I was just 24 when I found myself being rushed by ambulance to the neuro ICU unit at the state’s biggest hospital two hours away from home. Over the course of the next 24 hours I kept getting more and more devastating news about what was happening to me: “Stroke” “Inoperable” “Brainstem Malformation” “Pray for her”...
Those words have faded away over the past five years, but the words that hurt the most and have caused the most heartache still resonate in my soul every day, “Pregnancy is out of the question”.
Actually, at the first I was in so much shock about how I could go from being a perfectly healthy newlywed to a hospital patient that narrowly escaped death that those words didn’t mean anything. I was ALIVE! I was physically fine! I had a medical miracle and survived the impossible. It’s not like we were trying to have kids at the time and I figured if I really wanted kids someday that it would somehow work out, just like everything else was.
After 5 years, 4 nieces and nephews, 1000 baby showers, and being asked “When are you going to have a baby??” about one too many times, those words, “Pregnancy is out of the question”, are now a sharp ice pick to my heart.
I’m now approaching 30, I’ve been married for over 7 years, and society never seems to let me forget my childlessness. I actually don’t mind when people ask if I have children. That’s harmless. My go-to answer is usually, “No, but I have a dog that I smother with love. Let me show you a million pictures...” because I HAVE to change the subject as fast as possible.
A word of advice? If you ask someone if they have kids and they say no, drop it like it’s hot. ABORT. I don’t care if you are the most extra Curious Cathy, please don’t relentlessly ask why or give advice. If they want to talk about it more, they will. But damn Cathy, I just met you and I’m not prepared to burst into tears in public... again.
I don’t look sick, in fact I look like the model of health, so people just assume my childlessness is a choice. “You would be a great mom!” “I had three kids by the time I was your age. The clock is ticking!” “Just try!” “What’s wrong? You don’t want kids?” And oh the cherry on the top, “God commanded us to replenish the earth.”
Sometimes I explain that I have health problems but it’s just met with more advice about adoption and miracles, God’s plan for me, everything works out for a reason, etc. I smile politely. I fight back the tears. And try to change the subject.
So what’s it like being #Childless ? For me it’s grief, loneliness, worthlessness, and pain. It’s also relief and freedom. It’s a path to self discovery and fulfillment. It’s depression and anxiety. It’s guilt because I have so many things to be grateful for. It’s questioning faith. It’s raging jealousy. It’s never ending and unfair. It’s FOMO on steroids. It’s watching my husband struggle in his own way. Most of all- it is fighting for a sliver of hope every day that I can find peace with the life I am living