Things I wish I’d known at 40

Personal writing
Jody Day signing her book at the launch of “Rocking the Life Unexpected” in 2013

This week, I celebrate my 50th birthday. It feels like a heck of a thing, to find myself turning 50 at peace with the past, happy in the present and excited about the future. It didn’t come easily and, looking back over the screenplay of my 40s it does seem to include just about everything from farce to tragedy…

So that got me thinking about boldly going into a new decade where no Jody has gone before – if I could talk to my 40-year-old self, what would I want her to know about the decade ahead? Here are some of my thoughts:

It’s time to learn the inconvenient truth about your fertility…

You need to wise up about the menopause…

  • Remember that one period that you missed when you were 39, 40 and 41 (and thought you were pregnant each time…)? That was the beginning of your peri-menopause. It means that, in all likelihood, your last viable egg for fertilization had gone.
  • You will go through a very tough time from 44-46 with your peri-menopause because no-one (including your doctor) will know what’s ‘wrong’ with you. You’ll find out from other women older than you that this is the peri-menopause and your (female) doctor will think it’s a ‘brainwave’ of yours when you suggest it and ask for blood tests. You will start feeling better 2 days after starting HRT, even though you didn’t want to take it.
  • You will find out that being open about the fact that you are going through the menopause is yet another taboo.
  • You will become ‘post-menopausal’ at 49, which means that you will have your last period at 48. This is almost exactly the same as your mother. If you had asked your mother at 40 about this, you would have known that your fertile days were over. According to Dr Susan Bewley, who shares the platform with you for ‘Fertility Myths’ at WOW in 2014, in the majority of cases, subtracting 10 years from the year your mother became post-menopausal gives you the date of the end of your own fertile life. Which means you were done at 39, before you even turned 40.
  • You discover, much to your surprise, that menopause has its gifts too and that now you are post-menopausal and the Goddess Oestrogen has left the building that there are some good changes too: your moods are level and steady, your intellect sharp and curious, you suffer fools much less gladly. On the whole (and depending on how much sleep you’ve had) you feel expansive, optimistic and ambitious. In fact, you feel much more like the little girl you were just before puberty…

Grief will transform you in unexpected (and rather wonderful) ways…

  • In order to get to the point where you are able to celebrate your freedom as a childless woman, you will need to grieve the life unlived.
  • No one apart from other childless women will understand that it is possible to grieve something you never had and so you will have to find a way to meet them.
  • You will be one of the very first childless woman to go public (and be named and photographed) about grieving the life unlived and break the taboo of silence surrounding this.
  • Grief turns out to be good, and learning to work with it and be transformed by it becomes something you become passionate about sharing with others. You create a weekend workshop for women like yourself looking to move through their grief and onto their Plan B called ‘The Reignite Weekend’ and you work with hundreds of women who attend from all over the world.
  • You create a safe, private online community for women to support and cheerlead each other through their grief which has members from across the globe
  • Having come out the other side of your grief, you no longer feel jealous, envious or resentful of mothers either individually or collectively. You can see their struggle too and feel empathy. You wish it was returned more often, but maybe that will change one day…
  • You become at ease around children and young babies again as you no longer see or experience them as representations of what you don’t have, but rather experience them as individuals in their own right.
  • Grieving the family you’ll never have turns out to be one of the most profound and transformational experiences of your life and matures you into the person you had always hoped you could become.

All of your relationships are going to change…

  • As you come to accept that your life has taken a radically different path from your friends who have become mothers, you’ll need to seek out new friendships with other childless women to plug the gap in your social circle and close friendships. This new reality will lead to you making two new ‘old friends’ in your 40s – one a mother, one not, as well as reconnecting with some old friends that you felt you had ‘lost’ to motherhood.
  • Re-evaluating your expectation that ‘real’ friendships can survive ‘anything’, you choose to focus your energy on a smaller group of women who ‘get’ you and your situation, whether they are mothers or not.
  • Coming to terms with the fact that you will never be a mother also means coming to terms with the fact that you will never have an opportunity to ‘re-do’ your childhood differently. So you give up trying and instead finally accept how things were. In a subtle yet profound way, you grow up a bit more. This helps your family relationships.
  • Your choose to see your ‘social invisibility’ as a way to worry a great deal less about what other’s think about you. This turns out to be very liberating as you realise that others don’t actually think that much about you at all…

