notquiteold

Nancy Roman

Not Having Children

Note: I wrote this essay fourteen years ago. This Mother’s Day, I find I am ready to share it.

NOT HAVING CHILDREN

I married when I was forty.

It was amazing at that age how many people asked me if we were going to have children. No, I’d say, We’re not having children. What is amazing to me now is that I thought I was lying. Keeping a secret.

Of course we would have children. Forty is still young.

I’m lucky. Lucky in my career, first of all. I am immodest enough to know that my business success is largely due to brains and hard work, but I am also honest enough to know that a part of my success is the result of just too much time on my hands. I work hard because I have no place better to be. I’m not so much ambitious as simply trying to pass the time as interestingly as possible. People at the office listen to me, value my opinion, and pay me pretty good money. How ungrateful I am to rather have a baby.

And on top of a great career, I found a husband at forty. A nice one. Those horrible statistics say I have a better chance of being hit by a meteor. And I want a baby too?

My husband never quite felt the same way. He’s a few years older than I, and was married before to a woman who could not have children. He got used to the idea years ago that children weren’t in his future. He has no experience with kids. He doesn’t think he’d be a good father.

He’d be a wonderful father. I’ve seen how he adores and protects our little cats – feeding them treats from the table, gently untangling knots from their coats, bragging about their exploits long after his audience has lost interest, and, in time, building small cedar coffins through his tears.

When we married, he knew I wanted a baby. He just couldn’t know the completeness of my desire

Early in our marriage, I was late with my period. My anxiety and happiness overwhelmed me. I found myself sitting still for long stretches, holding my breath, counting the seconds until my life changed forever. Two long weeks. I was terrified that it wouldn’t be true; I failed to see that my husband’s fear was different. A baby would be great…but…financially, things are tough right now, it would be career-limiting for you, we’ll be retirement age when college tuition is due, we could die leaving a child for someone else to raise… I never really listened past A baby would be great. When my period finally came, I was quietly devastated. My husband was kind and sweet, but woven through his condolences were the unmistakable threads of relief. I spent all day in bed with the shades drawn. I’d feel him every so often watching me helplessly from the doorway, as if he knew he could not enter my grief. I guess it would be nice to have a baby, he said. I know how happy it would make you.

I am the most selfish person on earth.

The following month my doctor recommended a fertility specialist. I put the referral in my purse, knowing I wouldn’t call.

But even without professional help, I was sure I would get pregnant. Every month I was sure. For ten years. I still cry when I get my period. I try to keep this private but sometimes my husband sees. He comforts me, and I hope he thinks that it’s just hormones. At my age, it probably is.

I am very jealous of mothers. I am jealous of teenage mothers. I am jealous of older mothers. I am jealous of women who get pregnant the first month they try. And I am jealous of women who finally, finally, after miscarriages and disappointments, have their babies.

And now I am fifty. We’re not having children.

Not having children doesn’t take any big adjustments. I am already living a childless life. Now it’s just permanent. It’s a very good life, and it will continue exactly as before. I just have to make some minor modifications of my imagination.

For thirty years I’ve watched mothers with their children and stored little scenes for my own future. I have stolen other women’s moments like a shoplifter who keeps all her pilfered items in the closet, afraid to wear them. My closet is full.

But these clothes don’t fit me any more. It’s time to pack up these images likes bundles for Goodwill.

The first day of school, Mother’s Day cards and macaroni necklaces. Ice skating, singing Old MacDonald in the car. Chicken pox and computer games; soccer practice. Tantrums. Cheerios in the sofa cushions, bicycles in the driveway.

They are such little pictures. Insignificant really. Someone else’s memories. Time to give them up. We’re not having children.

At the restaurant a young boy rests his head for a moment on his mother’s breast. She smooths his hair. He returns to his pizza. Last year I would have certainly snatched up that moment. But now I have no place to put it. I let it go.

