Welcome everyone! It’s week seventeen of the “On Being Childfree” blog series and I wanted to say a HUGE thank you for your continued support. Every week the post is the most read on my blog and I receive emails from people wanting to take part and DMs on Instagram that people are finding this so helpful. This week I’m delighted to welcome our sixteenth guest story, Hannah. Hannah’s story is quite different to the previous ones. What happens when you’d love children but haven’t met anyone to have them with? Please do read, leave a comment and share as much as you can, I’m really willing this to grow and grow so that we can help as many people as possible who may be going through something similar.
I Am: Hannah, 45
Home Is: London
I Do: I’m a financial analyst
It’s my birthday soon. I’m turning 46 and am heading off to Crete for a week with my sister – knowing my luck it will probably coincide with a heat wave here at home! Still, it’s always good to take a break isn’t it? A change of scenery, great food and drink and quality time with my little sister. We always have so much fun together. Would I swap it for no holidays and running around after a family? In a heartbeat.
Growing up there was just no question that I would one day get married and have children. I wasn’t one of those girls that were planning their wedding from age 6, but the imagery of a happy life from newspapers and magazines to TV and film was that getting married and having children represented the happy ever after. There just wasn’t any other way to be.
Like most people, I had my first properly serious boyfriend when I was at university. Sure there were a few snogs at school parties and dating here and there but I didn’t experience “love” or “heartbreak” until I was an adult. I went to LSE and met my boyfriend quite soon after starting my degree. We were on and off more times than a kettle but somehow kept finding our way back to each other. Even though we were young, we did talk about a long-term future together and although my parents raised eyebrows when I would talk about my life with him, it didn’t stop me thinking we’d one day get married.
Of course though it wasn’t to be. After we graduated I stayed in London, he moved to Edinburgh and we were too young and heading in different directions. We did stay in touch and saw each other a few times as friends. Still, in my head, I assumed we’d end up back together just like all the films I used to watch with impossibly unrealistic endings.
Life carried on and little by little in our mid and late 20s all of my friendship group started settling down. I was very much part of this and at 27 I was happily ensconced in domestic bliss with my then boyfriend. We had a great life – we lived together, went out all the time, had friends round for dinner. The 90s was a fun time and London still very affordable, it was one of the happiest times in my life.
We were together for 5 years when my boyfriend – let’s call him Greg – popped the question. We were 32, financially stable, had our own home, it sounds like I’m being cold and practical but whether we want to think about those things or not, so many do. My friends and family loved him, we planned our wedding for the following year and said we’d start a family right away after that. My teenage dreams were coming true.
And then, just like that, he walked out of my life. Literally as abruptly as that sounds. It was two months before our wedding and he went away for a weekend with some male friends and then basically didn’t come back. I mean he did, but we never spent a night together again. Even nearly 15 years later it feels so raw and I’m still not sure I’ll ever really understand what went wrong. You spend forever asking questions like “how did I not realise he was unhappy” or “how did he get away with hiding it for so long” but well, there are no answers. You drive yourself crazy trying to figure it all out.
The worst thing of all though is it took so much from me. Trust, self-respect, love, financial investment, time. You name it, I didn’t just feel robbed of a future husband and children but almost my entire sense of self. We’d become one of those couples where you didn’t say one name without the other, you know?
It was completely devastating and I turned from this bubbly, vivacious, carefree woman to a shadow of myself. I just about managed to keep hold of my job but that was about all. I had no interest in anything else, not socialising or having fun or really even living at all. I wish I could turn back the clock. I wish I could have convinced myself that I was stronger and would be ok.
So here we are. Of course I’ve found a level of happiness. I’ve dated, joined online dating sites and gone along with friends setting me up. The reality is though that my heart has been broken so badly that I just can’t quite recover from it. I’ve had relationships of course but there’s always a barrier that won’t come down and it’s not fair on anyone else. It’s arguably easier these days than it ever has been to be a woman without children but this wasn’t the life I chose for myself.
Do I hold out hopes of a miracle? Perhaps. People still keep trying to tell me – unhelpfully or not – that it’s not too late. At the same time I know I have to move on, to try and find a peace and contentment on my own terms without thinking that my life is empty or missing something. I still tell myself that I’m incredibly privileged, to have a well-paying job, a house that I own, wonderful friends and family. Sometimes though, it’s just not enough is it?
Thank you so so much to Hannah for sharing her honest story as a guest poster and sharing her thoughts and views in this piece. As I’ve stressed from the very beginning, this is a warm, empathic platform for people to share their stories, hopes, dreams, fears. Please do read Hannah’s story, leave a comment if you’d like to and share this series if you know anyone it could help. Together we are making changes.