A blog of mine from Christmas 2014
It’s done. Another Christmas Day is over. Never an easy time for us childless women, even if we are ‘through’ our grief, as I am.
I had a griefy moment in an English country church this morning when the vicar’s adorable children were running around the alter, looking very much like one of them was about to actually get into the manger with the baby Jesus in it! A moment of such cheeky freshness that it took my breath away and I felt the sadness that I never got to enjoy the mischievousness of my own children. My sister outlaw, standing next to me, saw my eyes shining with tears and linked her arm firmly through mine as we dirged our way through yet another Christmas carol celebrating the ultimate miracle baby story; her the mother of teenagers and young adults, me the childless one: ‘I know that no life is free of pain’, I said, looking into her eyes and, in that moment we knew each other’s truth. It was a moment of pure connection, the like of which so many of us childless women rarely get from those around us; an honesty seen in the eyes and felt in the strength of our arms as we sang together.
Although I am no longer the broken childless woman I was, I treasure these moments of grief because they connect me back to the core of loss that every human life has to endure, however ‘perfect’ it may look on the outside. The vulnerability of that moment, my willingness not to hide it and her capacity to meet me in it, was precious. Tears, when met with empathy heal us in a way that nothing else can, and pass often very swiftly.
I am no longer a Christian although I was as a child, and even returned to that faith during my years of babymania, praying fervently and attending services again, desperate for answers, reasons, support, even a miracle. I got none, and found that the simple, eloquent Protestant services of my youth and the opportunity for consolation between the lines of the rich, ripe beauty of the Kings James Bible almost completely absent. Instead I found carpeted naves, large TV screens, ‘modern’ English service sheets and an almost total absence of reverence, ritual and beauty. One of the many additional losses of a childless life is that almost all the remaining rituals of adult life are about family. We also don’t get to experience the many secular family milestones such as ‘first day at school photos’, family holidays, baking your children’s birthday cakes and seeing their joy at Christmas. Losing access to the remembered chilly stone naves and the majestic cadences of the English language at its finest felt like yet another loss to me.
This morning in church, whilst the service was more modern that I would have liked, it also contained resonances from my childhood in the sonorous beauty of the traditional Lord’s Prayer. I felt connected back to that awestruck child I was who used to kneel and repeat it before bed, pushing her mind deeply inside the words in a desire to understand the numinosity I felt around me each day and especially in nature. Part of me is still that child awed by the immensity of the human spirit, the power of loss and the beauty of grief. As my sister outlaw said to me, ‘You share your love with the world in so many other ways’, a statement which a few years ago would have felt like cold comfort but which I’m now able to accept as a precious and valid use of this one human life.
We are each a precious, one-off spark of the universe made conscious for our lifetime only. It wasn’t the miracle that I longed for, but coming to realise this has given me a different kind of miracle: I am at peace with my childlessness and the many visible and invisible losses that come with it. It doesn’t mean I won’t be sad ever again – I’m made of flesh not stone – but it does mean that I can take my heart, tenderised by grief, out into the world again.
However today has been for you, know that your sisters in GW around the world share your joy, your pain, your grief, your loneliness, your frustration, your sadness, your hope and your fears. We are a growing tribe of almost one-quarter of adult women and together we have so much love to share. Together we can link arms and learn to sing again.
How do I connect with other childless women online?
Gateway Women Private Online Community on G+ (Global) To apply for membership of the ‘best online community for childless-by-circumstance women’ (that’s a review, not me!) go to ‘Join Our Community’ to fill in the application form. The first month is free, after which there’s a very modest monthly or annual fee or free memberships for those who need them. All applications are vetted for member security and privacy.
How do I meet other childless women in my area?
Join the free, private Gateway Women meetup group in your country and come along to an event. And if there isn’t an event near you, you can suggest one. You need to be a member of meetup.com first, then apply to join one of our free, private country groups:
UK & Ireland www.meetup.com/gateway-women
NEW ZEALAND www.meetup.com/gateway-women-nz
SOUTH AFRICA www.meetup.com/gateway-women-sa