motherhood- not a step variation of it.

At first, I celebrated that at least I had the thought of having children. Then, I classified my desires as selfish.

I wanted to feel the psychological reward that comes from the child’s response to a biological mom. I even compared myself to the teens on talk shows from the ‘90s who wanted to have a baby and were given parenting scared straight experiences.

Maybe, I was not being selfish.  I was being human.

The moment passed.

But then, I would have more moments—out of the blue.

I struggled to make sense of this desire to have biological children.

I wrestled with self-condemnation, judging and accusing myself for desiring children when I was blessed with a blended family.

Since agreements can be renegotiated, from time to time, I raised the issue of having children to my husband to no avail.

I do not think he realized the depth of what I was experiencing.

Probably, because I hid my tears from him.

I would cry as he slept at night. I would wait until he left the bedroom early in the morning.

Then, I would let the tears silently stream down my face.  I would feel waves of sadness during the day.

I would disappear to the bathroom or somewhere where I could be alone with God to sit with the weight of my experience.

The more I leaned into the moments, the more I realized I was grieving.

I was grieving something that would never happen in my life.

It was this loss of life that will never happen—it was the loss of promise.

Facing this finality in a part of my life felt intense and unreal. My soul throbbed, aching from losing what could be.

I shall not ever get to go through pregnancy or the miracle of childbirth.

I shall not get to hold my baby in my arms for the first time.

I shall not get to see glimpses of my husband and myself in uncanny ways as s/he grow up.

No first steps.

First words.

First bicycle ride.

Hearing “mama” or “dada” for the first time.

First love.

First job.

First toddler tantrum.

First teenage meltdown.

First day at college.

First dance on wedding day.

So many firsts, seconds, and mundane things like favorite cereal and music that I shall not ever experience—even little quirks of a precious human who will never exist.

Deep down, even throughout my grieving, I knew with an indescribable spiritual knowing that having a child was not going to happen.

I had romanticized becoming a mother. I needed to be honest with myself. The truth was/is: At this stage in my life, I do not really want to have children.

I would have preferred that to happen years ago. Although I am clear it is not a priority for me at my age, I still needed to grieve. I needed to honor what I was experiencing.

Making Peace

Today, I am not praying for a baby. I am not praying for my husband to change his mind.

I do not need to.

I have made peace with all the things I shall not ever get to experience as a biological mother.

Isn’t life something?  You go your whole life without the desire for something and when you do, you do not get to have it.

I appreciate that I do not get to have a biological child. I feel more human in that I do not get everything that I want. I feel like it stretches me to access the deep wells of joy. Joy when things do not go my way.

When we are fortunate enough to live through moments where we are challenged to transcend emotions and expectations, they help us to transform our love walk in ways beyond a Bible study.

In the process of grieving what will never be, I have found another path of gratitude in my life.

I really am more than a womb. There is no void. Living a life of love far exceeds the capacity of those closest to us. I grew in being more than enough for myself to greater degrees.

Because to be loved of God occupies any space and brings water to quench every thirst.

I look at mothers with new eyes- lenses of appreciation. I find it challenging to refrain from smiling whenever I see parents with their children. I feel grateful for them-for their experience.

I have more empathy for women and men who struggle to conceive, going to great lengths to have biological children.

I have more appreciation for women, who like Hannah and Rachel in the Bible, who pray and cry out to God to be mothers. And this is hope for those who still yearn to have children.

If you truly desire to be a parent, do not allow anyone to shame you—even yourself. I pray that, unlike my tears of grief, you realize tears of joy from realizing your dream.

And if you are a parent- blended, foster, biological—you name it—I rejoice with you. Parenthood is beautiful.

Feeling and Facing

Maybe you feel like there are places in your life where the ship has sailed unrelated to parenting. I want to encourage you to lean into what you are feeling.

I encourage you to avoid  stuffing down your feelings or masking them.  Allow the waves of grief to exist without judgment.

In moments of stillness, what if you asked yourself and God for the answers? What if you committed to being at peace with whatever answer you receive? You might find that the ship has not sailed after all-you will not know until you allow yourself to feel and face this possibility of loss.

If you do not face that longing, striving, or grieving, you will not be able to be at peace with your truth-the answers for your life.

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