Spoiler: I’m 50 this year. I always wanted kids. I don’t have any.
It’s one of those things you just assume will happen to you one day. When I was in my teens and met my first husband, I just assumed if we got married, we’d have kids. I remember car journeys, listening to the radio, picking our kids names when we were engaged. It was a given; we were going to get married, have kids and never get divorced.
Right guy, wrong time?
If we’d stayed married, I think I would have had my babies with husband #1. He was kind and nice. We were young and naive and living in a one-bedroom shoebox of a house in a city that was slowly becoming less affordable. His sister had a miscarriage, and my mother-in-law seemed to be constantly on my case about folic acid because I might have the same problem when I was pregnant.
I was just 24. I had just started a brilliant job. I was absolutely petrified of getting pregnant at that point in my life and starting to question whether I should even have got married. To my eternal regret, I said one of the meanest things I ever said to him around that time. The GP had put me on the mini-pill without telling me it could stop my periods. You can imagine what happened next. We were having problems, not getting on so well and I was unhappy. I took a pregnancy test when I missed a period — it was negative and I was so relieved that I blurted out, ‘I would have had to have taken a pill or something if I’d been pregnant’.
It was just a throwaway comment. I didn’t mean it, and if I had been pregnant, despite the fact that there was no room in the house for a baby, I 100% would have kept it, and it would have been loved by both of us. But I hurt him really badly when I said that and in the 25-plus years since we’ve split up, I’m not going to lie, that stupid comment has haunted me. He went on to meet a lovely woman and they have a child together. As far as I know they are happy and I’m glad.
Young, free, single.
I wasn’t single for long. Although I didn’t marry again for almost a decade, I met husband #2 the year I split from #1. Honestly, I don’t feel so warmly about him, or what happened between us. He was younger than me, and very suggestible although I didn’t realise this until it was too late and it was someone else’s suggestions that he was listening to. Early in our relationship, we’d had a pregnancy scare. The doctor had taken me off the pill and accidents happen…it turned out to be fine, but I vividly remember him saying that he would have been there for me if I had been pregnant, and that he loved it when the women in the office brought their babies in, they ‘told him he was a natural’.
Maybe. Things can certainly change.
By my early 30s, I was definitely starting to get broody. We were engaged, and he knew I wanted kids, but fobbed me off with ‘not now’ whenever it was brought up. ‘Not now’ became ‘not ever’ and a promise to leave me or make me have an abortion if I got pregnant. Why I stayed in that relationship I will never know — except that the year we got married, after he had a wobble and thought he might not want to marry me after all, he changed his mind.
He told me he was ready. He wanted us to try for kids once we were married, maybe I could lose a bit of weight first but that he was up for it. He also told me not to tell anyone. I stupidly told my best friend. My best friend who is now with him, and has his kids.
He changed his mind again after we were married and it became a real problem as I hit my late thirties. I wanted kids badly. He told me that I should get counselling. I spoke to a counsellor who suggested that I probably ought to think about whether I wanted to stay married. In a particularly cruel reversal of roles, he told me one day that he wanted me to get my tubes tied. Not unreasonably, I refused. I suggested that as I wanted to be a mum and he didn’t want kids, it would be a lot easier for him to have a vasectomy. I still couldn’t take the pill. He said, ‘I might want to have children with someone else one day.’
Bastard. He broke my heart into about a million pieces, and then stomped all over the pieces. I realised it was over there and then, even if I didn’t do anything about it straight away. As I said, he now has children with my ex best friend and by all accounts the garden isn’t quite as rosy as he once thought it might be. Good.
Late thirties..single again…
2008. I’m in my late thirties, desperate for kids and single. My mum started talking to me about adoption. I was living in a one-bed flat but decided that I would definitely look into it if I was still single at 40. I could have met someone and just used them as a sperm donor, but there was something in me that didn’t want that for my baby. Plus, I didn’t know how I would manage in my late thirties, working from home with a baby, on my own.
A very close male friend once said during a drunken text conversation that he would supply the raw materials if I was really desperate. I think I considered it for about ten minutes but the fact he had a long-term girlfriend that might have needed to be consulted put the kibosh on that idea. He also retracted the offer the next morning. But that’s how much I wanted babies.
Men I dated at 37, 38, 39 usually had kids already and no desire for any more. Except for the one that was ten years younger than me and didn’t even want a proper relationship. Men came and went, some were more fun than others, some were, or would have been, great dads but I didn’t ever broach the subject as they were all short term flings. Until I was 40, and I met #3.
Running out of time
I met #3 in 2011. He was charming, good-looking and kind. He was also a recovered alcoholic but that’s a whole other story. Just after I turned 40, he came into my life and cliched as it sounds, he swept me off my feet. After three years of being mostly single it was a bit of a novelty. One of the first things his sister in law asked me was why I didn’t have kids and if he and I were planning any. This was about three months into our relationship. Admittedly, after five months we’d moved in together and were considering trying. He had a teenage son but wanted another chance as he’d missed a lot of his childhood through his drinking and drugs. He’d been clean for 5 years.
We stopped being ‘careful’ quite early on, mindful of our ages, he was a year older than me. Nothing happened. His best female friend, ten years younger than us, had a baby in 2012. He was his Godfather. I got to hold him as a newborn and the flood of raw emotions I felt was unbelievable. I cried when we got home. His best male friend got a younger woman pregnant a year or so later and they had a son too. I cuddled him as a preemie. I cried and cried afterwards. I cried when every period arrived, especially when they tricked me by being late and I had taken a test. Always, always negative.
We got checked out in 2014; I was fine, his sperm were few and far between and swimming all over the place. The chances of us getting pregnant were minuscule, even with IVF. I was devastated. He felt emasculated. It wasn’t the reason we split up, but it didn’t help.
I had to give up any dreams of ever being a mother at that point. When we split up I was 45 and I knew it wasn’t going to happen for me, despite what my Mum said about Ruth in the Bible. I tried to make my peace with it but I was devastated and angry to hear that husband #2 had kids after everything he’d put me through. It also hurt that one of the men I’d been seeing for a short time a few years before had met someone else, got her pregnant and married her. They are happy, and both lovely people, but all I saw around me was people getting their second chance, getting to have the babies I had longed for while I just sat by and watched, childless and hormonal.
I hate being asked why I don’t have kids. I’m almost 50 now, it’s not going to happen. I’m living with a lovely man who has four kids already and one of them lives with us part-time but I’m not, and will never be, her mum. It hurts. I always wanted to hold a child in my arms. I wanted to be able to bring a life into the world; bring a child up, give him or her all the happy memories I could. I wanted to be able to see a child’s excited face at Christmas. I really, really wanted to make my parents a grandma and grandad, especially my dad, who I know longed to have a grandchild and is gone now.
My friends from school are parents and grandparents now. I watch their Facebook feeds as their babies have grown into teens and adults, learning to drive, going to uni, getting their first houses and partners. Some have kids and are married themselves.
I’ll never know how it feels to see that pregnancy test line appear and squeal with excitement. I’ll never know the joy of telling a husband/boyfriend he’s going to be a dad, telling family and friends, getting the scans. I’ll never hold my own child in my arms and feel that maternal love you hear about. I’ll never have the overwhelming love for another person that comes with parenthood. I’ll never watch a child grow up and think to myself ‘I didn’t do a bad job there.’
I’m resigned to it. There’s nothing I can do and as I head into menopause I count my blessings for what I do have. But I can’t pretend I don’t occasionally look back to my 24 year old self and wonder…what if??