I entered my adult life anticipating that I would meet the ‘one’ and have my own family. This picture was firmly set from a young age. It was what being a woman was all about, unless you were unfortunate and ended up as a spinster – on the shelf…
“In modern everyday English, spinster cannot be used to mean simply ‘unmarried woman’; it is now always a derogatory term, referring or alluding to a stereotype of an older woman who is unmarried, childless, prissy, and repressed.”1
The term ‘spinster’ came with such a loaded image of an unattractive, miserable and lonely woman. It was to be avoided at all costs and remaining single wasn’t an option on my checklist for life. Instead, finding ‘the one’ and having a family would mean that I’d made it … or would it?I don’t recall being encouraged or expected to have a career. My path was laid out: I would meet my handsome prince, have babies and live happily ever after just as they did in the movies… or at least that was the message I was getting from all around me. Otherwise, how else would I spend my life?
So every relationship I entered into had an agenda. I rushed into relationships, often with partners who were not right for me or unavailable on some level – married, just fresh out of a relationship or just immature and not ready or looking for what I was. If they were suitable I would find something wrong with them.
Even though I had a picture of what I thought my life would be like, I wasn’t making choices for it to happen. Why did I choose a partner who was in no way ready to commit and have a family? And why did I enter into a relationship with a man who was married? It was messy and complicated.
It was all pointing to one thing: low self worth. Even though I said I wanted a family, on some level, I didn’t feel I deserved it. My low self-worth was driving who I chose to have a relationship with.
Growing up, I always had a sense that I would never have a big white wedding. I was very clear: I did not want to wear a big ‘meringue’ dress (it was the 80s and big, white, fluffy, puffy dresses were in) nor did I want a big fuss. I couldn’t see myself getting married in a church – how could I, when at this stage I did not believe in God and that just seemed hypocritical. And as for the virginal white thing – that just seemed like more hypocrisy. No, when my prince came, we would do it very simply.
Things didn’t quite go as I had planned. I met several potential princes, many frogs and a few toads along the way. I did marry, albeit briefly, and it was a simple affair. Yet despite my numerous relationships, and often a lack of contraception, I never did get pregnant, nor tried to get pregnant. I just kept thinking it would happen one day, and that I just wasn’t ready yet.
So when I reached age 41, I panicked. This was it: my last chance to have a baby. It was now or never. I’d been in a relationship with a lovely man for a year. He had two children and was adamant that he did not want any more. His kids adored me as I equally adored them but there was something inside me driving me to have my own child.
It made no sense. I had what I’d always longed for – a gorgeous family. This one came ready-made and was there for the taking, I just had to say ‘yes’.
But despite the loveliness of what I had, it wasn’t enough for me. I wanted my own baby. It was as if I had failed as a woman because I hadn’t given birth to my own child. I asked myself if I would regret not having a child of my own if I stayed in this relationship. My body clock was ticking very loudly and the alarm was about to go off as if to say ‘that’s it, time’s up, your baby making use-by date has expired’. So then what? How would I define myself if I wasn’t a mother? So many questions rattled through my head, all based on the ideals and pictures I’d held onto throughout my life.
None of these were real, but I couldn’t see this at this time.
This internal pressure led me to put pressure on my partner to change his mind about having another child. I couldn’t accept that he loved me and yet did not want to have another child with me. I was holding him to ransom: even though I didn’t say the words, my actions were saying ‘if you love me, you’ll have a baby with me’. Now I can see that it was manipulation and emotional blackmail.
Eventually, the pressure was too much and the relationship ended. I felt really sad about not being with him and his children. And so, to avoid feeling the depth of this hurt, I set myself on a mission… to explore having a child on my own. This wasn’t the path I’d seen for myself all those years ago, but now at age 41, it seemed like my only option. I didn’t want to look back in years to come and feel regret for not having had a child.
It was such a strong feeling that seemed to consume me. But looking back now, when I was actually around babies and young children, I know that I didn’t feel a longing to have my own. I loved being around them and I loved handing them back to their mother.
I did explore having a child on my own, and was given the green light medically to have IVF. But the more I sat with it, the more it just didn’t feel right for me and I eventually said ‘no’ and closed the door on having my own child. I remember feeling a sense of relief at taking the pressure off myself. But I’d lived with this notion that I would be a mother for as long as I could remember, and now that wasn’t going to happen, what now?
It was around this time that I started to explore who I am as a woman and what being a true woman means by attending Esoteric Women’s Health presentations, having esoteric healing sessions, esoteric breast massage and attending Universal Medicine courses.
What I discovered (and am still exploring) was that being a woman has nothing to do with what I do, how I look, who I’m with (or am not with), being a mother, a wife or anything outside of myself. Being a woman is a quality within me that has always been and will always be there. It is delicate, precious and tender and it has no attachment to whether I am a mother or not.
Now I’m 50, I see how my desire to have a child was coming from an ideal of what being ‘successful’ as a woman was. I realised that all the choices I made throughout my life came from how I felt about myself (i.e. my sense of self-worth) and that I was looking for a partner and child to make me feel complete as a woman. I felt that if I completed my picture of a ‘happy’ family, I’d be happy and I’d be successful as a woman. I’d made it. I could tick that box.
I now see that when we carry around a picture of how we think our life will be, we miss out on what is right before us that might be just right for us.
Looking outside of ourselves to feel loved, or to affirm that we are ok, just doesn’t work. It will never fill the space that only we can fill for ourselves by connecting to and living our true selves.
If there were one gift I would give to every young girl, it would be the gift of knowing that she is divine, gorgeous, beautiful and wonderful no matter what she does in her life. If she does become a mother, to have the understanding that being a woman will always come first and foremost, and that having a partner and/or being a wife or a mother will not make her any more or any less of a woman.
By Sandra Dallimore, Melbourne, Australia
1 Oxford Dictionary: Spinster
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No Children – I am No less of a Woman by Mariette Reineke
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Esoteric Women’s Health: What does it mean to be a Woman?