There is an emptiness where my vision of the future used to be. But not forever. I am a women with aspirations after all. So I know that there will be new images. Maybe warm fireplaces and good books. Fresh flowers on the table. Beaches. Sunsets. Conversations. Porch swings. I tend to think these new dreams will be quieter dreams, but I know that they are already waiting for me.

All these years I have been saving money for a rainy day that was secretly a college education. But we’re not having children. The money has been redirected.

My husband and I are building a home in the country. It’s a wonderful home on a breathtakingly beautiful piece of land. My husband and I designed the house ourselves. So it has almost everything we ever wanted.

Remember the movie, Grand Canyon? I don’t think the critics liked it, but I did. In one storyline, Mary McDonnell is out jogging and finds an abandoned baby in the bushes. She keeps it. Her husband is not crazy about the idea, but he is Kevin Kline and fabulous and their relationship is perfect and they have such a healthy outlook on life that you know it will work out beautifully.

Sometimes when I am out walking, I keep my eyes on the shrubbery.

Photo credit: deovolenti (Flickr)

Photo credit: deovolenti (Flickr)

##

*Originally published on The Huffington Post

88 Comments

  1. This was sad, serene, honest, and beautiful. There’s not much we can do about the cards we’re dealt. So we play with whatever cards we’re holding, slice a few cards from the bottom of the deck, and love what we have in our hands. You are blessed in ways others are not. We all are. Am glad you finally shared your heart.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Thank you. I agree. You don’t always get everything you want in life, but you always get many wonderful things.

      Liked by 2 people

    • Chris Cole Blume

      Claudia Anderson: you perfectly stated how I feel after reading “Not Having Children.”

      Like

  2. Brave sharing. Beautiful post. I’m not going to offer any “helpful” comments here, just wish you a full, peaceful heart.

    Liked by 2 people

  3. I married in my 30s. That I even had a baby was a miracle. We get used to what we can have. I had already been warned I may not have any babies. Even my doc was surprised. Nancy, by the time you married, be thankful you didn’t have a baby because this late in life you’re asking for serious health conditions for your precious treasure. ❤ ❤ ❤

    Liked by 1 person

  4. my wife wanted a baby, i was ambivalent. i agreed to fertility treatments for fear of losing her to depression. the baby arrived and a created a split between us. i lost my wife anyway.

    Like

    • I appreciate that you shared your experience. Life is so complicated.

      Like

  5. Deb

    Thank you for your honest words. It is a loss, without doubt, and just as real as if you had lost a child. I hope that time will continue to soften and lessen the ache that you feel.

    Liked by 2 people

    • I have truly come to accept and appreciate the life I have. I think it is why I was finally ready to share this essay after so many years.

      Liked by 1 person

  6. I find myself at a loss for words Nancy. This is such a raw post, to sugar coat it with encouraging words just seems trivial. I know that you are grateful for your life & all of the gifts within that life, but I am sorry you never got the chance to be a Mom.

    Like

    • I know I’ve kept my blog light and humorous, so this may be a little jarring. I had found it in a drawer recently, and I had come to realize that I was ready to share it. The Huffington Post published it this week, and it resonated with so many people, that I decided to share it here as well. But although I regret never being a mother, I also am very happy with so many aspects of my life.

      Liked by 1 person

      • It is a very heartfelt piece, one I am certain resonates with so many. It takes guts to lay your heart out in writing. Kudos to you for sharing.

        Like

  7. Ahh, honey … This made me want to give you a hug.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you for the virtual hug. Despite disappointments, life is very sweet.

      Liked by 2 people

  8. Lovely piece of writing, Nancy. No wonde it resonated with Huffpost readers.

    Like

    • Thank you. The fact that it touches so many makes me realize that we are all one family, after all.

      Like

  9. I am touched by your simultaneous love for what could have been and what is. Beautiful.

    Like

    • Thank you, Deborah. As you know, I don’t always get serious, and so I was a bit hesitant to even post this. I am so happy I did. It is very freeing.

