Life Without Baby

Filling the silence in the motherhood discussion

The Ticking Clock November 30, 2010

I always expected to have children. I never had a burning desire that had to be kept under control by my logical self; I just had an expectation that one day I’d have kids.

Then I hit 30.

All of a sudden, the desire kicked in and I started shaping my life in preparation for having a family of my own. Once I met my husband (I was around 32) that desire burst into flames, and when I first realized I wasn’t going to get pregnant on-demand, the fire started raging out of control.

Now the fire is out again. I still love children, still go starry eyed at babies, but that desire to reproduce has been snuffed out. I don’t miss it, but it does make me wonder how much of the ticking clock is hormonal and how much is mental. How did I go from being nonchalant about having children to being insane with desire to genuinely stamping out that desire? Did my hormones just run their course or was it the act of convincing myself to give it up that brought the change? I’m leaning towards the latter, but it was the former that started it in the first place.

How about you? Did your clock ever start ticking or has it been ticking for years and won’t shut up? Is the desire to reproduce purely hormonal or do we control the desire. I’m interested to know how it felt for you and how you feel now.

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13 Responses to “The Ticking Clock”

  1. Artemis Says:

    I don’t believe in that kind of clock. I think it’s mental and the pressure from society makes it even worse. You get so much “good girl” if you have kids and so much of the opposite if you don’t… No wonder a lot of women want to have kids like crazy. Their identity depends on their childbearing status….

  2. Kathryn Says:

    Nah. I wanted to be a mama from the time i was small. It totally consumed me by the time i was 17 or so. But i also had morals! Married someone at 20 and we didn’t have kids (his health issue not mine). But i also never pushed it because our life together was rather chaotic. However, that desire continued to rage.

    We divorced & i was on my own for quite some time. In my 30s i kind of let the “i want a baby” fade to a back burner. It did not go away, but i wasn’t meeting anyone to have a family with, so i tried not to focus on it. Also, i imagined that if i met someone to share the rest of my life with, it would be someone older who already had kids.

    So, it was a surprise to me to meet the wonderful man who became my hubby. He was in his mid-30s but i was in my early 40s. He’d never been married & loved kids. We didn’t know if we could have children, but we wanted them. We’ve lost 3. It was interesting to me to see a mama in church this week with 3 between the ages of 1 & 4. Ours would be 18 months to 4-1/2. It is also interesting to me that she gets 3 while we get none (not that her having children takes away from us), but the feeling of bitterness is not as great as it once was.

    There are so many “if onlies.” Hubby & i could have met 10 years earlier as we both have mutual friends of that time. If we had known right away the children wouldn’t happen, we would have begun the adoption track (but we were pregnant within a year of being married, i thought if i was patient it would happen). If i hadn’t had a chronic illness take me to being more disabled recently so that i’m not able to care for children. If, if, if. . . i try not to do “if” because it leads to discontentment.

    Yes, i’m still rather jealous when i hear of others having children, especially the ones who get pregnant so easily, or the ones having their 4th, 5th, etc. baby. But it is calming a little bit. Largely ’cause i’m working at it. I do speak more about being “a family of two” or “a childless family.” I’m old enough to be a granny now, i need to accept a life without children. I don’t want to be a bitter old lady.

    We have begun doing some unofficial mentoring of a couple of children. That seems to help, at least a little.

    • lmanterfield Says:

      Kathryn, I hope you can read the calmness in your response here. Whatever you are doing to “work at it,” it is definitely doing the trick. I appreciate you sharing your story too.

  3. Lily Says:

    I was in no hurry to have kids when we got married and I still think that was the right choice. I wasn’t ready and there’s no going back so there’s no point dwelling on that. Then the miscarriages really sent me into a tailspin and really brought that primal feeling of procreating to the forefront. Now several years later, even a recent miscarriage, I am okay. Most days I am happy. I noticed recently that I am firmly on the other side and it’s not hell at all, it’s actually a lovely place to be.

  4. Kira Says:

    I believe it is cultural/mental. I never felt a real urge to raise children.

    Any uneasiness on my part has stemmed from a lack of role model for the future and negative comments from others about (my) not having had children.

