Guest Post By Shirley Nelson
I’m a child of the 60’s, experiencing much of life through the lens of free choice and a longing for peace for every man, woman, and child. These simple values shaped my world and I’ve not moved too far from that philosophy as an adult.
For the most part, I have always been at peace in regards to not having children. However, when I was 39, I became menopausal, much earlier than I could have imagined. At the time, I had just experienced a major surgery, which may have had something to do with it but I couldn’t prove it. Nevertheless, it was then that I felt a stab of pain at no longer having a choice.
For me, it’s always been about “the choice”. As long as I thought I had a choice I was fine being childless. But, as soon as that choice no longer existed, I resisted the shift in my status and felt resentful. Those feelings lasted a couple of years. After much soul searching, I saw that unhealthy relationship choices and unresolved inner turmoil had almost killed me.
With newfound forgiveness, and a sense of gratitude for how life had unfolded, I discovered the need to nurture was real for me. I re-directed my energies to find balance between my needs and desires.
That was 14 years ago when self-realization inspired me to form a women’s spiritual support group. Looking for ways to help others experience their Oneness with the Divine, and creating an atmosphere where women release the stresses of the world for a few hours has been just as much of a healing for me as it has for them. We talk about things that are meaningful in our lives, primarily those things that we consider to be spiritual. I support the group with readings, reflections, poetry, music, presenters, and creative exercises to open the heart and soften the lens for those who are healing from the past.
The group’s unspoken agenda is quite simple: It’s basically about self-acceptance. My goal is to help women to appreciate themselves just the way they are—good, bad, or indifferent—children or no children, partner/husband or not. I help them see that their experience of spiritual depth can be wonderfully unique and does not have to look like what anyone thinks it should look like.
From a spiritual perspective, I always believed that what was for me would find me. This is not only how I felt about motherhood, but it was how I felt about most things in life. The best way I can describe it is to paraphrase a story I heard about a wise woman and her son:
The boy was the woman’s pride and joy, yet she understood that as much as she loved him, she knew she could not control him, nor predict life’s twists and turns. One day, the two were gifted with a beautiful horse. The townspeople marveled at this grand gesture and how blessed the woman was to receive it. She replied, “Maybe so, maybe not”.
But, her son took a fall while learning to ride, and the horse crushed one of his legs. The neighbors were shocked she did not shoot the horse in anger. Hadn’t a horrible thing happened? The wise woman said, “Maybe so, maybe not”.
Days later, the army came to the town and took all able-bodied young men. The action led to a battlefield for them all. The townspeople said, “You’re so lucky your son didn’t go to the war!” And, once again, the wise woman said, “Maybe so, maybe not”.
The story continues with similar incidents that show good and bad in all things and people who are OK with what is.
I do not regret not having children, but I’m not sure that would be the case if I had not found fulfillment elsewhere. These days I am totally reliant on spiritual practices that help me to maintain a good sense of self and the things that I find meaningful in life.
I understand that not everyone was meant to have children, and I recognize that I am among that group. So much of what’s needed in good parenting are people who are emotionally mature. Although I always seemed to have had an extra measure of wisdom to pass along to others, I was well into my 40’s before I found some balance and stability in a world that had often felt hostile and confusing.
These days, when someone says, “Oh, it’s a shame you never had children,” I say, “Maybe so, maybe not.”
Shirley Nelson is a certified life skills coach and retreat facilitator in Cleveland, OH working with large and small groups, including her own grassroots organization, San’s Sacred Circle, to develop sustainable practices for emotional and spiritual healing. She served as vice president for operations and program coordinator of a major not-for-profit before entering semi-retirement several years ago.