      Like

  10. Sometimes I feel this way about not having grandchildren. I am closer to 60 and not a grandchild on the horizon. I used to say, good, no grandkids because I want to be still young but with my brother and sisters with grandkids, I feel a void sometimes, I cant speak grandkids talk. But then there are the times that being a cool great Auntie that make up for bring grandchildless. Thanks for your perspective, life is still wonderful.

    Like

    • Ah Doreen… I feel that way too. As a matter of fact, I think grandchildren now might be better than children back then! But it might happen. But you are right, even if it doesn’t, there is plenty of joy to be found in the presence of all children. Even if they are not directly yours.

      Liked by 1 person

  11. Oh Nancy the honesty just shines through, together with the longing and the anguish. But now is the time to look forward to the rest of your life and the things you now plan to do together with your caring, loving husband. And life is wonderful.

    Like

    • Life IS wonderful. And I enjoy it every day. I love to laugh and to make others laugh… and I will be back at it tomorrow!

      Like

  12. I love my children, I truly do (even though just today I had to keep saying it to myself), but I admit that sometimes I envy childless couples. The freedom you don’t realize you have, no extra people to give you serious heartache, no constant worry, able to save more and do more and buy nice things and not have to worry about breakage or dirt/crumbs on the floor, etc. I guess it goes both ways (kids, no kids). Very nice and thoughtful post, Nancy.

    Like

    • There are many things about not having children that ARE very nice… and I am the first to admit it. QUIET is among the top!

      Like

  13. poignant, wistful I just want to hug you now..

    Like

    • Thanks for the virtual hug. Virtual hugs are the best part of the internet.

      Like

  14. Beautifully written and so touchingly honest. Blessings on you!

    Like

  15. Open, raw and honest. You’re not alone.
    I always hoped to have kids, but it wasn’t meant to be. I don’t know if it’s a blessing or a curse. I feel like Jekyll and Hyde when I think of certain family members, how glad I am they’re not mine and how happy I have no contact with them.
    But there is that little gap that will never be filled. I choose to overlook it (most of the time).
    Thanks for sharing and putting into words what many childless women feel but keep to themselves.

    Like

    • I so identify with your words. There are many many times I love the simplicity, freedom and quiet of my life. But there are times I just wonder…. But the nice thing about being a writer is that I can wonder in words.

      Liked by 1 person

  16. Beautiful and raw and wonderfully expressed. Thank you for trusting us enough to share.

    MJ

    Like

    • Thank you MJ. I did hesitate to post, since I am usually just light and silly on my blog. But it’s something I felt I was ready to share.

      Like

  17. Dirty Martini Queen

    Thank you for sharing this very heartfelt post. My hubby and I have been married for 28 years and decided early on that we were childless by choice. He got snipped 8 years into our marriage and then we both neared 40 and started wishing we hadn’t been “so sure” so young. Any time people asked if we were going to have kids, I’d always laugh and say “Well not with this husband but with my next one I will.” In my 40’s, I had to have a hysterectomy and the dr told me that it was a good thing I hadn’t tried to have children because I never could have carried until term. I was devastated and mourned a loss that I never even knew existed until that time. It’s been a while since that news but I still get a tug on my heartstrings at times but when that happens I think of Clarice the International Cat of Intrigue that shares our life and have to smile.

    Like

    • I so understand the feeling… “mourning a loss that I never knew existed.” My heart shares that feeling with you today.

      Like

  18. Thank you for your post, so honest and real. I don’t have children by choice but have always been with men who do (hmmm, maybe I should look at that). I’m divorced (from a man with 3 kids) but when I was married I started obsessing about having a baby when I was close to 40. I asked myself the same questions your husband asked. How old will I be when s/he they go off to college? Will I be the oldest parent at dancing school/soccer games? Who will take care of her/him if I die? I noticed every pregnant woman and thought “I wonder how old she is?” Eventually the feelings passed but I think I was mourning the fact that I had chosen not to have children and what I had missed out on. My boyfriend has two grown daughters so I might have a chance at becoming a grandmother.

    Like

    • Thank you for your honest reply. It’s true – the wondering does pass. Having children is something I’ll always wish had happened for me. But I do love my life. Just as it is.

