I'm grieving for the children I don’t have.
The grief that I feel as a childless woman in my thirties, with no babies for me on the horizon, is different from the other types of grief I feel. It’s longing for a love I have yet to know, versus missing the loves I’ve known but who are no longer in my life. I’ve never been pregnant. I’ve never had a child. I feel for those who have lost pregnancies, and lost children—I can’t imagine the grief of having your child taken away from you…I’ve watched my grandmother, now in her late nineties, navigate having lost both of her children in this, at times, very cruel world.
This grief I feel is for something I never even had to begin with.
I've always been excited to become a mom. I never got to be mothered by my own mother– cancer stole that opportunity from us. So, it makes sense why I've always been captivated by baby dolls and babysitting and teaching and working in early childhood education: I've tried to fill that mama void by mothering at every opportunity. (You could argue that I even tried to mother my ex in my marriage, a lost cause for us both.)
My ex and I both wanted to have kids, but we both knew that we weren't ready yet. It was a tragic realization over a decade, that things never got better enough in our relationship to the point where we wanted to bring kids into the picture. And it's not that we didn't try to work on us. We each invested so much time and energy into couples therapy and individual therapy, books, retreats, all the things people do when they want to heal. We wanted to be together and we wanted to be parents. We had even picked the names of our future children (first and middle names, because we were planners!) after family members we'd lost. But we just couldn't make things work.
I had taken the right steps to have children– I was on-track. I was married at 26 to a man I loved…I'm 32 now, but the track is long-gone. No husband. No kids. Just lots of grief.
As a part of Grieve Leave, and generally just as a part of being in my 30s, I'm finding moments to spend time with my close friends, many of whom now have young children. Spending time with my friends who have become parents is full of grief for me. It's so many layers-deep.
My grief is a mix of jealousy and vindication at the same time. I know I never had what these couples have: their communication, trust, and gentleness with each other. The ebb and flow, the learned balance that comes from the struggles of pregnancy, birth, and child-rearing. When I see my friends who are new parents, I know I made the right decision to leave my marriage...but my god, am I sad about it.
With all this in mind, I’m choosing to grieve: to process the grief that I feel and not turn away from the longing I have for children. I'm grieving when I'm playing on the floor with my friends’ beautiful babies, who are learning and growing with every breath, every new word, every toddling step. They look just like their parents. My heart aches that I don't get this same joy. And I know that my friends know how I'm feeling. When we all sit together around the baby, my grief is unspoken but oh-so-present. It just sits there with us as I smile and boop the baby's nose.