My Childless Life

In My Story by Kandice Swarthout

This blog has nothing to do with dentistry. It has everything to do with being a woman. I
am 46 years old and I am a childless woman. The possibilities of me carrying a child started out grim. Shortly after turning 18, I was scheduled for my first endometriosis surgery. In the window of the surgery center office, I was handed a consent form by an office assistant stating that I needed to make a decision about the doctor removing my ovaries. She was very nonchalant.

This was the first mention of me walking away from the surgery with fewer body parts that I had when I arrived. I was stunned. There I stood with my dad, not knowing what to do. My poor dad. We didn’t talk about these kinds of things and I am sure in the moment he had no idea how to respond. We stared at each other for a moment and then made the best decision we could. Fortunately, I was able to keep both of my ovaries.

My 20’s did not lend an opportunity for motherhood. I moved into my 30’s and chose a
marriage with an older man who already had children. He made stellar promises of our own
family. Time went on and I learned that he had no true intentions of having more children. His own child who had behavior issues moved in with us. “We can’t bring a baby into this situation” was his common excuse. Another one of my faves was, “Who in their right mind would have a child? Only stupid people!”  I quickly realized that “stupid people” meant me and that there was no hope for a child in this marriage. I have since exited that relationship.

Time ticked on.

Tick,tick,tick…tock. I found myself at 37, 38, 39, 40- tick, tick, tick…tock. Then it started happening. The “other” women. The ones that were graced with a child or two or three suddenly became the authority on the topic of my motherhood or lack thereof. And so it goes…

When I say “other“ I am not talking about the beautiful circle of women that I am blessed
to have; the women that have lifted me up and walked with me through thick and thin. I am talking about random strangers, a friend of a friend, a patient, someone in a grad school class, my cousin’s cousin that I have known for 45 minutes, or even the lady in the veggie aisle of Trader Joe’s with four kids that looks like she has not slept for seven days. This is the crowd that wants to impart life’s secret to happiness into my existence.

Here is the part that intrigues me so much:

I receive unsolicited comments from women as soon as they find out I do not have a child. Keep in mind, rarely does anyone ask me the reasons for not having children. Assumptions are made and advice is lobbed out of the cannon of their mouths landing directly in the depths of my soul.

Common uninvited advice and comments on my childlessness go as such:

  • “38, 39, 40… is not too old dear. It’s not too late for you.“
  • “My husband’s sister is 42 and she just had twins. She’s the happiest she’s ever
    been in her life.”
  • “Oh, you’re a stepmom? Well, honey, that doesn’t count.”
  • “I was going to wish you a happy Mother’s Day, but…HA! Never mind.”
  • “Girl, you don’t get an opinion on that until you have a kid.”
  • My all-time favorite is “You don’t know what love is until you’ve had a child. Until
    then you will never know true love.”

You wouldn’t understand

This is just the tip of the iceberg, not to mention conversations when I am in a group of
women and they realize I am the only childless person in the bunch. Suddenly, it is like I have leprosy. “Oh, never mind. You wouldn’t understand” or “Those of us with kids get it.”  My barren uterus could not possibly understand the joys of motherhood or love or responsibility or family. I suddenly become isolated in a group of people and quickly plan an escape. Oh, the countless baby showers I have ditched!

My language may sound somewhat bitter to you, and honestly, it is. I entered this world
as a feminine being that loves deeply, contributes to society, and pours into others. Having my personal experiences of what it means to feel love discounted or be a whole woman because my body has not experienced the biological process of procreation is demeaning. It is soul-stirring and sometimes soul-wrenching. I spent Mother’s Day a few years ago in the fetal position of my bathroom floor sobbing because of the day’s comments around my “lack of.” Fortunately, the process of becoming a counselor has contributed greatly to my emotional maturity. I now accept soul-stirring experiences as an opportunity to reflect and grow.

What real love feels like

The truth is that it IS too late for me to have a child. The truth also is that I know what
real love feels like and my step-parenting does count. It counts! I raised someone else’s child through the teenage years while her dad traveled for work: I have parented.

I have a nephew and brother that I love beyond measure, and I get to pour myself into my nephew’s life without distractions. The first time I held him I knew he was something special, but I had no idea how special he would turn out to be. He lost his mother to an accident a few years ago. Our special bond is that a childless woman and a motherless child are paired to walk this path of life together. Filling the gaps of loss and grief through unconditional acceptance and love. My mothering as an aunt counts. The love I feel for him is as deep a love as I can imagine.

I live a life rich in deep relationships. My boyfriend feels like an extension of myself. We
are “Blue-toothed” in our thoughts and feelings. I have no doubt that I experience the greatest love in his presence.  I have a fulfilling existence that is not discounted because I have not met these nonexistent children of mine that would make my life what it is supposed to be. And, I am exactly where I am supposed to be. My life is not lacking. It is, in fact, just as it should be.