This story is part of our End of the Childbearing Years series, exploring the experiences, decisions, and feelings of Mormon women around this pivotal transition. Each story is a generous and vulnerable offering. We ask that comments be sensitive and nonjudgmental toward any woman’s choices or beliefs.
By Juanita Verma
It is hard to succinctly describe the multitude of feelings I have as a never married 48-year-old female without children. The dominant feelings are probably of hidden grief and pain from unfulfilled wishes, hopes, and dreams for my life.
As a young college gal, I remember hoping I would have five children. As time marched forward, my dream changed as I knew I would need to have the children in a shorter time span. So I wished for one child, and then for twins, and then for triplets. As my 40s progressed, every now and then I would Google the possibility of having viable eggs.
There is no consolation prize for putting up with all the physical discomforts of menstruation and not getting a child! At this point, the time of month is inconsistent for me and has not occurred for several months. I don’t know if I will experience it again. But there is an emotional component as well, as others have said, it reminds us we are not having a child.
Earlier this year, I began counseling to deal with this double grief of being both single and childless. My hope was to get insight and help so I could get to the next level of happiness and move forward joyfully. At this point, my pain is probably more due to being single than not having a child. But the pain of not having a child impacts me as well and can be sneaky in inflicting pain, such as when I see the happy moments others have with their child and knowing I have not and won’t have such moments. I’ll never get cute notes from kids or grandkids, never see them dress up for prom or Halloween, never send them off to the first day of school or a mission. But I want to be genuinely happy for others even when I hurt or feel envy about my missed chances for family life and motherhood.
As the time of month leaves me, I realize hope is leaving as well. Up until this time, I could daydream of my supposed ideal life. The pain of realizing I won’t have children is a real pain that at times hurts my heart.
I care for those who are infertile, and my compassion for these individuals has grown through participation in a support group for those who are childless. I have respect for those who have had children while unmarried. I respect those who participate in foster care or adopt. I feel these are not the choice for me, yet I am still trying to figure out Heavenly Father’s plan for me.
I recall a few years ago standing in our church parking lot, chatting with a friend who conceived her beautiful children via in vitro. We empathized about hidden unrealized grief and joked how supporting those with such grief is something you cannot send a sign-up sheet around for in Relief Society. I recall hearing someone share a testimony of gratitude that the Lord trusted her due to the children He had entrusted to her. I felt that the message was I must not be trusted since I don’t have children. However, I am working on recognizing other situations where I am trusted, such as in my work with my patients or in my volunteer work. I am trying to make a difference.
At times I have felt deprived in learning some of the lessons of mortality, as we learn simple gospel lessons through children. However, I do feel the Lord has compensated me in that I have been able to learn many beautiful gospel truths through the other people I interact with in my daily life.
It helps to know Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ understand our emotions, heartaches, pains. That it is OK when we struggle. “That he will take upon him the pains and the sicknesses of his people” (Alma 7:11).
So what do I need as I try to work through this pain? I want respect. I want to be honored somehow for my life and choices. I want my life validated. If a friend’s child returns from a mission or gets married or something else, it is a time people recognize that they have done a good job. But as a single childless person, I do not get a similar public validation.
Please realize I am valuable and have things to contribute. Be patient with me as I process my life so far. I realize this is my unique experience that may or may not resonate with someone else. It is a hidden pain with deep layers, like an iceberg. I have prayed for several years for my desire for a husband or child to be removed from my heart. My hope in uttering that prayer was that without this pain I could be more efficient in service to others, as I would not spend time in dealing with depression. Yet the desire is still there.
Trying to say goodbye to the realization I won’t have a child is a long and painful journey. It means saying goodbye to the dreams, hopes, and wishes of earlier years. It means finding support and understanding as I continue onward in life, and hopefully move forward to a place of greater joy and happiness.