I DON’T HAVE CHILDREN AND THAT’S FINE WITH ME
Being childless doesn’t define Faye. Except sometimes in other people’s eyes.
Sometimes I have to pinch myself to wake up to how lucky I am. And then I remember it’s probably not luck. If I have a great life it’s down to sheer hard work and determination. In any event I’m surprised I’m not covered in bruises from all the pinching.
However there is one small ‘what if’ that hangs over my world, the one thing that I don’t pinch myself for. Because the reality is right there reminding me every day of what I don’t have. What if I had had children? Would my life be different? Would I really be lucky then?
When I was much younger my future plans always included having children. I thought that like so many other people I’d have a family of two adorable yet annoying children running around. It was only as the years passed and I didn’t get pregnant naturally that I gradually realised this might be one dream I wouldn’t fulfil.
I’d come off the pill in my early 30s on the advice of my GP as tests had shown me to be at a very high risk of blood clotting and other complications. After that I’d never bothered with other contraceptive devices. Around that time I got married and conversations frequently centred around when we would have children and what they might look like, even what their names might be. We were careful at first because we didn’t want to conceive at that time, and then we stopped being careful. But I didn’t conceive.
“I gradually realised this might be one dream I wouldn’t fulfil.”
If I’m honest at this point I was still sitting on the fence about whether I wanted children yet – or ever. I liked my life very much as it was. But needing to know if there was a possibility, I went for tests. During the investigation for polycystic ovaries I lightly asked the doctor if I had any cysts, assuming I maybe had one or two. But she looked up at me and bluntly said ‘You have hundreds’. Further tests showed I didn’t ovulate. However this didn’t floor me as you would expect. I just thought ‘What will be will be’ and got on with my life.
I did not want to pursue IVF or any other forms of fertility stimulation. Perhaps I felt it would be too much strain on our relationship, or realised that not knowing would be easier to live with than dogged determination to get pregnant by other means. I’ve seen other people go through it and some have ended up heartbroken and disappointed.
And I have to say that I’m not unhappy with the way things have turned out. I have no regrets. I love my work, my holidays, my friends and life with my husband. I am mum to my cat Cecil – and fur babies count too in my eyes.
But society seems to have a problem with it. Over the years people have asked if I want(ed) kids, assuming it’s just a simple choice we make as adults. I haven’t always been completely open about the reality but have simply shrugged it off. But now I’m in my 40s I find that there are more people like me who didn’t have or want children and that doesn’t mean we don’t have maternal instincts. I don’t know why being childless makes us get judged. It’s my body, it’s my relationship, and it was my choice not to pursue it any other way.
Some people tell me it’s still not too late. But I’m not sure it’s something I would really want now anyway. You don’t need to have children to define you, despite what other people think. Now I see the benefits of being child-free, the parties I can attend, the late nights I can enjoy still awake, as well as all the sleep I want and the adult holidays. And fortunately my boobs haven’t dropped much either.
“I realise how many of us are in the same boat, loving life, not living with sadness.”
When I talk to friends about this now I realise how many of us are in the same boat, loving life, not living with the sadness some may assume dominates our thoughts. And there are other benefits. Around the time I turned 40 I felt like I wanted to do something more with my life. Having built a successful accountancy business, I had more time and felt like I was ready to take on the world.
I became a trustee for a children’s cancer charity, turned a lot of my energy to animal care, trained as a coach and focused on campaigning for more women to choose careers in finance. And then I co-launched Audrey to help women see there are others just like them searching for a new purpose or doing incredible things with their lives.
I feel that I’ve just started a new phase in my life, I’m ready for anything, giving new things a try. I’ve lost some inhibitions and found a different sense of confidence that wasn’t there in my 20s and 30s. I love being able to make my own choices. I’d quite fancy getting a dog too one day, to make my little fur family complete (with another 100 animals too).
If I was to advise anyone else in the same boat it would be to let go of painful thoughts and past disappointment. Only then can you truly enjoy the here and now and be open to the possibilities of the future. And to the rest of the world I would say: don’t judge me and I won’t judge you.
Would I want kids now? I honestly don’t know. But I’ve realised that this is OK! It is what it is and I don’t have to make a final decision. I reckon I’ll still be pondering this one when I’m in my eighties.