      Liked by 1 person

  19. Beautifully written. More than 30 years ago, I had first an ectopic pregnancy and then a miscarriage. After that, like you, I remember waiting each month to see if this would be the month I’d be pregnant again and all would go well. When I found myself alone in the house, I’d secretly cradle items (cushions, pillows) like a baby or pat my flat stomach the way a pregnant woman does. Again, like you, I considered myself lucky until then. This was the first time in my life I really wanted something and I had no real control over whether I could have it or not. In the end, it made me stronger and more accepting.

    Like

    • It is a hard lesson to learn that there are some things you cannot have or cannot control. But as you say, coming to that understanding does make you stronger. Thank you for sharing your story here.

      Like

  20. Thanks for sharing your story with us, Nancy. I guess we never know what cards we will be dealt in this experience we call life, and it takes time for us to comes to terms with the fact that we don’t all get a winning hand (whatever we thought that would be), at the table. My strong, vibrant, handsome, sexy, seemingly-healthy husband mentioned this exact same thing when he was told he had terminal cancer at the age of 56–I have to play the hand I’m dealt, he said, and he did so with the same quiet dignity he always had through life. Different story than yours, and I’m not sure why I’m sharing this here now except that the comment about cards and dealt hands that someone made triggered it in me. Enjoy the life you do have with your husband and cherish every moment that you are fortunate enough to be together. Hugs.

    Like

    • Your story is absolutely in harmony with the words written here. There is much sadness even in a happy life. And life itself is so fragile.

      Like

  21. Thank you for being so transparent, Nancy. Beautifully and painfully written.

    Like

  22. Nancy, that was brave and very moving. It explains a lot about the story line of your book, too. It’s wonderful that you are grateful for all the things you do have. And you can always “borrow” kids or grandkids, nieces or nephews. Then when they’re snotty you get to give them back.

    Like

    • Thanks… Yes, the storyline of my novel is what you might want to call my imaginary wish-list. And I do “borrow” some kids every so often, and I do so love them and I also do so love giving them back.

      Like

  23. This is an incredibly candid and touching post!

    Like

  24. What a beautiful and honest essay! I suppose those of us who have had children take them for granted. As someone commented we do the best we can with the hand we are dealt. Thank you for sharing! May you find the peace you want with what you have.

    Like

    • Thank you. Be assured that I have found peace – and much joy – in my life. It’s one of the reasons that I felt ready to share this essay.

      Like

  25. This post is so raw and honest it has left me nearly speechless, but as many of your fans have said, our lives are all filled with unexpected challenges and disappointments as well as great joy. May your life be dominated by the joy.

    Like

    • Thanks, Dor. Yes, my life is dominated by joy. Overwhelmingly.

      Like

  26. Victoria

    I’m 41, twice divorced, and childless. I truly thought I’d come to terms with not having children until just a few weeks ago. I started dating a really wonderful guy. Amazingly wonderful. Heart-fluttering and all that.
    I can’t even explain the bizarre heartbreak I felt when I learned he’s had a vasectomy. There’s that secret sliver of fantasy of “finding a baby in the bushes”, and to know FOR SURE that’s gone… Ugh.

    Like

    • I completely understand. I’m not sure how reassuring it will be, but I must say, that with me… although it is the one big sadness in my life, it is not an ever-present or overwhelming sadness. My life is filled with enough joy and happiness.

      Like

  27. Oh sweetheart.

    Like

  28. This is so poignant, and all the more so considering how often Fate (or whatever) seems casually to drop children on folks who don’t want and/or shouldn’t have them. But you have birthed some beautiful writing, and this piece is a powerful example.

    Like

    • I hate to dwell on the children who have lousy and uncaring or even abusive parents. It makes me so furious. I want to scream, “Just give that kid to me!” Life is not fair, but I also know that I have my own share of blessings.

      Like

  29. I am thankful you posted this, it is a beautiful piece of writing. My family, my children and others are blended across the spectrum of how we put families together. Not born of my body but of my heart. I love how you embrace both what might have been and what is.

