Till age 45 I still felt a vacuum inside and a longing for a child. It’s something I could tell no one. Most of my friends had kids and I felt alienated from them. Even at this late age it was still a possibility technically.
So when I was diagnosed with womb cancer and had to have an emergency hysterectomy without even much thought to the total loss of fertility, it was traumatic, but also a release in the years after.
It was excruciating to have to visit my gynaecologist, surrounded by happy expectant mothers and their babies. I seemed to be the only one there, sans womb. I have been made to feel (by media & society) like an incomplete, defective woman and in that waiting room even more so.
A younger patient would have had fertility saving considerations or perhaps their eggs would have been retrieved and frozen prior to surgery.
I finally and strangely felt free. Now that hope was totally and completely taken away I wouldn’t have it dashed each year. I wouldn’t have to have that desire, that dream, that possibility hanging over me.
I envy those in other countries who had the option of freezing their eggs, having a baby on their own or through a surrogate. Seems like an option only available to the rich though and there are ethical issues when the surrogate is from a poorer nation. I even thought those who had a teenage pregnancy and were happy about their choice, were luckier than me.
I was already putting my whole heart towards all the children in my life at the tender the age of 5 when I was mesmerised by my infant cousin gripping my finger. I’ve always adored children. My mum shared with me that at age one plus I was already entertaining my baby sister by showing her my dolls or trying to make her laugh. I know at age 2, I was already trying to carry her and found her to be the cutest baby I had ever seen. In contrast I found myself to be quite an ugly baby.
Not everyone I knew liked kids. The biggest irony is that there were many who didn’t want kids, but confessed they were doing it as an obligation. A colleague even told me she had to, as her in-laws were expecting it.
There are those who chose to be childfree and I respect their choice even though society may not understand it. However people like me, childless by circumstance not for lack of yearning, are unseen and unheard. I almost feel like we are muzzled.
Our grief is something that doesn’t seem to be legitimate compared to someone who has actually lost a child to a miscarriage or worse. That is why we remain silent. But it truly hurts to be marginalised and often we feel like weirdos for not fitting in. We feel judged and isolated.
Every time a taxi driver or any new acquaintance assumes and asks me how many kids I have, it’s like another stab in the heart. And that awkward look they give you when you say you don’t. It’s why I’ve become even more isolated as the years pass. There are fewer people in my own generation I can relate to. The often vilified Generation Y seems to be a lot more understanding and sensitive and I appreciate them for it.
After going through abuse myself as a child, all I wanted was to protect every single child in the world from any kind of harm. It was my ardent wish. It is why I write about it. I will always be an advocate for the rights of children.
I knew I would be a great mum (over indulgent and protective but great), because I learnt from the best and because I have empathy for children and strongly believe in their rights as human beings. I will never understand why an adult hitting another adult is criminalised as assault and the same is not the case when it’s a child. A child, who is obviously far more vulnerable. Zero logic to it and enrages me to no end.
Many out there do not deserve the children they are blessed with. I know kids with parents who treat them like their property and demand filial piety and I find that utterly ridiculous. I’m lucky in that regard. Just sad I can’t offer that to my own kid. Well perhaps in another life or dimension, if there is such a thing. Meanwhile I am grateful for time I have with angelic little people in my life. Truly and utterly grateful and blessed in that regard.
I deeply hesitate to publish this for fear of being misjudged, but I have to take the risk and speak my truth. I have to push past the shame and stigma current societal norms impose upon me. Perhaps I can make things better for women like me in the future. And I think men like me are in an even more marginalised group so I feel for them as well. Men who always desired to be a dad, but never got that dream realised.
Some other women who give me courage:
Sian Prior: When you’re childless not by choice, Mother’s Day can be a painful reminder of profound loss
Stephanie Marsh: ‘The desire to have a child never goes away’: how the involuntarily childless are forming a new movement