    I’ve decided to remove myself from those situations as much as possible and as I have, I find myself perfectly content, no uneasiness. There is so much to be had in life, I try not to focus on perceived “losses”.

    • Iris D Says:

      “Any uneasiness on my part has stemmed from a lack of role model for the future and negative comments from others about (my) not having had children.”

      Kira, I think for me this has been a huge factor in addition to the basic human reaction of wanting what you cannot have or what is difficult/nearly impossible to attain.

      By my mid-20s all of my close friends from high school already had children. I was working on my masters and not in a relationship. In my early 30s, I still was not child focused, and unmarried though in a longterm relationship. I was hoping we’d take the next step and get married. I went back to school for a PhD. and got married. Never used birth control after that. First at work (I was a teacher) and then in grad school, I always made really interesting friends with whom I could talk about all sorts of topics. I felt enriched by these friendships.

      Then my oldest (still childless) friends all started having children (one at 37, the other at 41 -her sister and a mutual friend at 43). We grew apart. They were busy with their babies and I think preferred talking to their mom friends, with which they now had more in common.

      The nosy questions started. In the last month (when I went to visit relatives abroad) and since my return, I have been asked between 10-15 times if I have children or some other question about my childless status, or been told that I need to get going.

      I have one happy childless by choice friend. And I am so glad to have found a community of women like Lisa who are out there, even if in cyberspace, and talking about life as childfree women after infertility. A big part of the sorrow is the feeling of isolation (real or imagined).

  5. Kathleen Guthrie Says:

    I always wanted to be a mommy and still love lovin’ my nieces and nephews (although I’m at peace with my childfree status). When I learned that a couple of close friends NEVER had the urges, never had the least desire to be mothers, I was shocked. Now, in some ways, I envy them. How much simpler their lives have been.

  6. Mali Says:

    Wow. I blogged about this (or an aspect of it) a little yesterday, and also talked online to someone who feared she might be moving to the “other side.” Wonder why it’s all coming up now?

    I was in a very similar position to Lily – wasn’t bothered about children until it wasn’t going to happen, then two losses (yes, hormones) really flicked a switch that made my clock tick loudly.

    I think our brains take care of this. When it’s not an option, we can’t think about it, it isn’t productive, and if we don’t think about, let ourselves feel what we’ve lost, then it doesn’t hurt.

    I agree with Lily – when we let ourselves, when we don’t feel guilty – the other side is a lovely place to be.

  7. Kate B Says:

    I wanted children for as long as I can remember. Unfortunately, I didn’t meet the man I married until I was 40. By the time we started trying, it was too late. Sometimes I wish I had been bold and tried to have a child when I was single, or at the very least didn’t wait 6 months trying on our own at age 43. Sometimes I wish we had just gone to City Hall and gotten married and put all that money towards adoption.

  8. snarkyhughes Says:

    I think it’s hormonal, emotional and spiritual. I always wanted to be a mom, but I also understand that my time appears to be up. I am VERY lucky that I was fortunate enough to conceive and have a daughter at 39, but since her birth I’ve lost 2. The desire is there- the ability is not.

  9. Sandy Says:

    I didn’t want children until I turned 34, maybe having a brother and sister that are 13 and 15 years younger and having had to help raise them was part of that.

    At 29 I married dh on the condition that he never ask me to have children. Had my tubes tied at 30 I was so certain. At 33 the first whisperings started and by 34 I had my tubes untied because the whispers turned to shrieks. I needed to have a baseball team worth of children and I needed them now. Obsessive ttc, cycles of clomid, just relaxing, going on holiday, testing, more testing, low and deformed sperm count, only one fallopian tube, hormones awry, and other factors. IVF consult, 5-10% chance of success, declined. Turns out even if I hadn’t had my tubes tied there would have been major challenges. Four years of intense “I am nothing more than a trying to make baby machine” listening to well meaning but horrible advice, and finally complete and utter fatigue.

    At 38 we closed the door, or so we thought – grieved off and on for a couple of years and by 40 was mostly back in the “life is good even without children”. A surprise pregnancy at 43 and a devastating diagnosis of blighted ovum at 10 weeks. D&C day after Christmas. My sister announces her pregnancy a week later after only 2 mos of ttc.

