Nine things I’ve learned about myself since finding out I can’t have children.

When I was lying in bed last year recovering from a major operation I joined Twitter. That might seem like a frivolous, trivial thing but until I went into hospital I’d been fiercely private and ferociously protective about my life. I was a closed book, guarded my secrets and certainly didn’t discuss my dark lows.

Everything changed the day I went into hospital. I walked in with my ability to have children and came out without it; it’s changed me forever and given me a passionate honesty I didn’t foresee.

One thing’s for certain; not being sure you want children is entirely different to knowing you can’t have them. I’m surprised by how much it’s affected me.

I overthink too much

Because my father walked out when I was very young, I had a complete mental block on having children of my own. When he walked away, he took a huge chunk of my self-confidence and left a raw, gaping hole that didn’t heal. The pressure to pick the right partner who would always be there and never bolt was overwhelming.

I had spells of feeling broody but I was never maternal like some of my friends. I watched them become mothers and doubted I had the patience to be as amazing as they were. Looking back, I wonder what my life would look like today if I’d just got on with it.

I’m not as invincible as I believed I was…

I’ve bounced back from all kinds of lows in my life; divorce, depression, nothing has defeated me. It’s strange grieving for something that you never actually had. What you’ve lost is just a fantasy. Days can tick by and I don’t even think about it, then I’ll see a little girl looking up at her mum as she walks down the street holding her hand and have to quickly make a detour so they don’t see my tears. I feel winded and have to really focus on snapping myself back into the moment.

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…But being sober gives me strength

I’d stopped drinking before my operation and I thank my lucky stars every day for that. Alcohol was my emotional crutch for many years and I dread to think how much worse coping with recovering from my operation physically and mentally could have been if I still leant on the bottle.

I’m more opinionated than I ever knew

Knowing I’m not going to ‘leave a legacy’ with mini versions of myself running around the world with opinions and values I’ve helped instil has given me a surge of urgency to make myself heard. I’ve surprised myself by the honesty I’ve found in writing, my drive to share my heartbreak in the hope it helps others and a new-found hunger to express my views.

I want to make amends 

I don’t want to fall off the planet feeling like I hurt anyone and didn’t make amends. I feel a tremendous finality about my life now. If I got hit by a bus I’d hate to leave things unsaid with no one else in the world knowing how I really felt.

I have to learn to be more patient 

Just because I have this newfound sense of urgency and purpose doesn’t mean the rest of the world has shoved hot coals in their socks and is running on adrenaline too. I have to constantly remind myself that green lights don’t come to us every day in life.

It bothers me that I don’t fit in

There is a loneliness in knowing that it’s just me and I stand alone. The truth is, most people have children so I’m in the minority. I find myself seeking out likeminded pockets of society in a way that’s entirely new to me. Maybe I’m searching for my clan because I won’t create one.

I don’t worry about ageing

It’s sad to me that one factor lots of people consider when they have children is who’s going to look after them when they get older. My step-dad has dementia. The life and retirement that he and my mum planned has been ripped out of their hands. You really can’t plan for tomorrow, you only have today. I don’t think long term anymore.

I can be a ‘good mum’ without having children of my own

I’ve never had a problem getting in touch with my childlike giddiness. I can be a fun aunt, a caring godmother and make sure I give good advice to the children I have in my life. I have a lot of love to give, I’ve gathered a lot of life experiences on my rollercoaster ride so far, and I don’t have to have children of my own to be a magical mother.

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