I am a 30-year-old, never married, childless woman in the bible belt. By all the standards, I have been raised with, I am an old maid. I am in a romantic relationship, but it is new. I have seen everyone around me get in and out of relationships, get married, and have babies. Many of these people are much younger than I am. I have never been too concerned about finding a husband even though it would be nice, but I have wanted to be a mother ever since I was a little girl.
There have been easily over twenty births of babies to various family members and friends over the last five years, and it seems like with each one, I feel a deeper and deeper ache in my heart. I have been fighting this ache and the desire to cry and scream and feel sorry for myself through each and every one until now.
My nineteen-year-old cousin is giving birth today, and as soon as her sister texted me, that ache started. In truth, I have not handled her pregnancy well at all. I suppose there could be various reasons this one is hitting a lot harder than all the others have (she didn’t even want the baby, she’s too young, I’m eleven years older and should have had a baby first. About four months ago, I thought I was pregnant but wasn’t, etc.), but I ultimately know her pregnancy has nothing to do with me and my childless state. I have not done well keeping my feelings in this time either. Through one way or another, she found out that I had some resentment about her being pregnant, and things have been weird between us.
There’s a part of me that feels bad. Proprietary and society tells me that I should not allow myself to feel this way. How dare I rain on her parade? This is selfish, inconsiderate, and spiteful. I should be bowing at her feet because she is having a baby. Having a baby is, after all, the greatest, most wonderful thing a woman could ever do and I’m just jealous.
Well, yeah, that about covers it. I’ll admit it: I am jealous. I am jealous, angry, bitter, sad, depressed, and I have spent many days and nights just sobbing about this and hating myself for doing it. After crying for probably the fifteenth time about this, I started to think: Am I really wrong for feeling this way? I am not angry at her and I have told her as much, but I can’t help but feel hurt – not at her specifically, but at my body first of all for never giving me a child despite past relationships, bad decisions, and lack of birth control. Other women can get pregnant accidentally, why can’t I? Is there something wrong with me? Maybe I can’t have children. Oh God, what if I can’t have children? Surely God wouldn’t punish me like this.
Then I’m mad at society for making such a big freaking deal out of having babies. Women today are bombarded with baby-crazy messages from society.
Having a baby is the best thing you’ll ever do.
Everything pales in comparison to being a mother.
Women who have babies are superior to other women.
You’ll never be complete unless you have children.
You’re not a real woman unless you can bear a child.
If you are childless, you are a failure at life.
So then I get angry. Who the hell are they to shame me for not being a mother at thirty? It’s not like I haven’t tried. What if I can’t have them? That thought gets louder and louder as I age and it truly terrifies me. When I was twenty-nine it hit me like a ton of bricks. I have passed my prime baby-making age. My eggs are rapidly dying and by the time I get to the point where I am more financially sound and able to have a baby, it might be too late.
How is that fair? Men can theoretically have babies into their 80s, women can only have them for a maximum of around twenty years, and yet we are the ones that are looked down upon if we are childless.
Ultimately I have allowed myself to be sad and angry this time, but honestly I don’t know which is worse. I’m not sure if stuffing it in and pretending to be fine all these years might have actually been better. No one else realized I was feeling the way I was and I didn’t think about it as much because I didn’t allow myself to dwell on it. Letting myself feel the way I want to feel has really only made the pain worse from what I can see. I keep waiting for it to ease off and go away, but it just keeps coming back with vengeance.
I know I’m not the only one. There are other women that have been actively trying to have babies for years before finally getting pregnant. Do they feel this way too? I am terrified that will be me and I won’t have enough time and being a mother won’t happen for me. I am afraid of being childless, but I am also afraid of being looked down upon or pitied by my friends and family and society. I am angry at women with children for feeling superior to women who can’t have babies. In truth, that’s like feeling superior to a cancer patient because you don’t have it and they do.
So what do women who feel this way do? I have avoided baby showers, I try to politely excuse myself when “mommy-shop talk” starts, and I try to focus on the positive things I have in my life that I probably wouldn’t have if I had children – like sleep, a daily shower, clothes void of baby bodily fluids, and time to myself.
The sad part is that while I value time to myself, it’s getting to be more of a burden than a blessing. In conclusion, a plea to mothers. I understand you’re busy reveling in being a mother and taking care of your children, but how about just a little understanding for the childless women in your life.