    I do think there’s something about actually getting pregnant that increases the drive 100fold if not more. I was never so frantic about ttc as I was after the loss, we almost divorced over it. In the end with the history of birth defects to older mothers in our family I decided to not pursue another pregnancy. It’s taken as long to recover this time around as it did the first time and I’m sure a year of that was hormones. I think we would have gone a lot further in the ttc world if I had gotten pregnant during the initial stint of trying.

    I agree with you, the onset is hormonal for some of us, you could have knocked me over with a stick when the first maternal urges started to show up and no matter how I tried (and wanted to) I couldn’t put that genie back in the box.

    At 46 I am through the worst of the loss of the baby but this time of year is hard at times. Most of the time, however, I do think of myself as past the wanting a baby stage and now I find I’m more envious of my friends who are having their uteri removed.

    I think it’s a decision process to come to terms and to get to this side and involves a lot of hard work. For some of us it’s easier than others. I always was grateful that I had only spent a few years wanting to get pregnant vs those that had always wanted to be mothers. Stepping over to this side was easier for me. Still difficult, mind you, but I suspect easier than for others.

    Would I be a mother if I could? Absolutely! But in time it becomes easier to see that children are no guarantee of happiness – my oldest niece has just been diagnosed with schizophrenia and my youngest nephew has been colicky since he was born six months ago. I have a couple of friends whose pregnancies have resulted in special needs children.

    Probably way too long of an answer.

    I’ve been enjoying reading your blog. I found it through Silent Sorority.

  10. Kelly Fleming Says:

    My clock started when I was around age 20 and I dreamt that I was holding the hand of my daughter; I only saw us from the back, but she was about four years old and had a pretty dress on and blonde hair, and she was looking up at me, and there was such love in that little hand I was holding. The dream was so realistic, that when I woke up I was unbearably sad to realize that it wasn’t real. Then I felt really weird that I could be so unsettled by a dream.
    By the age of 30 the clock was clanging around loudly in my head, like a tower bell going off, and I swear it was all I could hear. I don’t think everyone experiences this. I have to wonder if my clock was trying to tell me something. Turns out I had hypothyroidism and it had already started shutting down my fertility system. I didn’t learn this for another 3 years, when I endured one of those painful ‘sonohysterograms’ to find out that my ovaries were already closing up business. We tried four IVF cycles but just came out of it with empty arms and rheumatoid arthritis.
    I have no idea how I am dealing with this result, I can only say that I have a strong desire to move forward in life, I’ve spent so many years waiting and trying and slowly dying inside. This experience has changed me, I can tell you that. And I derive a lot of strength from writers like you, so thank you.

  11. Lee Cockrum Says:

    I think it definitely varies greatly from person to person. I have wanted to have children since I was very young. I was the oldest, always had baby dolls, took care of younger siblings and cousins, then began to babysit when I was old enough. I visualized a home full of children, biological and adopted. I began a career as a pediatric physical therapist, which I loved, and still love almost 25 years later.

    As time passed, and I did not meet someone, I contemplated the idea of adopting on my own, perhaps even using a sperm bank, but never made that decision. In many ways I now wish that I had done it.

    I was 36 when I met my husband. He had a child from a previous marriage, and was ambivalent about more children. but I decided that I did not want to give up someone that I loved for the possibility of children. We stopped preventing pregnancy when I was 37, but it has just never happened. Because of various factors we never pursued any fertility options.

    I am almost 47, and it has been so hard to deal with the crushing depression of the past several years. Although I logically know that a baby at this point would be a HUGE upheaval, and probably really hard on our marriage, it is devastatingly difficult to deal with the loss of what I thought I would have. Never, in all my early years did I think that I would not have children.

    Now I am trying to find ways to work through the overwhelming sadness that I feel at times, ways to enjoy the “secondary gains” that can result from not having children. I know that my life is not “bad”, I know that in so many ways I am lucky, and have a very good life. It just is not the life that I always dreamed of having.

    I also have to deal with my anger at people who don’t appreciate what they have with their children. (I don’t mean the occasional total exhaustion and grumpiness, that I get!!! I mean those who just wish their lives away, constantly looking forward to some “future” that will be better than their present.)


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