Childless Mother

It seems all little girls dream of being a mother. At least I know that I did. Maybe it’s getting that very first baby doll that instills this idea into our little girl-psyche . Maybe it’s having babies arrive in the family. Maybe it’s just part of my genetic makeup. I don’t know. 

As a child and as a young woman, it never occured to me that I would grow old without children from my body. But here I am. I’ve had lots of them in my life. I’ve been an aunt, a stepmom, an older cousin, a step-grandma, and a great-aunt. As those children grow up, it seems that they no longer have a connection to me. I’ve loved and found satisfaction in all of these relationships. Still, it gnaws at me that these important mother-roles are not as authentic as being a biological mother.  

I feel that I have lost out on the experience of carrying life within me. I will never know the feeling of having a newborn placed upon my skin and looking into their eyes, knowing that they are mine. Growing up I was the one with dreams of a house full of children. But there were deviations and divergent  paths taken that narrowed my window for children and unforeseen health issues that narrowed the possibility of motherhood.

I was 20 when I married for the first time. At that age I was eager to have children. Then I discovered my husband’s drug addiction. He was in and out of rehab, in and out of jail, in and out of halfway houses. At one point I left. Upon our reconciliation he suddenly wanted children. His sobriety wasn’t something I was ready to actually depend and count on. Sadly, I was right. I have no real regrets there. I couldn’t imagine having a grown child now searching the streets for a father that cared more about drugs and didn’t have the ability to change himself. 

Then came the health issues. Cervical dysplasia, well advanced into a precancerous stage. Cryosurgery, followed my monthly, then bi-annually, then yearly testing. Later I had a cyst on an ovary and it had to be removed. Writing about this reminds me of my doctor at the time, Henry Bramanti. He was one of the very best doctors I have ever had. He was caring, personable, and took the time to chat with me. He talked to me about serious issues with great care and concern. 

I met Doug while in my 30’s. He had a daughter and was clear about letting me know that he had absolutely zero interest in having another child. Regardless of what he said, we did try. But we weren’t successful. Maybe it wasn’t me and my one ovary. Maybe.

There have been times when Doug has said “We should have had children.” I’ve told him he’s not allowed to say that to me. The thought of what might have been, is just too sad. You can’t live your life on “if onlys”. 

So, I can deal with what feels like a missed opportunity most days. But then, I can simply be getting ready for work one morning and there’s a story on television about a village of women in Kenya where men are not allowed. You can read or watch the story here. The story is really about how these women have fled the abuse of men, but what I focus on is one line “……..without children we are nothing.” 

Sometimes nothing is exactly how I feel. As I see myself, my sister, and my nieces & nephews taking care of my mom, all of us concerned about her comfort, I can’t help but wonder “Who will care for me?” That’s a heartache for another day.

I remember having a big family cookout at my house not long after we moved out to the country. A cousin came in to see the house. She went right back out and got her husband and brought him in and said “Look! This is what your house looks like when you don’t have children.” It wasn’t said with malice or bad intentions. She was simply comparing my clean, tidy house to hers. You know that general untidiness when children are living in your house. Maybe you know. I do not.


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