Zoe’s Story: At 42, I now have an inner contentment I once never thought possible

Recently, I was invited to a baby shower. It was my first baby shower – a rather extravagant event that I’m reliably told has crossed our shores from the US. It was also particularly poignant for the mother to be, who is 43 and had been trying for a baby (and miscarrying) for several years. She is now delivered of a healthy baby boy.

Then last week, courtesy of Facebook, I stumbled upon baby pics belonging to another 40-something acquaintance who had finally got her longed-for (IVF) baby. As someone who always expected to have children of my own, I suppose I might have been envious, sad, or hit with grief at seeing other women of a similar age finally producing these godly offspring. But the overriding feeling was confusion.

Anyone who endures multiple miscarriages and keeps trying, against the odds, obviously prizes having a baby to an almost violent degree. So if I don’t feel the same way, what does that say about me? Does it mean I’m numb, dumb or simply burying my head in the sand?

The thing is, I’ve always loved babies. My mother had a late child via her second marriage and it was heaven. I was nine when he was born. I was constantly picking him up for cuddles, kisses and nurturing him as he grew. The fact that I too would marry and have kids one day – well, I had no reason to believe otherwise.

These days, it’s my little niece I’m crazy about. However, my childlessness is probably due to a mixture of factors – including, I’m afraid, a pretty dysfunctional past. I grew up frightened of settling down with the wrong man and having babies because I’d seen my mother betrayed and left by my father when I was five – and later by her second husband.

I saw the emotional and financial toll as she was literally left holding her babies (she had three under the age of six when Dad ran off). I didn’t want that happening to me. In short, I was also bullied and there was a brief period of sexual abuse growing up which further served to shatter my trust in boys/ men as I approached adulthood.

To this day, I still have issues being attracted to men. I do experience strong infatuations and crushes, but they are not frequent and I often end up with emotionally unavailable men (yes, guilty as charged!). My relationships have tended to be passionate, fairly short lived and not the kind of situations best suited to raising kids. Challenging this pattern feels insurmountable and intrinsically painful at times, so I just file husband/ baby aspirations to one side and focus on day to day stuff.

However, it’s not all tragedy. I’ve worked very hard at stabilising my life and my outlook. During my early to mid thirties, I put myself in therapy, overcame a chronic addiction, and always worked hard at a professional level. I’ve travelled a bit and there have been some amazing experiences along the way.

At 42, I now have an inner contentment I once never thought possible, so why would I want to throw all that hard won sanity into the air and have a baby? Plus, who would pay for it?

When the darkness draws in, I guess what helps sustain me is the pioneering work of other feminists, childfree writers and bloggers who continue to reach out and challenge the status quo. I’m indebted to many of these trailblazers for helping me redefine my childfree life. And whilst having a child may be a precious blessing – it surely isn’t everything.

Would you like to share your story? Send it to: [email protected]

First published on February 19, 2015

Childless by circumstance


  1. Hi Zoe,
    Thanks for sharing your story. It goes to show how decisions we make or are made for us can have a long lasting impact on us and our happiness. Because, ultimately, to be happy is what all of us aspire to, whether we know it or not. I hope you can find the strength within you, to free yourself completely of the pain that you are still carrying from your childhood; you don’t want to be a victim of your father for the rest of your life.

    I grew up in a culture where it is accepted that at some point a husband will have a mistress (or many in some cases) and have children with her. Most women have resigned themselves to that fact and accept it as a fait accompli. Men pretty much make the rules and women have to follow them. It is either that or you end up without a man and so most women grudgingly go with the flow. Because of that, my mother never wanted me to marry someone from my own culture, such was her fear that I would end up just like her (she had 7 children by 6 different men). Even so, I never lost faith in men; I was sure that there were decent men out there and that one day I was going to find one, and of course I did.

    Ultimately, our life is a reflection of our beliefs. If you believe that all men are cheats or bad, chances are that you will only end up meeting those very type of men. You have to start changing your beliefs and see where it can take you! You are no one’s victim. You are a smart and beautiful woman who is capable of attracting a good and decent man to spend the rest of your life with (if of course that is what you want). You cannot wish for something then sabotage the outcome with your own beliefs. You are sending mixed messages to the universe and so the outcome will only be problematic. Not all men are bad in the same way that not all women are good. You cannot let what happened in your childhood define who you are for ever. If happiness and peace of mind is what you want, then you have to start believing that it is possible and it will happen. Once you start believing in yourself, opportunities start revealing themselves. No one can do it for you but yourself. Bitterness, blame and anger are like poison that we administer to ourselves and of course it eventually ends up damaging us. Trust me, if I can be happy, so can you.

    You need to start believing in yourself and be more positive about life. Things that happen to us can either make us or break us, either way, it is up to us. To quote Martin Luther King: ” The ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in moments of comfort and convenience, but where he stands at times of challenge and controversy.” I love this quote because it sums up what life is really about. Challenges are there to tap into the power that lies dormant in all of us. Without challenges we will never reach our true potential. Yes they are not pleasant, but they are there for a purpose. Look around you and you will see that most of the people who have achieved greatness in their lives have had pretty rotten lives to begin with. Oprah Winfrey and JK Rowling spring to mind. It goes without saying that had these women seen themselves as victims of life, they would not have made it. To make it and be happy, you have to have a winner’s mentality. You cannot be happy in life by having a victim’s mentality. You have to tap into that power that has been lying dormant within you and you will be amazed at what it can do.

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