By Karen Malone Wright
Every NotMom has her own story, of course, and while there may be similarities, each one is unique. Even so, I was totally caught off guard when I met a woman who took my business card and then said, “Oh, that’s me! I’m a NotMom.” That wasn’t the surprising part — in fact, I often get that response. (1 of every 5, and all that.)
The surprise was that when asked if she is “by choice or by chance,” she replied: “Both.”
She went on to explain that she’d spent much of her 20s trying to conceive. Throughout the process, she promised herself that if she weren’t pregnant by 35, she’d stop trying. Which is what she did, with few second thoughts or regrets. From by-chance to by-choice. By her 40th birthday, she said she knew she’d done the right thing for her.
I’ve written before about ambivalence and NotMoms, what some refer to as childless by happenstance, and this woman’s story reminds me of my own. The difference is that she was content with the outcome, perhaps because she did make, and accept, a conscious choice. For me, laissez-faire was fine as long as I thought “it” might happen at any time. Once it was clear that there were no chances left, I became resentful, angry and sad about my own lack of action.
Like so many things in life, this, too, may be a control issue. By owning the decision not to reproduce, it seems there’s less chance to miss what you never had, because you chose not to have it. (Perhaps that’s why so many childfree women are annoyed when others insist they’ll regret their decision. These women know their hearts better than any outsider.)
It’s when we don’t have or take control, don’t have a choice or don’t make a choice, that the seeds of depression and angst are planted. Grief begins to ebb in all instances with acceptance. But, acceptance can be slow to come.
I thought I was sharing a compliment when I told my new acquaintance that it’s rare to meet someone who finds acceptance so easily. She laughed and reminded me that the only thing she “accepted” was her own reality. She was never ambivalent about wanting children; she wanted them, but she was only willing to go so far to get them. She doesn’t deny having an occasional heart-sob, even now that she’s past 50. Peace came from knowing her own mind, leaving her to generally feel in control, and content.