How many of you have ever asked someone if they want children? I bet most of us have. And we also probably consider the answer to be fairly black and white. Life is rarely that straightforward though and there can be an entire myriad of reasons as to why someone simply may not be sure. Here, Victoria shares her experiences of everything that’s affected the answer to that question. As always, I’m so grateful for everyone’s commitment because it is such a personal subject to open up about. 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’ve also started to build a resource list, for those of you who are either childfree by circumstance or childfree by choice. A combination of blogs, communities, individuals who are doing wonderful things in this space. Please do let me know if there are resources you use I can add.
We Are : Victoria and Sam, 30s
Home Is: Wiltshire
I Do: I work in finance in my day job, but also run a successful Instagram account documenting budget friendly, amateur friendly DIY and decorating tips
Find Me: Instagram
When Lins asked me to contribute to this series, I felt like an imposter.
You see, I am not at the stage where I actually want children.
The sleepless nights, the school runs, the teenage attitude. I don’t know if it’s for me, I don’t know if I can do it.
But….I don’t know that I don’t want them, either. I might end up with them- we haven’t tried yet.
So, do I really belong here? Amongst these painful annals, where choice has been in short shrift? I am 32 years old, 2yrs married, no children and none on the horizon…believe me, the questions both internal and external, have well and truly started- but that’s not the same as the pain I’ve read in these stories. I really hope I don’t hurt anyone with this writing. It’s just my truth. I wish I could help ease some of the agony I’ve read on this blog.
Let me start at the beginning.
I have stage 4 endometriosis, and am newly diagnosed with PCOS. I am still learning about PCOS but endometriosis and I go way back, indeed, it has run rampant through my life for over 15 years. It’s been decimating holidays, ruining exams, straining relationships, even showing up on the morning of my wedding. I bought three wedding dresses and not for the fun of it. I just get used to one type of pain, and it develops a new one. It’s ugly. For those of you who don’t know (and why would you, I wouldn’t if I didn’t have to) endometriosis is cells and tissue that act like active womb lining, but exist elsewhere- anywhere- in the body. The word ‘active’ is key here- it means these cells respond to hormonal cues meant for the womb. They truly think they are womb lining. So, when it’s time to ovulate and thicken, they do too- on your bladder, on your bowel, anywhere. And when it’s time to menstruate- there they are again, acting the soldier, ready to bleed. It can (‘can’, not definitely ‘will’) have some horrible consequences for fertility and carrying a baby. I’ve recently had some frightening scans and blood results that suggest it will be hard. I’ve suffered 3 miscarriages (unknown conceptions). Last year, I had the added joy of CIN3 cells show up after a smear and colposcopy, so ended up having the LLETZ procedure on my cervix. It’s all so deeply joyful.
I am telling you all this, because ultimately the choice to have babies, may not very well be mine. True, I don’t yet feel the tug for them, so for now it’s fine. However, I am acutely aware that I probably do want them, eventually. And if I’m honest, I am not sure how much of me ‘not wanting them’ is down to denial and a protection mechanism. Hand me a baby and I will cry. That smell, the way they curl into you. And my god, I love my own mum. She’s funny and brilliant and has slept on the floor to protect me from pain. I want that.
It’s like a train I can hear in the distance, honking away, on it’s way to me but far enough that I can’t see it. Meanwhile I’m meandering on -but not yet tied to- the tracks, picking blackberries and counting clouds. Maybe I won’t have to face the train, maybe I don’t want them? Maybe my infertility isn’t something I’ll have to fight. Surely, I should be feeling the twinges of wanting them by now?
My husband though- kind, glorious, happy and healthy- just has to be a dad. I literally cannot fathom a world in which he isn’t one. He would be the kind of dad we all hope for, and maybe some of you reading this got. I didn’t.