    Like

    • Thanks Val….my best days are the ones where I love my family just the way it is.

      Like

  30. Thank you for sharing you are blessed and God has a different plan for you. I wish you and your husband the joy of sunrises and sunsets together enjoying life as it is and such excitement to be building a home

    Like

  31. Sometimes we don’t get the life we signed up for. Then we have to write the next chapter ourselves. I applaud you. Toni

    Like

  32. I’ve recently written my own piece about not having children, but your piece is so much more honest. A lot of times childless women cannot be open about their desire to have children, you can’t just say ‘oh yeah, I’m desperate, I really want one’, so we hide the truth and carry on. I always say that I’m happy not having children, but if I were to become pregnant, even at 44, I would be ecstatic!!

    Like

    • I have been there.. and in some ways I still am there. Even at 64, if I found a baby “under the shrubbery” – it would be the best moment of my life. To hell with my age. But I have created a happy full life, and it has much joy too.

      Like

  33. I just don’t know what to say. I’m speechless at how beautifully you bared your soul.

    Like

    • Thanks Dianna. Since I usually just write silly stuff, I hesitated a bit before I posted this. But I am so glad I did. It seems I have expressed what so many others have felt, and for that alone, it is worth it.

      Liked by 1 person

  34. This piece was very beautiful – and struck a nerve. Now I want to cry…

    Like

    • Oh, don’t cry… my tears are all in the past. I hope yours are too.

      Like

  35. I love this. I could relate to every word. It was a decision I made in my thirties and I’ve lived a wonderful life, but lemme tell ya, it never ends. People now ask me: “What college does your kid go to?” or “How many grandkids?”
    Thank you so much for sharing.
    xox

    Like

    • My personal pet peeve is when folks think I shouldn’t comment on badly behaved children, since I just don’t “understand.”

      Like

  36. I was absolutely moved by this post. For whatever it’s worth, I am 15 years behind where you are now, and seeing my future in your blog post. Thank you for so being brave and writing this. I’ve written a few times about the “twilight of the ovaries”. The way you depict the difficult terrain, as it were, of the dilemma regarding whether or not to have children is refreshing and valued in my little world. Again, thank you for sharing.

    Like

    • Thank you so much. I am glad I finally published this after all these years, as I see now that I am speaking for many people.

      Liked by 1 person

  37. Reblogged this on Taciturn Alchemy and commented:
    I read this post and caught my breath. It’s another fascinating and very personal perspective on the complexities of NOT having children.

    Like

  38. Sally Habib

    This post was the first one I read of yours
    Not even sure how I found it ? But I just
    wanted to tell you it was written from
    a loving beautiful heart and you would have
    been a great Mom !! XOXO

    Like

    • Thank you so much. I am very happy that you liked the post.

      Like

  39. That was lovely – many thanks for sharing it with the world.

    Like

    • Thank you. I’m glad I did. It seems to ring true for many people.

      Like

  40. Beautifully written. Thank you for sharing.
    kind regards from sLOVEnia,
    Klara

    Like

    • Thank you for your kind words. I am happy that I have shared it with you, and that it touched you.

      Like

  41. Christina

    You wrote the story of my life. I married a wonderful man at 42. Our 10th year anniversary is coming up in a few days. I still get saddened during baby showers or Mother’s Day. Just like you I pretend everything is ok. Sometimes I cry but I know I have a great life when I count my blessings. Thank you for sharing. I just happened to find your blog. Just wanted to know if other people out there had experienced what I still go through sometimes.

    Like

    • Thank you for your kind words. I think there are many of us in the world.. not unhappy with our lives, but very aware of the void. I am 65 now, and facing old age (not quite yet of course)…and the feeling that I have made a terrible mistake still haunts me. But not constantly – be assured that you will be okay.

      Like

Trackbacks

  1. Happy Mother’s Day! | notquiteold
  2. Yes, I CAN Judge Your Children | notquiteold

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: