Continuing the theme, Emilie Pine in Vogue writes about ‘the mixed blessing of never conceiving’. I’m about the same age as Pine and I agree with everything she says about the aftermath of discovering you’ll never be a parent. The ‘window’ for conceiving, when you can’t actually conceive, can feel like the worst kind of limbo, the future an unpunctuated void:
For a long time, during what I think of as “the baby years”, I felt as if I were on the sidelines, as if the centre of life were moving on without me.
I love that she read the same article as I did (I recall this one clearly! The Guardian magazine if I’m not mistaken…), and had the exact same response:
During the baby years I read a piece online, one of the first I’d read about infertility, written by a woman who had spent years unsuccessfully going through IVF. She had taken up sea swimming in response. I felt so much solidarity with her, with the emotional pitfalls and loneliness she expressed, and admiration for her resilience. In a dark time, it gave me hope. And then I saw the bottom of the article. A picture of her smilingly holding her daughter. “It was all worth it in the end,” she said. I could have thrown the laptop across the room.
But The Fear passes, and you might emerge happier on the other side. For her own narrative, Pine chooses to reject the tragic childless woman trope and write herself a happy ending:
I wrote about the great life I saw ahead for me and my partner. A life without children. It felt speculative. And it felt hopeful. And, most of all, it felt like a giant “f**k you” to the persistent expectation that a childless woman is a tragic figure.
This I love. And to those who despair because they cannot find other couples their own age to take inspiration from:
For years I looked elsewhere for models of happy older couples who did not have children. It is only now that I realise I don’t need a model: we are living it.
I write this occasional blog for one reason: in the hope that people out there who are just entering the post-‘baby years’ – strangers to me who will read this without my ever knowing it – will stumble upon it and be comforted to know that this too shall pass, as they say.