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Ellabelle’s Story: My whole future changed for the better when I decided not to have children

Young childfree womanGrowing up with an undiagnosed learning disability, not really knowing what I was good at, and being quite a nurturing person, I always assumed that I was destined for motherhood. All of my teenage years and early 20s involved a slow progression of giving up on anything that wouldn’t further my goal to be a parent. I couldn’t handle the commitment of trying to “have it all”, I knew that. What would be the point in education and a career when I was so likely to fail and would be giving it all up for children anyway? And I wanted that future so badly.

When I was barely 23, I discovered a forum for childfree people. It seemed strange and off-putting at first, all these people who seemed so happy without children, it was baffling. But as I read their stories and their reasons, I saw a lot of my own repressed feelings mirrored in what they were saying. There are so many things that go into being a parent that I hadn’t considered before, and I learned that really digging deep and asking yourself if you have what it takes to be a parent is a very good idea. Because that’s exactly what I did over the next couple of months, and the answer turned out to be a very loud, deeply resonating “no”.

And it’s not just that I’m a flawed person who might damage a child, although that is true – I’m not a patient person and I have a history of debilitating depression – and a child deserves a stable, present parent. One night, I read a heartbreaking anonymous story about a woman who had a son so disabled that at 24 years old, he was still effectively a toddler, and her life and future were gone. Her story was full of remorse and fear for his future. When I asked myself if I could keep on living day to day in a situation like that, the answer was, yet again, “no”. And the deal was sealed.

And just like that, my future opened up again. It was incredible how fast everything changed. I briefly mourned for the children I had envisioned but would never have, and then, at 24, I started my life over. I’m attending university and roughly planning a future life in the city, two things that would have been unattainable for me previously, but two things that I realised I desperately wanted for myself. And of course I’m still scared that I’ll fail, but if I do, at least I only have myself to worry about. There’s nothing stopping me from trying again and again, and I’m so unbelievably excited to see what the future has in store for me now.

I get asked sometimes if I think I’ll regret this choice, and whilst I’m not in the habit of regretting choices made that I believed were right at the time, I honestly can’t know if I’ll someday wonder “What if?” What I do know is that I’m less likely to regret this choice than the choice to have children. I believe that every major decision anybody makes bears the possibility of regret, but it’s worth remembering that we know our own selves better than anybody else, and we can’t let the fear of regret stop us from pursuing our happiness today.

Comments

  1. Hi Ellabelle,
    What a beautifully inspiring story. Thanks for sharing it. As you have discovered when you came across the other childfree forum, reading about other people’s experiences when we are going through a major transformation can be deeply helpful. Life can be so tough at times that it is too easy to feel as though we are alone in our struggles, when the reality is anything but. I anticipate that many people reading your story will identify with it and I hope that just as you found the courage to make a tough decision for yourself, which has allowed you to find peace within, that they too manage a similar outcome for themselves.

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