Don’t misunderstand me though- my dad was amazing. He was so clever, he was so funny. If I think hard enough, I can conjure up his roaring laugh. He would take us on bare feet walks, and let us
sleep in sleeping bags on the living room floor, and would make his own mint sweets. He was perfect, in his own way….but he was not consistent, he was not often present and ultimately it turns out, he was very poorly. He died when I was 15, which feels both ages ago, and like last night. He took his own life. He planned it, he packed his stuff up, he got the dosage right and put himself to sleep with animal anaesthetic. The week before, he had shot himself. He convinced everyone it was an accident and then made sure he didn’t fail next time. When I was 17 and working in WHSmiths, I stumbled across the autobiography of the famous person who discovered his body. I had to read about how he lay there for 5 days, undiscovered and what that looked like. What he looked like. What the smell was like. For 5 days, I lived blissfully unaware, calling him, seeing friends, visiting the shops. I lived in Spain then, 2000 miles from his house in Surrey. 5 days of normal life, all whilst he lay there. So, believe me, I know what having a dad like Sam, my husband, means. In my dreams, I see him holding a baby- our baby- and the look on his face. And Sam himself would flourish. He would come into his own. He would parent- the verb- and get up in the night, wipe noses, and pick up from school and set boundaries. His dad is wonderful. He would be wonderful. I’m typing through tears just thinking about it. I cannot not give him babies.
So that train, hooting in the next town over, is absolutely coming for me. And probably quite soon, since I am 32. Endometriosis has been running rampant in there for 2 decades. But how can I learn to want babies and children if I don’t yet?
Why can’t I be like normal women my age and want them now?
I need to want them now.
It might be too late if I wait till my heart catches up to my body clock. I dread the idea of waking up in 5yrs time, ready, and it being far, far too late. Can I really pre-empt that, and have a baby before I want one? Will having one create that love? Is it a self-fulfilling prophecy? A reverse catch 22 that solves it’s own problem? What if I can’t anyway.
These are the thoughts that keep me awake.
There’s another issue too, and it’s a big one. I am absolutely petrified of labour.
I’m not talking the natural fear of pain. I’m talking genuine terror and distrust of medical teams to help me and treat me with respect. I live in 10/10 pain a lot of the time, in my pelvis, and down there- so I know what’s coming. I experience contractions often – though I know you’d say they’re nothing like end stage delivery, they actually aren’t far off. I know because I’ve been hooked up to machines having them and they read very similarly. Pain is subjective anyway so that’s not really the point. I’m talking about not wanting to be in the care of doctors and midwives who are so often over-stretched under-resourced.
The dismissive way women in pain are treated is notable across the board, but more so in labour. If men did it, it would be pain free with a side order of beer. Access to pain relief is often delayed, talked out of, or not accessible. You need an anaesthetist to place an epidural, if they’re busy or tied up with an emergency, naturally you wait. And if it’s too late then, well, tough. So get more anaesthetists dammit? It shouldn’t be allowed that women have to labour without access to adequate care. Pain relief is care. The report and investigation in March this year, confirmed women are routinely denied access to, or deliberately misinformed that it was too early or too late for, an epidural. Most people don’t even know they have the right to an elective C section, and it’s not because they didn’t ask, it’s because they were fobbed off or outright lied to. I find it all disgusting, the stories I’ve heard from my own friends, of being ignored, dismissed, asked to wait then told it’s
too late, being in agony & begging for help and then birthing, pain relief-free and tearing. No thanks. I understand there are a million more positive experiences to every awful one- but that’s LUCK. I feel the tide is turning unfavourably, as more and more people put pressure on the NHS and overworked staff bow out. Burn-out and compassion fatigue is real.
All of this really doesn’t help sway the vote in favour of babies just yet. I have looked in to going private, but it’s surprisingly difficult, you basically can’t outside of London. Maybe that’s a good sign- they’re all busy working for the NHS.
So, you see, that’s my dilemma- I don’t actually feel the burning desire for parenthood yet, but I really am on a clock. And I have a husband I’d love to make a dad he (puts 0 pressure on this btw), and am absolutely petrified of handing over my pregnant, labouring body to a system I don’t trust. What can I do? I can’t conjure up the desire for babies, and without the burning desire, I just know I can’t overcome my terror of labour, or my reservations about parenthood.
I wish it would come. I hope it comes soon.
That’s why I am childless at 32.
Thank you so so much to Victoria 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 Victoria’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.