How the psychological scars of a bad childhood can lead to childlessness and why I am looking forward to the menopause

By Nina Steele 

A couple I know, have been together for over 30 years and have 3 children. The husband has been unfaithful pretty much from the word go and has never made much effort to change his ways. He even once brought his mistress home so they can all live together! Everyone who knows them expected that, that would be the last straw as far as his wife was concerned. Surely, what more did she need to get herself out of such a toxic relationship? Well, once again, we were wrong. Not only did she stay married to him, but went on to bear him 2 more children.

She constantly complains about him to anyone who would listen yet has never found the courage to leave. It is a classic case of someone with a very low self esteem, who does not believe that she is good enough to find a better man and so has chosen what she clearly sees has her easiest option. Better the devil you know and all that. To make matters worse, the husband is also an alcoholic. On the face of it, the children seem to be developing fine with the eldest now at university, but who knows what lasting psychological damage this will have on them?

I myself was brought up in a similar environment and it took me years to grow out of most of the pain that I had accumulated growing up. After 5 failed relationships, my mother was so desperate not to end her days alone that she was willing to put up with anything and I mean anything! My stepfather not only abused her both physically and emotionally but just like the couple described above, he too was an alcoholic. To say that I grew up in a toxic environment would be an understatement, although I do also have to point out that in her own way, my mother did love all her children.

The list of the things that my stepfather did could fill a whole book. Among them are the fact that he got my cousin pregnant when she was still a minor, he molested my childhood friend, tried unsuccessfully to molest me as well, was known to have molested a young boy and was caught in a compromising position with a male prostitute. The list goes on and on.

My mother knew everything that was happening, yet chose to turn a blind eye. I built up quite a lot of anger because of it. Thankfully, I was a very courageous and strong minded child and stood up to him. He was a coward who was afraid of confrontation and so anyone brave enough to stand up to him was left alone. My eldest brothers had already moved out and so I was left to fend for myself pretty much. My mother stayed with him until his death in the late 90s.

I suspect that this is one of the reasons why I was able to come to terms with not having children in such a drastic manner. Having such a painful childhood and the absence of a male role model, meant that a stable relationship was always my number one priority. I absolutely never wanted to end up like my mother! And so even though my husband’s infertility is the reason why we are childless, the fact that our relationship is the best I have ever had, meant that I was able to put having children behind me and enjoy the life that we already have.

Many childless by choice/childfree people have come to their decisions because of experiences in their childhood they would rather forget. It never occurred to me that my yearning for a stable relationship was so deep. Deep enough for me to be so comfortable and happy with my life without children that I now go as far as taking precautions with my husband in case the odd sperm decides to finally show up!

Yes I know, how totally ridiculous since 2 operations on his gonads confirmed that my husband is azoospermic (he has no sperm) and so there is no chance of me ever becoming pregnant naturally! It also says a lot that at my age (I will be 40 in November), I am already looking forward to the menopause, so I don’t ever have to worry about becoming pregnant. When all is said and done, whatever we become, can be traced back to our childhood. This is why being a good parent is so important.

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