Prepare yourself for society’s problematic opinion of you as childless woman…

  • Although you are part of a rising trend, with 1: 5 women turning 45 without having had children, you discover that as a middle-aged childless woman, society has absolutely no interest in you whatsoever except as a cautionary tale for younger women about how not to ‘screw up’ your life or, if you chose not to have children (childfree) as some kind of unnatural freak.
  • As you gradually unplug from mainstream media in order to feel less of a ‘failure’, your brain starts waking up. You begin to understand just how pervasive the pronatalist agenda is, and how it is a necessary and dominant theme of patriarchy. The more you think and read about ideology again, the less of a failure you feel…
  • You will write articles for the media about childlessness and anonymous trolls will leave 1300 comments, many of which will be about why you’re either ‘whingeing about nothing’, have ‘brought it all upon yourself’ or should ‘just adopt and stop being so selfish’. You will discover that the same comments come up whatever and wherever your work is published, and that even some of the most intelligent and empathetic people can have extraordinarily vicious and antiquated ideas about childless women.
  • You start looking for role models of childless women in the culture and realise that our lives and stories are not represented at all! So you start creating your own Gallery of Childless and Childfree Women Role Models. You have found 350+ and it’s growing all the time.
  • You refuse to accept the power of society’s shaming stereotypes for childless women, thus defusing them and showing them up for the misogynist bullshit they are. So what if you have a cat? – mothers have cats and it doesn’t make them crazy!

Being single turns out to suit you much better than you expect…

  • After being in a relationship almost continuously since the age of 15, including being with your husband for 16 years, you embrace being single. The years of your 40s as a single woman turn out to be the most peaceful, productive, creative and most fulfilling of your adult life.
  • You start to wonder why the most ‘shamed’ female member of society has gone from being the ‘unmarried mother’ to the ‘single, childless woman over 40’ in one generation….
  • The radical teenager you once were turns out not to be completely lost after all! You reread The Female Eunuch, Fat is a Feminist Issue and The Beauty Myth. It’s like unplugging from the Matrix…
  • You realise that a life other than motherhood is a dream for millions of women around the world and so you begin to see it as a gift.
  • Despite what you might imagine, a life as a single, childless woman turns out to suit you really well!
  • The cat you had to re-home post-divorce comes back into your life by magical means when you are 48 and have a home again. You are now the single, childless woman living alone with her cat and you love it!

Freed from chasing the dream (and fantasy) of motherhood, you begin to realise old dreams and create new ones…

  • You begin your training to become a psychotherapist. You had wanted to do so in your 30s, but thought that you needed to be a mother before you did so otherwise “you wouldn’t really understand the human condition”. At 43, when your dream of biological motherhood finally ends, you realise that you have plenty of experience of the human condition and commence your training. Through your training you begin to realise that what you are experiencing is grief for the family you never got to have. This knowledge changes everything.
  • You fulfil your lifelong dream of becoming an author and in 2013 publish “Rocking the Life Unexpected: 12 Weeks to Your Plan B for a Meaningful and Fulfilling Life Without Children”. It become an Amazon bestseller within the first 24 hours!
  • You discover a talent for unscripted public speaking from the heart on issues relating to childlessness.
  • You find out that having loved listening to the radio all your life, you are now on it and appear on the BBC R4 iconic programme ‘Woman’s Hour’ twice in 2013, as well on the BBC radio’s flagship news programme ‘Today
  • You become a feminist role model and are selected by the BBC to be one of 100 Women chosen to represent 100 Years of Feminism in 2013. From co-dependent, surrendered, infertile wife to taboo-busting feminist role model in 10 years… life is full of surprises!

The life you’re going to create instead of motherhood is going to be richer and more fulfilling than you can yet imagine, and in ways you cannot yet imagine…

  • You meet your tribe: other childless women who also thought they were the only ones dealing with the shocking isolation of childlessness.
  • You create a network of like-minded souls around the world and now have friends and contacts across the globe .
  • You find what you’ve been looking for your whole life: a way to live and work that is true to your values, uses (and grows) your gifts, is of service to others (and yourself) and which will leave the world a better place than you found it.
  • You grow in confidence as you learn to trust yourself and your choices again. You no longer think of yourself as a ‘failed woman’.
  • You develop a kind and forgiving relationship with yourself, something which Kristin Neff explores in her book Self Compassion which, when you read it confirms the power of your approach.
  • The ‘freedom’ that everyone told you were ‘so lucky’ to have finally feels like a gift, not a curse.

