06 February, 2017

Banishing intrusive thoughts

Life Without Baby recently had a lovely post and thread about getting to the stage of acceptance where we can appreciate and enjoy our lives without children, but I ached for one of the commenters, who said, “ … but I would give it all up for just one.”

I could feel her pain, and her unwillingness to freely admit, without qualification, that life without children has many advantages. It’s that feeling we have, so many of us (all of us?) that if we admit that we enjoy life (or at least many aspects of our life) without children, maybe what we’re really saying is that we didn’t want children enough or worse, that we didn’t deserve children enough. It’s as if we feel we are admitting something that is a betrayal, that is heretic, almost sinful; something that is certainly anathema to the prevailing belief elsewhere in the ALI blogging community, and in wider society, that parenthood is everything.

I will admit, from time to time I still experience a flicker of guilt, of a “what if this means I didn’t want them enough?” thought that appears to torment me. But now I am soon able to despatch that thought, knowing that the thought is in itself a betrayal, heresy to my staunch belief that we can truly enjoy our lives without children, even though at one stage we genuinely and deeply wanted to have them.

This way of thinking is a betrayal of of the decisions I made and the decisions and situation that were forced on us, of the pain I’ve been through to get where I am, and of the babies we lost on the way, and mostly it is a betrayal of me, my life now, and my life with my husband, my family and my friends.

On the bright side, I think that we all work through this stage eventually – or I sincerely hope so – and even though the negative thoughts may come, I know now that we can choose to listen to them and let them linger, or shoo them off with a confident, and knowing, flourish.


  1. I agree with the comment that you left under the LWB post, that appreciating the good things about a life without kids just means we’re making the most of what we have, not that we didn't want them. I don't feel any guilt about it per se, but I often feel like I should behave in a way that matches society's (and most of the ALI community's) perceptions of someone who was infertile and couldn't have children: ie, that I should be writing about being broken-hearted, empty-armed; about my life having no meaning etc. I admit that a lot of the ALI blogging community are at the back of my mind when I write about any benefits of being childfree. Is it because our cohort is the smallest one in the community (the least vocal?), that I feel a bit weird writing these things; is that why it feels a bit maverick or something?
    But I refuse to be a person who doesn't move on from it. I understand that everyone needs to grieve, and I myself had a rocky five years, but I won't let this thing overshadow the rest of my life. I agree that we probably all work through the initial bleak stage eventually, luckily, and hopefully this commentor will too.
    Whenever I feel a flicker of "gah did I do the right thing?", for example when you read a comment like that, or when some parent crows "Nothing else matters in life!", I remind myself that I COULDN'T have children. It wasn't that I decided not to have them outright - I think I forget this sometimes, as time passes (sounds stupid but I do have to remind myself sometimes). We all tried, it didn't work out and now we need to enjoy living the lives we have. Living the best life possible.
    Sorry for rambling!

  2. Your thoughts and advice are relevant for many life choices, decisions, outcomes. One does have to carry on in the best way possible, what is best for them and those closest to them.


  3. How I love your second to last paragraph. I am not resolved, but I occasionally have moments of doubt where I wonder, "did I do enough? What if I had...? What if I didn't do everything I could?" and it is so true that those thoughts disintegrate and betray every incredibly thoughtful choice, every path that was foisted (since infertility wasn't our choice, after all), every piece of me that has gone into where we are today. And when we are resolved, in whatever way that happens, I hope that I can move from that stage of wanting and striving to accepting what is, knowing that I absolutely did "enough," that my life whether it's with children or without will be wonderful. I look forward to that stage quite a bit.

  4. yes I get this, it's such a complicated feeling! I'd been talking to some friends recently who were telling me how hard things have been (zero sleep, crying babies, sick kids etc) and I didn't envy them. And I had a really fun weekend and just enjoyed the freedom of being able to be spontaneous and do whatever I liked, going out dancing etc. But then I felt guilty that if I was enjoying it too much maybe it means that I'm not cut out to be a mother after all or that I don't actually want kids as much as I thought!

  5. Dear Mali, can you read thoughts? It is only a few days ago that I admitted that I actually do not want kids anymore now. I have been through so much (for example grief) and I now give myself permission (or try) to be happy with what IS. I wrote a post about it, but had to work around those exact words (not wanting kids anymore) because - as I realized later - I was actually afraid! Afraid of this meaning that I never wanted children badly enough in the first place. Afraid of other people thinking I might not really have wanted them. I certainly did (want them). It actually shocked me in hindsight how desperate I had become and in what kind of a tunnel I had been. How can I get scared by feeling better and having let go now? The human heart is a strange thing.

  6. I think your comment over there was great. I think she was in an honest place -- she's still in a space where appreciating also makes her feel sad. But it's nice to hear that life continues, that feelings change, that how everything is now is not the way it will always be.