I always assumed I’d be a mother. Go to college, meet the husband, buy a home, and have kids. I thought that checking the boxes in this order would bring me happiness. And maybe, if it had all gone to plan, it would have. Well, the picture I had of my ideal life didn’t become what I had planned. And yet here I am living a joyous life. This was not what I expected nor dreamed about – but being childfree has led me to a better life than I could have imagined.
I did go to college, and I did meet the husband. When we got married, we tried for kids right away. During this time, our close friends started getting pregnant– and I was genuinely happy for them. Seeing my peers get what I wanted embedded the idea of motherhood deeper into my desires. I assumed we’d be next! Unfortunately, that assumption turned into feeling like a failure over time. Years passed, and we still hadn’t gotten pregnant. We were parents in the scenarios we dreamed of for our future. And yet the life we were living was far from this. The life that we wanted to live had children in it.
I was open about us trying to conceive, so I didn’t think this could lead to depression. Talking about things eases the shame, and it wasn’t like I was hiding anything. But then I started to notice some red flags. These seemed normal in the beginning. I think some are common sense for many people trying to get pregnant. Some flags were: “Oh, I can’t plan that far in the future, I might be pregnant.” The classic, “Do you have kids?” Another big one was becoming overwhelmed at baby showers and trying to hide my depression. Each of these things ripped my heart open in ways that startled me. I felt isolated with an issue no one talked about.
Looking for a Win After Loss
We did become pregnant, twice with the help of IVF and once naturally. My first pregnancy resulted in a miscarriage, and so did the one naturally. The hardest part of this was carrying my daughter for eight months. I developed a rare liver disease, and I delivered her stillborn. After this loss, I was advised not to be pregnant again, so we were lucky enough to work with a gestational carrier for our last two frozen embryos. Both of the transfers ended in miscarriage.
We looked into adoption, but it felt unstable after the trauma we had experienced. There were too many ways to lose a child all over again. I was tired of waiting for my life to start.
I wanted to feel grounded in my life. I wanted to feel happy about my life. I couldn’t recall the last time I felt stable with my mental health. Our marriage mainly focused on parenthood, and I was exhausted. There had been so many failures on the path to what I thought was happiness; I needed a win.
Finding the Path to Happiness
After eight years of trying to become parents, my husband and I decided to be childfree. In the past, I assumed this would be the worst thing that could happen. And then it wasn’t. Choosing to be childfree ended up being a colossal relief – and I didn’t expect that. Yes, if there were to have been a magical button to press and we would get children, we would have pushed that button. But that’s not how life works. We had to examine our lives and see if we could be let down again, and we decided we couldn’t. I started therapy and did the work to learn how to embrace our lives as they currently are.
I started to feel whole again. I stopped waiting for life to begin and saw that I was already living an excellent existence without children.
There was this picture of how I thought my life should be, and I didn’t want to alter it. Then everything changed once we allowed our lives to be complete without children. It was as if all of these new possibilities opened up. I could do whatever I wanted. To be honest, happiness this strong felt foreign to me at first, as I lived in a world of waiting for so long. It was so new – it was exciting and scary at the same time. I had to make some mental adjustments, which opened up space for new pursuits. A new chapter of my story opened up.
Living a Fulfilling Life Again
The big joys came to play at first. My mental health was where I noticed a shift right away. The anxiety and depression that had come from infertility had unknowingly taken over. Even the beautiful parts of life I had become indifferent about. Once I stopped tracking my cycles, I was no longer waiting for my life to start. The calendar went from doctor appointments and ovulation times to filling up with dinner dates, trips, and hikes. I began looking at moments without wondering what I would do with a child in this scenario. I ended up starting to love the current moment I was in.
Travel has been a significant part of our marriage. Each year we would save up to board a plane and see the world. We have done this on the cheap side as well as in luxury. The comfort of travel has always been something we’ve been willing to sacrifice. And now we can stay at extravagant places and move into better plane seating much more easily. We can travel whenever and wherever, and it’s a significant positive aspect of not becoming parents.
Then there are the tiny joys of being childfree. These came a bit more quietly and not with such a big bang. For example, the weekends have rituals we look forward to. Friday night, we get delicious food delivered, and we watch a favorite show or play a game of cribbage. Saturdays start with breakfast at our favorite cafe, and we always sit at the bar and order adult beverages.
The day is filled with whatever we want – indeed, whatever we feel like doing, we do it.
Joy in the Small Moments
Embracing the days with excitement and curiosity has been such a delight. This freedom sometimes feels naughty as it’s so out of the norm. Yes, we go to work and do the daily chores, but being child-free adds to this scheduling flexibility. Tuesday night might be a fancy date night, or maybe I’ll start that new hobby tomorrow. This sort of freedom has brought joy to even the smallest moments. I have the space and mindset to relish in the small parts of life and honor the greatness I am presently living.
Something unexpected that has brought me joy is turning the nursery into my office. I used to keep this door shut as I couldn’t bear seeing the evidence of our loss, and this room was evidence that my future was bleak. We completely revamped the nursery into a bright and full-of-life office. The floors are gorgeous, the new windows let in so much light and air, and the setup is all for me.
I sit here writing these words, happy, in that same room. Becoming a mother would have brought love and happiness into my life. But something that feels like unexpected magic is that I have been through so much tragedy, loss, and hardship and can still love every new day. The eagerness for each new day, scheduled or not, feels calm and secure. Bouncing back after the life-altering hardships can give space for the values in everyday bits we might miss. After all that has happened and not getting what I thought I wanted, I can still live a joyful life. I had no idea I could wake up excited about what the day would bring without children. I’m almost embarrassed even to write that, but it’s real. I am living proof that life without kids can be full of magic.