Although your 40s are a powerful and painful rite of passage, you turn 50 feeling young-in-spirit and at peace with yourself. You are ready for the next adventure and know that you have the resilience and support to cope with whatever life throws your way. Having recovered from the heartbreak of childlessness, you are beginning to get used to the idea that maybe, in the end, everything will turn out to be just fine…


Jody Day is the Founder of Gateway Women and the author of #1 Amazon best-seller ‘Rocking the Life Unexpected: 12 Weeks to Your Plan B for a Meaningful and Fulfilling Life Without Children’ (Published Autumn 2013). She set up the Gateway Women friendship and support network in 2011 to support, inspire and empower childless by circumstance women (like herself) as they develop meaningful and fulfilling lives without children. Jody runs private sessionsworkshops and retreats for women coming to terms with the fact that motherhood didn’t happen for them as well as private meetup groups in the UK and USA as well as thriving private online community.  She speaks regularly in public, in the media and online about issues and prejudices facing childless women in our society today and is becoming known as ‘the voice of the childless generation’. 

59 Comments on Things I wish I’d known at 40

  1. This is just about the most amazing thing I’ve read in quite a while! I’m fairly new to this website and still combing through the various sections, articles, comments, and postings. Jody, I appreciate you and your many contributions to the world!!! Thank you for being so deeply honest — and simply being YOU! You inspire so many!


  2. Jody, I just turned 38. I’m single and not sure that I’m at the end of my fertility, but 38 is the cutoff to childbearing that I have always envisioned. I’ve been familiar with your blog for awhile now as I have worked to come to terms with not having children. Thank you SO much for being a role model and sharing your process. You have truly made a difference in how I think about my life and my future.

  3. I’m 40 and my partner of 8 years doesn’t want kids. I’m trying to adjust to a life of being ‘child free’, but finding it really difficult. Even if I did/could become pregnant, I would lose the love of my life. I want a family, but I’ll never have it. I guess I am in the ‘grief’ stage:-(

    • I’m 43 and we’ve been trying for a baby for the past 2 years with insemination and IVF, all unsuccessful. In November my doctor said that I had low egg reserve so my chances of conceiving were less than 5%. I was very upset because I realized she knew about this since my treatment started yet forgot to mention and gave me false stats and false hopes in the past year (with all the money paid).
      My husband has a son he had at an earlier age so for him the idea of another is not new and sometimes scary, I feel. I too feel that if given the choice I would never choose a baby over my partner as he is the best that’s happened to me yet sometimes I feel his view of circumstances is totally different from mine.
      At the start of this year my husband and I decided to quit treatments and continue to try naturally. Last month I missed my period and got so excited at the idea I would have one of those miracle pregnancies. After several tests it has been confirmed I am not pregnant and even though my GP has insisted it doesn’t mean I’m starting menopause I feel this is what it actually means.
      I have been until now in denial and thinking I still had a chance. I read Jody’s book every now and again, haven’t finished it as sometimes just reading it is far too much for me at this stage.
      It’s anyway nice to read this article and open my eyes a little bit and try to look at the other wonderful things in my life. I want to move on, I need it

  4. I only discovered your wonderful blog and book (just completed) by a chance link to your old Guardian piece from 2012 which I thought hmm, looks interesting. I so wish I had found this sooner! I am about to turn 50 and your journey is so similar to mine of the last 12 years or so. I turned my back on IVF treatments three years in. We tried from when I was 38 when I married in the October of 2003 and confidentially expected to announce my pregnancy on Christmas Day of that same year – HA! – moving onto assisted fertility treatments after 4 months and then two years of full blown IVF treatments until I called time on it. I was about to turn 41 and knew in my heart that I was done. And at any rate, trying “naturally” at that age was statistically the same anyway. My husband wanted me to go that one last time, arguing that because I’d had a pregnancy followed by miscarriage on our last go, that that meant something. I knew it did not. He is 8 years younger than me, so not an easy decision for either of us. But I am happy to say we worked through it all and really are fully at peace with our lives, and moving forward with a big dream project right now! We also took the plunge and got a dog two years ago, best decision ever, and I don’t even care how much of a cliche we are with our “fur baby”! The ONLY thing we still struggle with is the isolation and feeling of losing all our friends “behind the baby curtain” as we call it. My older friends who are a similar age are now fast becoming grandparents and I am certainly feeling that loss quite keenly. I am so keen to find a local group of women here in Brisbane. Thank you Jody, I love your blog and I enjoyed your book.

