It seems that people either love birthdays or hate them.
For some, there is something special about birthdays. A day to look back over the past year and marvel at how far you’ve come. A day, a bit like New Year’s, to look ahead, to embrace a fresh start…
For others, birthdays are reminders that we’ve fallen short of our dreams. A reminder that another year is gone, no closer to realizing desires. A day that evokes anxiety, looking towards a future that we fear is never going to turn out like we hope…
Recently, I turned 41. And being 41 looks nothing like I hoped it would when I was 31… At that age, I would have a near panic attack thinking about being 41 and childless. My heart would race, my palms would sweat, and I would become short of breath as I thought about what I believed would be an empty life. (You can read my CNBC story here.)
But here I am, 41 and childless. As I think back, a few moments really stand out to me…
35 and Childless
I have three amazing friends who are like sisters to me. We have known each other since elementary school, and I honestly cannot imagine my life without them. At the end of February, they catch up with me in age. I move ahead of them in April. So, during March, we like to take our “friends pic” because it is the one month when we are all the same age.
Six years ago, when we were 35, we got our pictures taken at my mother-in-law’s chapel. It was fitting because Dane built it, we had our ten-year vow renewal there, one of my friends got married there, plus we had celebrated other milestones at Vesica Piscis. I love photos, so I was super excited about taking these… Well, except for one thing.
All my friends have littles and, of course, we wanted to get a big group picture with the kids. But I was not excited about being the only one there without kids. So, I decided that our fur baby, Valentine, would join in the photos. He was (and is), after all, my four-legged kiddo.
There were no objections from my friends. These ladies have never made me feel less than for not being able to get pregnant. They never questioned why we didn’t do IVF or adopt. They don’t make fun of me for treating my fur babies like my babies. And they embraced Bruna when she became a part of our family. I am beyond blessed that they are in my life, and I do not think I will ever be able to fully express how much they mean to me… How absolutely incredible these ladies are…
40 and Childless
Turning 40 is a big milestone. Turning 40 and still being childless… Well, in my 30s, I thought it would be the worst thing in the world. I thought it would be devastating…
In my 30s, I never imagined how my 40th birthday actually turned out. I never imagined that I would spend it in Brazil, exploring Sao Paulo with our exchange daughter and her sister. I never imagined that I would be meeting our exchange daughter’s family at a Hello Kitty themed surprise party they planned for me. I never imagined that I would be childless and yet would still somehow celebrate my birthday with my daughter…
41 and Childless
And this year… My 41st birthday, which fell on Friday the 13th… Well, it perfectly summed up my life. My nephew and exchange daughter texted me, my nieces FaceTimed and sang “Happy Birthday,” my Brazilian & Oklahoma family sent me tons of Facebook messages, and my new childless community gave me lots of birthday wishes, as well.
That evening, I sat in our snug, surrounded by photos of all our friends & family, with Maddie on my lap, opening beautiful birthday cards while my hubby took pictures. (Because I do love pictures!) And this one is my favorite because it perfectly captures what being 41 and childless looks like… Well, at least for me.
And this reminiscing and contemplating made me realize…
I recently heard on the radio that the younger generation is the most connected because of technology and yet is the loneliest generation ever. The speaker said they suffer from FOMO, or the Fear Of Missing Out.
Unfortunately, I believe this description accurately describes many in the childless not by choice community. Although we are often very connected to others through social media, we still feel quite alone. And FOMO… Well, the fear of missing out can be crippling.
At 31, I feared that I would miss out on beautiful moments, that my life would be empty and sad. I feared that 41 and childless meant my hubby and I would be alone, living in a silent house with no laughter, no pitter-patter, no joy.
But this could not be further from the truth. My 41 and childless life–our life–is full, as shown on the walls of our snug, which contain 31 photos of lovely moments with friends and family. We have joy, laughter, and love. We have each other and more…
What I really should have been worried about at 31 was missing out on all the beautiful moments I told you about above…
35 and FOMO
At 35 and childless, I could have decided that I didn’t want to take photos with my friends because I didn’t have a little. I could have said, “No,” for fear that it would be too painful. Or I could have gone without Valentine and felt awkward, alone, left out. And how awful that would have been because I would have missed the sweet, sweet moment when Baby Jake reached out his hand to pet my sweet, sweet Valentine.
38 and FOMO
At 38 and childless, when Dane & I learned about the opportunity to host a foreign exchange student, I could have said, “No.” This kid wouldn’t be our “real kid.” It was only for six months. Why bother? I could have convinced myself that I didn’t want a teenager, that hosting wasn’t the path I wanted! But what a travesty that would have been because I would have missed out on the pure contentment I felt on my 40th birthday, standing next to Dane & Bruna as my Brazilian family sang to me while the candle on my cake lit up like a firecracker!
