Welcome everyone! It’s week twenty-five of the “On Being Childfree” blog series and today I’m welcoming Michelle. She talks about how a serious illness compounded her decision not to have children and how she coped with a sudden family bereavement. Life is incredibly precious and reading her story really reminded me of how important it is to appreciate how fortunate we are to be able to experience it. 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.
We Are: Michelle, 40
Home Is: Surrey
I Do: I’m a freelance motion graphic designer
Find Me: Instagram
I met my now husband when I was 27 through a friend from uni. I’d just come out of a 6 year relationship that ended badly so wasn’t really looking for anything serious. It’s always the way when you’re not looking, you find the one you end up marrying! We moved in together and talked about the future, as you do. Mum had always said that she wasn’t ever broody but had decided if she was going to have kids, she wanted them before she was 30. My parents got more than they had originally planned for and ended up with twins. The doctor didn’t know there were two in there until she was quite far in to the pregnancy so it was a bit of a shock.
That age deadline has always stuck with me, not helped by comments from people like “ooh your eggs aren’t getting any younger” and “first comes marriage, then come children”. There is no face palm big enough for these so called pearls of wisdom.
As I was approaching my 30th, I did discuss it with my now-husband and we made a deal. If we didn’t have kids then I could have cats. I’ve never been broody and not really had much contact with children and I’ve always been much happier with cats. When my 30th rolled around, that thought of children dissipated. I was too busy dealing with my fledgling freelance career after the wake of the 2008 recession to even think about anything else.
A couple of year later, I had a nasty fall during a snowboarding trip. I partially tore ligaments in my knee so my mobility was significantly affected. Once I got back to the UK, after a lengthy period of immobility, I developed breathing problems which culminated in an ambulance trip to A&E and a 5 day stay on the respiratory ward. I’d somehow developed a pulmonary embolism which had made its way up my leg and exploded into both my lungs.
So began a 9 month period of weekly trips to the hospital for blood tests and daily doses of Warfarin. Once I was ready to be discharged, my haematologist talked me through the precautions I now had to take in order to prevent another PE. One of those was if we decided to have children, I would be classed as a high risk pregnancy and need injections throughout as a preventative measure. I was already on the fence about having kids, and this was really the last nail in the coffin. It had been such an ordeal with regular hospital visits, that there was no way I was going through that again – I was also told that if I developed a 2nd PE, I would be on Warfarin for life. No thank you!
Fast forward to last year, and I had another reason to be thankful we didn’t have children. My dad was diagnosed with stage 4 cancer after complaining of chest pains that wouldn’t go away. He literally wasted away in front of our eyes and was dead within 3 months. It was one of the most traumatic things I’ve ever experienced. When a loved one begs for you to end their life because they are in so much pain and there is nothing you can do to help them – the thought of having to explain that to a child is just something I don’t think I could have dealt with. Alongside the fact that our children would have lost a grandad in such a horrific way; I’m so thankful that wasn’t the case for us.
I’ve needed ongoing counselling to help me work through his death and our relationship, and as selfish as it may sound, having this last year to just concentrate on myself and my mental health has been so important. I do think that if we had had children, I’m not sure I would have been able to function as a parent. Grief is different for everyone and it really hit me like a steam train. I’m only just coming through the worst of it now, and I’m so thankful that my husband has been there by my side, supporting me through it all. I honestly don’t know if I could have got through it without him. And hey, now I can get a cat!
Thank you so so much to Michelle 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 Michelle’s story and leave a comment if you’d like to and share this series if you know anyone it could help. Together we are making changes.