    • Hi Mary – thanks for commenting and I’m so sorry to hear that your family building journey hasn’t worked out. I’m so glad you’ve found GW and my book and I hope that it proves a great support to you. I wanted to let you know that we have a free Gateway Women Meetup in Brisbane (needs someone to become the ‘host’ so that others will attend – perhaps you if you feel up to it?), as well as plenty of Ozzie members of the private Gateway Women Online Community (free or small fee). There’s nothing like not feeling like you’re the only one dealing with this anymore, so come and join us!

    • Thanks for your reply, Jody. Yes, I would love to get a Brisbane meetup going! If anyone is reading this, please get in touch through Meetup – I have joined and put up a comment too. Years ago, I did one meetup through the support group attached to my IVF clinic – I called it “Moving On”. I met a fantastic group of women (this would have been in 2006) and it was a lovely afternoon, swapping stories. Sadly though, we did not meet up again. I think it was all very raw for all of us at that stage. So, if there’s anyone out there in Brisbane, get in touch! It’s our time.

  5. I too reach 50 next month, can’t quite believe where the time has gone. I am also at the pre-menopausal stage so my emotions fluctuate from day to day. What a relief it is to read your blog, just wish it was there when I was in my 30’s/early 40’s. It is wonderful to find women like you standing up to the stigma of childlessness and educating the world that we count just as much as people with children. There has been many prejudices overcome in the past 20 years lets hope childlessness will be added to that list in years to come. Keep up the good work and happy belated birthday!

  6. I’m so so glad I found this blog today. I’m childless at 47 because I just never met their father until it was too late. In my 30’s I’d assumed I had time as I take after my granny who had her first at 42 and another 4 years later. My husband and I met at 41 but I’d already started being perimenopausal at 39 and the young male Dr I went to at the time broke the news I’d be childless in a flippant “well you didn’t want kids at your age anyway did you”. I felt like he’d just hit me, cried my heart out afterwards and then promptly registered at a different GP practice. Having grieved for the unborn my husband and I were just embracing our free lives, planning travel, experiences and more when my beloved father died earlier this year. He was my mothers main carer. I do have a brother living in the same town as I do, but he has a wife (not working) and a 2 year old. This status as parents somehow means that care for Mum now falls almost entirely to me because “I have so much more time” apparently. Somehow my equally busy life is less important because it doesn’t involve a child. And it is just not PC to say so. My husband and I still have our dreams and plans and we will somehow make them happen though it’ll take a bit more adjustment to work out how.

    I too have lost friends because of my childless state. Sometimes they have drifted away and sometimes I have chosen to let them go because of their attitude that somehow it doesn’t matter if they are rude to me, let me down repeatedly etc just “because little Tom couldn’t sleep last night so I thought I’d let him sleep in this morning”.

    This website is a wonderful thing, I hope a place to meet like minded people. I am impressed because it doesn’t do what Mumsnet does. Loads on there seems to be people whinging at each other about how hard it is being a Mum and resenting how the Dad’s don’t do enough. Honestly, it does make you feel better about not having kids – it doesn’t sound all that great. This feels like a positive, empowering and joyful place to share and be inspired. Thank you so much!

    • Thanks Catherine – sounds like you’ve definitely come to the right place. GW isn’t a club any of us wanted to join, but now we’re here, let’s make the best of our unexpected lives as non-parents! The issue of care of vulnerable family members falling to ‘the childless ones’ is a big one and I hope to be able to tackle it as GW grows in strength. Hugs, Jody x

  7. A belated but no less heartfelt set of best wishes to you! I am one year and one month older and enthusiastically echo many of your insights. Loving where I am and what you espouse. Here’s to many more successes! Cheers…

  8. Thank you, Jody. I am happy to have found your inspiration today. At 46, left childless by my spouse’s choice (15 years ago), then shockingly marriage-less at his choice (6 years ago), despite my amazing career, perhaps my personal unhappiness is not so baseless as I imagine. Given the latter event, the former has grown to be much more painful. I look forward to stronger and more inwardly peaceful days ahead. Best wishes in your own personal new year!

