Childless. Before World Childless Week, this is not a word that I would have used to describe myself. It sounds sad, depressing, lonely. “Less” isn’t a word that I normally like to associate with myself. I mean, who wants to be “less?”
But childless is in fact what I am. At least, in the most straight-forward definition. I have never been pregnant and my husband and I did not adopt a child. We don’t have kiddos living in our home, so to the world, it appears that we simply don’t have kids. And in the traditional sense, we do not.
Not childfree …
But despite this, we are definitely not childfree. How is this possible? Well, for one, we have nieces and nephews—by blood, by marriage, and simply adopted by me. Secondly, we have Maddie, and our fur baby is completely and totally our kid. And finally, we have Bruna, our exchange daughter, who we now just claim as our daughter. She is family and we love her, so we call her our kid and she calls us her American parents. (Read more of that story here…)
Because of these kids—both two-legged and four-legged—I do not define myself as childfree. But because my family has grown in non-traditional ways and because we do not have a two-legged kid that we are solely responsible for, I do identify with childless women and men. And like I said before, to the world, I am childless. So, the description works.
There are many ways to be childless …
I’ve said before that I think we are too obsessed with labels. (Read that blog post here…) One reason I believe this is because people simply can’t be put into neat, little boxes. I mean, what childless looks like for me is not what it looks like for everyone. In fact, there are many ways to be childless. I am childless by chance, by circumstance, not by choice. I am childless and infertile. To my surprise, less than 9% of people are childless due to infertility, however. Jody Day, founder of Gateway Women and fellow childless woman, wrote an article outlining 50 ways not to be a mother.
The Childless Mother
What some may find even more surprising is that you can actually be a childless mother. But unlike me with non-traditional kids, many childless mothers lost their babies during pregnancy. Personally, I have no idea the depth of pain these women must feel. I am so deeply, deeply sorry for their loss, and I pray that they have found comfort in God. Their strength amazes me.
I actually prayed to God when we were in the midst of our infertility battle, asking Him not to allow me to get pregnant if I was going to lose the baby. I prayed fervently, “God, if I cannot carry a healthy baby to full term, then please do not allow me to get pregnant.” Perhaps that was selfish of me. I just did not believe that I could bear the pain of losing a child that I had felt in my womb. The thought absolutely terrified me.
Unfortunately, too many women have lived this nightmare. In fact, one in four pregnancies ends with the loss of the baby. The month of October is dedicated to remembering these littles and bringing awareness to pregnancy and infant loss.
Look deeper …
To those of you blessed with children, please don’t ever say, “If you had kids, you’d understand.” Please, realize that just because you don’t see someone’s littles doesn’t mean they don’t have littles in their heart. It doesn’t mean that they don’t love a child with their entire being (either one taken from their womb or one prayed for but never realized).
We childless are capable of great love, great understanding, great empathy. We have lost dreams and rebuilt our lives, taken a different path and struggled to find our way. Oh, we understand. We fully understand what it means to love, to lose, to live.