Childless and Performing…

It’s not very often that I get really personal on here… It’s not often that I bare my soul and say things to anyone who cares to read that I can’t even say in person to those around me… But today I’m not feeling myself. Maybe I’ll have a cup of tea, paint on my usual clown face, blow my nose and normal service will be resumed. Maybe I’ll press delete once this is all out of my system…

I’ve just been crying in the bath. I never cry in the bath. The bath is where I usually get all my flashes of inspiration (yes, those crazy acts you might have seen me perform were probably all conceived via the Lush bath bomb). Today it was a different flash of “inspiration”. Without going into the details, I’ve been having a few abdominal issues, which are currently being investigated (please don’t worry – I know it’s nothing serious now) and part of that was to have an abdominal scan for anything “nasty”. Chuffed, I was in and out like lightening, earlier than my appointment, actually. Chuffed to be given the all-clear by the nurse – she even said I had “nice ovaries” and turned the monitor around for me to have a look. So yesterday was a mix of tiredness and relief (I still don’t know what the issue is, but I’m sure we’ll get to the bottom of it – excuse the pun – soon). Which brings me on to today. It suddenly hit me that that is actually the only time I will see a scan of that area of my body. To check that there’s nothing nasty in that area, when most people will be going in there with the hope of seeing something amazing. I will never experience that…

I feel I need to explain myself as I have been asked… No I’m not pregnant. To the person who said, “You’ll be stopping soon, in your condition,” at the same time as nodding to my now large abdomen (part of the health problem I mentioned earlier) – sorry you feel embarrassed. I understand how it’s easy to come to a “happy conclusion” when you haven’t seen someone for a while and seen their shape change (for me, for the worse). But I am not in any condition. Sadly. I’m not in the position where I’m seeking fertility treatment (I know a few friends who are, and I’m keeping everything crossed for them that they get their miracle at the end). Nor am I selfish, un-maternal or unwomanly. A conclusion that society comes to when they see childless women. I’ve not selfishly “put my career first” – in everything I’ve done. I’ve not ended up this way through a tragedy (although I know others who have, and my heart goes out to them). And, although it’s easy for my childless female friends, who have chosen to not have children (or “hate” children – as some have said to me, expecting some kind of solidarity as I too am childless) to believe we share the same secret childless bond, it is not that cut and dried.

You see, I’m not selfish. Far, far from it. It just occurred to me when I was crying in the bath. I like to share, I like to give. And through this very nature I have given up the one thing that society considers the norm. My husband doesn’t want them. He made this decision and even though it is not the same as I thought our lives would pan out when I first met him, I chose to be with him knowing this as I love him. I chose not to “trick” him into something he didn’t want and have a “happy accident”. I chose him over my natural maternal yearnings. This is probably why I have cats – and possibly emotionally attach too much to these cats (please don’t say “fur babies” / “they are your babies” to me – they are not, and unfortunately never will be). It is hurtful, all the time. I find myself, at 43, still doing ‘pregnancy maths’ like, “If he changed his mind now, we could still, possibly, have one – and when I’m 64, the child would be 20 – that’s still okay…” For many years, I’ve deflected (with a disguised flinch) the “when are you going to have a family?” / “It’s still not too late”/ “you are lucky to not have children” (“Lucky”? please don’t assume) / the rude “you’ll understand when you have children” and the very cruel “c’mon, ‘tick tick tick’ – that’s the sound of your fertility clock ticking” comments from well-meaning ‘friends’. Whether a coupe are childless by choice, or through fertility struggles – or even through devastation or disaster, these well-meaning comments feel like a knife to anyone who is in that position.

Childlessness is a hot topic at the moment; Nicola Sturgen (among other female politicians) have felt they publically have to explain why they have no children (yes, like I have felt the need to justify my reasons here) – often recounting harrowing stories, hurtful reasons and justifications as to why, when frankly it’s no one’s business but theirs. Why is the need to question someone’s maternal instincts (or even non maternal instincts) and instead come to the conclusion that many women who are in this position, for whatever reason, are not to be trusted, have a lack of empathy that only being a mother can achieve (I’d like to think I was very fucking empathetic and giving), are selfishly pursuing their own career…

Yes, I have actively pursued a career – whatever that ‘bits and pieces of freelance work and performing’ patchwork of a career that is. I’ve worked till the early hours, often having only a few hours sleep to meet deadlines because I’m throwing myself into it. I’ve been able to have amazing experiences, to travel, to meet new friends, to see the glittery faces of those I love. It’s been easier as I’ve not had to worry about childcare issues (although I have had to worry about the cats!). I’ve probably had a bit more cash to plough into my shows. I’m so grateful for these experiences everyday. I’ve dedicated my life to work. Perhaps some psychologist would conclude that I’m deflecting my hurt and channeling it into my work because I’ve got nothing else. I probably ‘broke myself’ (re the current on-going medical investigations) by working too hard and not resting and feeling guilty if I have a day off. But that’s another story. I’m all too aware I’m “running out of time”, and I constantly worry about who will be there when I get older. What if he leaves me or dies and I’m alone? What if I’ve run out of time? All those “stories to tell the grandchildren” will just now be told to thin air, and I’ll find myself in the very care homes I visit through my belly dance work. And now that I’m middle aged, I worry that no one will be there to see me off when the curtains close on my life.

I’m so glad I’ve been able to share the joys of my friends and see their beautiful kids grow into thoughtful, funny and caring adults. I’m so glad I have friends who feel able to share their pregnancy news (without worrying they’ll upset me) and who love visiting with their nippers. I love kids. I know some childless friends who have been shielded from children because others have assumed they would be hurt or bored and isolated them from activities involving their families, like family barbecues. I’m lucky that most of my friends have included me, that I haven’t been treated as an outcast.

Okay, I’m going to be brave and publish this. I’m not l;ooking for sympathy, just wanting to (actually selfishly!) get things off my chest. So just before I wipe my eyes, paint on that clown face and make a cup of tea (why is everything so much better after a cup of tea?) I just wanted to say thank you for reading this and for allowing me to share something that has been difficult to say (or even write) for many years. I hope that if you are in this position yourself, you realise you are not alone; you don’t have to justify any of your feelings or explain why things didn’t happen for you whether you wanted them to or not… X

One thought on “Childless and Performing…

  1. I am childless by choice, but share your pangs of “but who will be there when I’m old?!?” Then my mom got sick and was hospiced, and I visited for a week every few months, which is about twenty times more than my brother did, and I realised that having children is no guarantee of love for the length of our lives. My mom got far more visits from her friends than her kids.

    You’re brave and beautiful for writing this, and for the integrity you show to your partner’s wishes and your choice. Thank you for sharing your soul.

    I hope your condition is sorted soon!

    I hope

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