    • Hi Susan – so happy you’ve found us! Knowing that we are not alone in our sadness about how things have worked out makes such a difference, Hugs, Jody x

    • Gosh Susan, I am saddened to hear of your personal struggles, I really feel you have been dealt a double whammy there because of someone else’s (selfish???) agenda. I’m reeling from a broken relationship right now but its not in the same league as your circumstances. So sorry but glad you have found GW! Best wishes.

  9. What a lovely heartfelt piece, Jody. So positive. Happy happy birthday to you lovely lady and thank you SO much for paving this path for so many women. You’re certainly rockin’ life! Xx

  10. Thank you, thank you, thank you Jody. I just discovered you website and blog. As someone trying to cope with failed ivf and childlessness, I really cant find the words to say how grateful I am….because I’m crying as I write these words 🙂

    Suddenly, I feel like the mammoth in Ice Age 2, who discovers he’s not the only mammoth alive.

    It feels so good to know that I’m not alone. It’s such a relief to know there are other people who understand how I feel. It’s such a comfort to know that I’ve now found my own people, though I’m part of a minority.

    And unlike the majority, my own people don’t look at me like i’m either a drama-queen or nutcase. My own people don’t give stupid, useless advice
    My own people don’t judge me unnecessarily.

    The way you’ve written this beautiful post is so reassuring. It makes me believe that even though my life looks a mess today, it will sort itself out someday. But I have to patiently live one day at a time, till i get to “someday” 🙂

    Happy 50th Birthday Jody. May God bless you.


    • Hi Mina – thanks for your lovely comment – I love that bit in Ice Age 2 so I’m thrilled to be able to create that feeling for you. Welcome to your Tribe Mina xxx

  11. This is an amazing post, Jody! Thanks for sharing. I’m not 40 (yet!), but this advice/commentary is just too good. It literally brought me to near tears. It’s really amazing to see someone who has completely embraced her life no matter what social stigmas you face each day. You’re nothing short of an inspiration.

    • Hi Valerie – thank you – sometimes I can’t quite believe how good it all feels right now! Grief really does rock! Hugs, Jody x

  12. Thank you for sharing such a fabulous article! You are quite a role model. Happy 50th to you and many wonderful, inspiring and fulfulling years ahead! x

  13. Happy Birthday Jody! Another wonderful article and I really cannot thank you enough for all your wise words. Alisonxxx

  14. I loved reading your message, Jody. Thanks for all your efforts to give us a voice – it definitely helps me to feel less alone as I struggle to find my Plan B…
    Happy birthday! Lyn x

  15. Happy Birthday dear Jody. All of our friend and producer of positive vibes. Thank you for our daily gift of the GW collective. We together are strong. Xx

  16. HAPPY KicK Arse BIRTHDAY to you Jody,

    Thankyou for your heartfelt work, I am 57 and thought I had surpassed my grief over the years, watching all my friends having babies, (i thought i had coped very well) until they recently one by one all became grandparents and so the real grief has only recently surfaced for me !!!

    It all works in perfect order as i found your site GW 🙂
    ‘When the pupil is ready the teacher appears’
    My love to you xxx

  17. Happy Birthday Jody!!! You are the voice I wish I had. So much of your journey has been mine, but I could never have voiced it in the way you have. I admire you for your bravery. I admire your for your commitment to helping others. I am 56 now, but did the whole unsuccessful IVF trip – my goodness – can it really be 20 years ago?!! After all those years, after so many years of feeling on the outside looking in, on leading the life that I never wanted or planned for – childless, misunderstood – reading your words, hearing your words, makes me smile, gives me huge comfort. I am not alone. You are a voice that is reminding me that I am not alone. Thank you!

  18. Happy Birthday Jody! Thank you so much for all that you have done for the NoMo cause over the last few years. You have brought to life our stories and given us identities when too often we could feel as though we are just shadows on the sidelines.