41 and FOMO
At 41 and childless, I could still be wishing, desperate for a different life, for the life I dreamed of when I was 31. I could say, “No.” This isn’t the life I planned. This isn’t the life I wanted. But what a tragedy that would be because I would miss out on sweet moments with my Maddie like the one my hubby captured, giving her kisses and receiving her love. And all because life didn’t turn out exactly like I had pictured…
The Best Advice I Ever Got…
Fabulous one, I’m going to share the best advice I have ever got…
After Bruna left, I was heartbroken. Having a two-legged kiddo in our home was the best time of my life, and I simply did not want it to end. I had fallen in love with that kid, and I missed her so terribly that my heart ached deep, deep in my soul. Honestly, I was in danger of falling back into my grief. But my hubby said this…
It’s okay to be sad. Just don’t stay there. -Dane Lytle
So, I was sad. Deeply, deeply sad. I cried, and I allowed myself to feel the pain of her leaving. But I didn’t stay there. I accepted that we had a new normal. We would text, skype, and visit each other every six months to a year. I accepted that my every day life would be with Maddie and Dane and that I had an entire extended family in Brazil and back in Oklahoma. I didn’t stay sad. I accepted the what is and moved forward in joy.
My hope for you…
I pray that you do not suffer from FOMO. Because the fear of missing out may very well cause you to do just that–miss out. While wishing for the life you had hoped for, you risk missing out on beautiful moments happening in the life that is. And what a tragedy that would be. So, please, really look at the moments of your life, find the joy, see the bright side, accept the now.
And if you are thinking, but I am just so sad. Well, just remember…
It’s okay to be sad. Just don’t stay there.
Read more about Our Journey…
Featured Photo: Revac Film’s&Photography on StockSnap.io
Fantastic post and so glad to have found it through the childless Facebook group – I am currently 40 and childless and not quite there on finishing that journey but pretty much having to make a final choice – I look back on my 30’s and see all the great times I have had too but this inspires me to say yes to the tougher things like photos with friends and their kids and to keep finding the amazing-ness in life inspite of the sadness so thank you! How did you get involved in the student exchange programme (although I am in the UK)
I’m so glad that this post spoke to you, Jess! And I’m super grateful that you are going to “keep finding the amazing-ness in life!” Sometimes it’s tough, but it is so worth it! 🙂
As for the student exchange program, we met the local coordinator of our area at a cooking class (I wrote a blog about that – here’s the link if you want to read it – https://notsomommy.com/the-cooking-class-that-changed-my-life/ ), filled out the paperwork, and two months later, Bruna was in our home! Take a look at my host mom page – https://notsomommy.com/host-mom/ – for some links about various programs. It is an incredible experience! I encourage you to give it a try!
Ditto ? My husband has also given me that excellent piece of advice. We are living our best life and we learnt long ago to make the best of the cards that God dealt us.
What a lovely post… Birthdays have become a pet hate for me, not because of not having children but because my family & friends think I’ve got to the age where I don’t need to get cards/greetings any more – they’ve even voiced it: “You have *insert hub’s name* so we know you’re ok”. Cards, presents etc dropped off suddenly in my early 40s, although I hadn’t stopped giving (thoughtful stuff) to them. So I kind of dread birthdays: my sister and niece don’t send anything now, my best friend stopped… I might get a couple of WhatsApps but that’s it…. This sounds super-self indulgent and pathetic, but maybe birthdays bring out the child in us…. I envy you your female friends: the only thing I feel is missing in my life at 46 is those very strong female friendships you have in your 20s. At least it’s not children anyway, which is a good thing! I barely give that a thought any more – community is much more important for me now. Thanks for a fab post
Thank you for your kind words about this post. Not to sound less than humble, but I really liked this blog… I’m sorry that you don’t have close female relationships now. They can be hard to maintain. I’m grateful that my friends have tried as hard as me to stay in touch. And I’m sorry your friends and family have stopped sending gifts/cards/etc for your birthday. That really stinks! Perhaps it’s because both my dad and Dane’s dad died young, but we believe birthdays should be celebrated for as many as you are blessed to have! I’m not sure when your bday is, but I’m going to go ahead and say “Happy Birthday to you!” 🙂
LOVE this story – and I am so glad you didn’t say no to all those memories!!
A belated happy birthday! Yes, the key is to be sad, but not to stay there. My 41st birthday was the worst of my life. (It was the DAY that I learned I would be childless forever.) But since then, I’ve had some amazing birthdays, and barely flicker at the memories of that day.
Hmmm – I could say more, but I think you might have prompted a post on this from me as well!
Thank you for the birthday wishes, Mali! I’m so glad that you are in a better place. I look forward to your post reflecting on birthdays and being childless. 🙂
I’ve written a post, and amended your husband’s quote to fit my reality! Here it is – https://nokiddinginnz.blogspot.co.nz/2018/04/you-wont-always-be-sad.html
I truly love your take on my hubby’s quote and the tweak you made to it. Seeing various perspectives is a wonderful thing… Lovely post, Mali. 🙂
God definitely touched you with blessing after blessing, even if it was a bit different than you had planned. His plan is perfect.????❤I am so grateful to be a part of it.