As I mentioned before, one of the joys of being on holiday is just “being.” We travel without labels, other than perhaps our nationality and first names. At the end of our trip, we visited another game reserve. There were two American couples on our trip, one a young (30-ish) honeymoon couple. So inevitably the subject of children came up. The second couple (40-ish) didn’t have children, and talked briefly one lunch-time about how it had never been an issue for them. They were undeniably childfree. The woman then turned to me across the lunch table, and joked that “oops, you must have kids.” I shook my head. “Nope,” we said. “But you’re happy, right?” said the childfree,. I nodded and laughed. “We’re here, aren’t we?” And the subject – around us – never came up again.
I didn't share my story. It wasn't the place for that kind of conversation. We were all meeting each other for the first time, a communal group of about 14 people at a long table. And I felt comfortable not sharing. In fact, I felt more than comfortable. I felt free.
I felt free, not having to justify my position to indignant parents. I felt free, in a majority of people without children. I felt free, not having to face people’s pity. I felt free, feeling normal, not deficient in any way. I felt free, not having to explain what ectopic pregnancies are, or blocked tubes, etc. I felt free, not having to answer any questions about “why not?” or “did you consider adoption?” I felt free.
Later, there were conversations we were on the periphery of, with the honeymoon couple. He wanted to try for kids in the first year, she wanted to wait another year or two. Our young ranger and his wife (the lodge manager) were expecting their first child, so the subject came up around them too. One night, as we stood out in the middle of the African Bush, with a drink in hand as darkness feel, and as the giraffes skirted the vehicle, nibbling on the thorn trees, he was asked if they had been trying. (I rolled my eyes. This is such an intrusive question!) “It wasn’t happening,” he said – and in those few words I understood the enormity of what he wasn’t saying, of what she (they) had probably gone through, of their fear, of the shaken confidence in their bodies. “But,” he said ... and my heart sank. You guessed it. His explanation, in summary, was that “we just relaxed and it happened.” A discussion ensured on the benefits of “just relaxing.” I couldn’t contribute to this conversation (I was feeling decidedly under the weather from what turned out to be a brief bout of food poisoning). But I was screaming in my head “you know that’s an old wives’ tale.”
I left it at that, and we continued to enjoy our safari. But I did go over the conversation, and questioned myself about whether I should have said anything or not. Then I got home, and read posts about “passing or not passing,” and whether or not we have an obligation to put our stories out there.
Unquestionably in Africa, I didn’t put the entirety of my story out there. Maybe I should have. Maybe it would have helped both the ranger and his wife, and the young honeymoon couple at some stage. But I didn’t. I needed the space. I needed the freedom. I was still true to myself. We are happy after all. And perhaps having that knowledge, seeing our example (and the example of the second American childfree couple) will have helped the ranger and his wife, and the other couple, in some way. Perhaps seeing a happy relationship that has lasted 20+ years, and learning about fulfilled lives without children, might just make those couples think when they meet others, or even help them through some of their own difficult times. And I have to say, having the choice about what I wanted to say (or not say) just felt right.