My Childless Journey - One Person's Testimony
After several years working for the University of Bristol I started to think about the next stage in my career but I thought to myself, in the next year or so you will be going on maternity leave and then like lots of working mums you will most likely change to working part time hours, so stick where you are for now. But that day never came... Every time my work colleagues proudly presented me with their latest scan or we had a “meet my new baby” session in the office my heart broke a little bit more each time. I didn’t know at the time, but I was experiencing grief. Grief for what you say? Grief for the child I would never hold, never see walk for the first time, never hold a birthday party for, never see graduate. The family unit I would not be part of and the grandparent I would never become. Meanwhile I had to carry on working, I couldn’t tell anybody, I wanted to hide away from it, it was easier almost to stay in denial than face the pain of reality. Most people generally assume if you don’t have children it is because you didn’t want them, you are a more interested in your career or even too selfish. Yet 1 in 5 women in their 40’s are childless not by choice. As oppose to those who are childfree, consciously choosing not to have children.
I didn’t want sympathy or suggestions on how I could maybe adopt or have IVF (believe me if you are childless not by choice you have researched all your options!). All I wanted was support and empathy. Which I found here at the University. Having confided in my line manager, I changed my hours to flexible working, giving me time to attend counselling sessions and work through my grief. I attended the staff counselling service, the notice board of new baby photos was moved from the main thoroughfare and on the 'meet the new baby' office days I have a choice if I want to be there. Don’t get me wrong I am really happy for all new mums but if I am at work, I would rather be pre-warned before being confronted with the one thing which reminds me of the one thing I will never have. Having a child is probably the biggest life changing thing to happen to a parent, it is also the biggest thing not to happen to a childless man or women. I am lucky to have the support in the work place but there is still a long way to go before there is general awareness in the work environment.