Mandy Baker Johnson

Living without Shadows

Category: Childlessness (page 2 of 2)

Having no children through infertility or singleness

Afraid Of Failing

When did I first become afraid of being unable to have children? 

In my early twenties, with no boyfriend on the horizon I had a very real fear of being ‘left on the shelf’.  I was all too aware of my body clock ticking away, and hated it when well meaning people assured me that I was still young, that there was plenty of time and ‘you never know what’s around the corner’.  To me, there wasn’t plenty of time and the years stretched ahead of me looking depressingly empty of companionship and a family of my own.  I mean, I had to meet that special someone, start going out with him, wait for him to ask me to marry him, and get married.  That all took time.  In my head I would try to chivvy God along a bit (just in case He hadn’t realised that I was running out of time):  ‘Okay Lord, if I meet someone by the end of this year then I should be married in, let’s say two years, and then all the books say you should be married for a year or two before trying for a baby.  Lord, that means I can’t have children for four more years!’  It was all very dismal at times.

But then Adrian came into my life; we enjoyed a whirlwind romance and were married within eighteen months of meeting each other.  I’d heard horror stories from friends who were already married about relatives and friends who, with the wedding safely out of the way, start dropping not-such-subtle hints about starting a family.  Thankfully, we didn’t experience that.  Instead I was gripped with the fear of failing to ‘catch’ for a baby.  There seemed something shameful in wanting something that I might not be able to have.  Other people seemed able to produce babies with relative ease, but what if I couldn’t?  Faulty defence mechanisms kicked in:  if people thought I wasn’t bothered about having children, then no one would think I was a failure if it didn’t work out. 

So from the early days of our marriage, I began dropping casual comments into conversations:  ‘I’m not really into little kids, I never have been,’ or ‘I’m rubbish with holding babies, I prefer dogs and rabbits any day’.  This irrational behaviour wasn’t based on fact, merely on fear.  On one memorable Saturday evening, I was holding forth to my brother and sister-in-law somewhat vocally about how I couldn’t stand children and couldn’t imagine having any of my own (all lies).  There was a silence while their eyes met.  And then my brother turned to me, cleared his throat and said:  ‘We wondered if you would agree to becoming the legal guardian of our children if anything happened to us.’  Classic.

I still don’t know why I felt it was so shameful to be unable to have children.  But the fear and shame persisted for the next twelve years, and became a stronghold in my life that had to be demolished.  But more on that in another post.

Roll The Die For Quads….

When I was fourteen or fifteen, I had endless conversations with my best friend at school about the kind of man we wanted to marry.  Naturally, he had to have a fantastic body and be incredibly rich.  Until this wonderful man materialised, we contented ourselves with the usual school-girl crushes. 

One of our favourite occupations was to play The Game of Life… with a twist.  Instead of playing the usual way of finding out whether we would be rich or poor, what job we would do, and whether we would end up in a mansion or a poky house, we preferred to write our own rules, and concentrated on acquiring as many children as we possibly could.  Depending on which squares we landed on we could end up with one child, twins, triplets or quads. I think we even had a square for octuplets!   We had to spin the wheel in the middle of the board to find out if they were boys or girls (yellow, orange and red was for girls, while blue, purple and green was for boys).  We also had to name all of these children, and we wrote the names down so that we couldn’t get mixed up.  They didn’t just get a first name, but second names too.  (My first ‘daughter’ was always Kylie Frederica!)  It was great fun and once we had run out of our favourite names we scoured her teen magazines for obscure and outlandish ones.  One afternoon I managed to acquire 102 children!

We often discussed what we would do if we fell in love but then found out the man we were planning to marry couldn’t give us children (it never entered our heads to wonder if we might be infertile).  It was a tough question.  Do you ditch the man you love in order to find someone else and have children?  Or do you stick with love but head for a lifetime of childlessness?  In our young hearts, a lifetime of childlessness looked terrible, absolutely the worst thing that could happen to you. 

I’m glad to say that now we’re both approaching middle age (ssshhhh, don’t tell anyone!), we’re both happily married to good men we love with all our hearts.  And my friend has been blessed with two lovely children.  As for me, you know that Adrian and I are infertile.  And I’ve decided that now is the time to take the bull by horns, as it were, and address this on my blog.  So many people, singles as well as couples, suffer from childlessness and in the forthcoming posts I want to look at how it can feel, how to learn to live with it, and whether there is healing for the emptiness inside.

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