    It’s the first meet up for the Devon group this Saturday – thank you for making this possible.

    I wish you all the best for your 50’s and may you achieve all your dreams.

    Alison xx

  19. An inspirational and thought-provoking read, and one that leaves me in hope and with the knowledge that once I am over this massive hurdle, my day, too, will come. Thank you so much, happy birthday and congratulations! x

  20. Happy birthday, Jody. This post is so full of wonderful things that I’m going to refer people to it on my Childless by Marriage blog. I was late to menopause, so maybe I could have had children in my early 40s. My doctor said I could, but he was wrong about a lot of things. I love what you say about feeling more like the little girl you were before puberty. For me, that is so true. I feel so much better and more free than I did during those fertile years when I was anguishing over the babies I wasn’t having. Thank you for all of your good work for us non-moms.

  21. Thank you so much for this post Jody. I am 37 and found out yesterday that our second try at IVF had failed (unexplained infertility). We have still got two embryos in the freezer so basically have one more try which of course I hope will work but your blog has helped me to realise that if it doesn’t I will be ok. You have helped me to understand that if childlessness becomes my reality I will need to grieve and shout and stamp my feet but once I have done that I have a whole other life waiting for me and a whole community of amazing, kick arse women on my side. Thank you again and a Very Happy Birthday! xxx

  22. Happy birthday Jody
    What beautiful words.
    You are an inspiration.
    Thank you for all that you do.
    I too feel hope for the future.
    I didn’t think I would.
    Kate x

  23. Happy Birthday Jody! And thank you for a very open blog that got me thinking.
    At 42 I have navigated the hope and despair path…sometimes reading Gateway Women and sometimes reading the Fertile Heart. The messages of the two couldn’t be more different and when your two blogs came in within 24 hours of each other the contrast was obvious. Which side does one come down on? Well I guess that depends on how it all turns out.
    I no longer hope for my miracle baby that will make everything ok. But I can’t presume that it definitely won’t happen. Why?
    When I was 26 I became pregnant while on the pill. I know I didn’t miss one. The chances of that happening were something like 1 in 1000. I was that one. I lost my daughter 3 weeks before my due date. Chances of that happening 1 in 100. I had a 1% chance of losing my baby at that stage yet I did. At 40 I had a 5% chance of becoming pregnant. The chance of me falling pregnant at 40 was 5 times higher than the chance of me losing my baby at 37 weeks when I was 26, yet I didn’t fall pregnant. This has taught me that statistics are meaningless in the face of what actually happens. They give us an idea of likelihood, but we cannot use them to predict what will actually happen to us.
    I have learnt to accept uncertainty as part of my healing journey and to accept sadness. I am sharing this as there may be other readers at a similar stage to me who struggle to reconcile the conflicting advice that we get. the “forget it and move on” vs “don’t give up”
    It was heart warming to read how your life developed and grew when you did move on from the quest for motherhood. So many hidden treasures. I am learning that our trials and tribulations, however they come do make us stronger, wiser and kinder people. Through pain comes wisdom and understanding (something 1300 trolls appear to know very little about).
    In accepting that the future is uncertain and that I can’t control it one way or the other I am learning how to live in the present and allow difficult emotions to be.
    I think the work you have done in opening the floor for us women without children to speak and be heard is amazing. We certainly aren’t freaks. So many brave, intelligent and wise women have posted on here.
    So thank you and have a lovely birthday 🙂

  24. Happy Birthday Week to you Jody! Rocking the dream of a liberated life, and giving us all the inspiration to do the same. What an amazing journey, I raise my glass to you. X

  25. Happy birthday Jody! Thank you for sharing, at 37 I found out recently that although not technically ‘infertile’ being pregnant is something that probably won’t happen for me (extremely low egg reserves / chronic issues / 4 ovary related operations in 16 years).

    Im on my way to be happy with my ‘new’ life and your story is truly an inspiration! Enjoy your 50’s and I hope there are many more things on your To Do list that will be achieved in this new decade and beyond.

    Melisa xx

  26. I hope you have a wonderful birthday Jody. You have changed the lives of so many women around the world. You continue to inspire us with your words and actions. Thank you.

  27. Really amazing to read, Jody. It must be so lovely to see how far you have come. Happy birthday! Hugs Sarah

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