Crossing the Mother-NoMo* Divides
Childlessness and childfreedom are terms with much more precise significance in my world today, moving toward elderhood (about which I’ve reflected elsewhere).
Not surprisingly, grief is at the center of these learnings, at least for elderhood interests. Whatever losses we childfree experience do not touch the belly-grief of the childless. The journeys are diverse, so the griefs are too. Excruciatingly so, for the childless. [This hits the now familiar trope for me of the progressive unable to honor the losses of anyone considered not progressive. Work needs doing here.]
I have gotten curious about what I do feel here. Did you know there is a whole interdisciplinary inquiry emerging called childfreedom? Something in all this drove a preliminary research into resources about childfree/childless storying. I listened to an hour-podcast with Ruby Warrington and Jody Day. Mostly, I’m more aware of how diverse the narratives are for wo/men amidst our pronatalist-presumptive world.
I have always said I’m childfree by choice, but the journey there was exhausting amidst wafflings/presumptions. When my fertility years waned, I was relieved to finally “be free of the choice.” And I did have a couple months of flash-fire grieving in my mid-forties, aware that my own dissociative-reclaimed body journey meant that I also didn’t really have a choice.
My “choice” was between “having children,” OR “not losing my body again.” I chose the latter. Had I not? I would have been a kind of mother I did not want: a woman who sacrifices self-knowledge so to bear children, therefore living her own life through her children. I refused that option more than I chose to be childfree. My “first act as a mother” was “my last one,” as my healing demanded. (To be clear, I’ve now come to know mothers who do not identify their whole lives through their children. Revelatory. Also learned too late.)
Today I sense nuances of this mothering/childless/childfree consciousness in the wo/men I love, befriend, hold space for. My closest friend has one of the largest biological webs of relations, locally, that I know—kids, grandkids, elders, menagerie of animals too. I’m thrilled for her. I absolutely love being woven into the mix whenever I’m invited. This means, however, her consciousness is always populated, even when she’s given herself a week of hermitage.
As a childfree woman, I do not have such an intensely populated consciousness stemming from my own body. I therefore make other choices outwardly so to populate my consciousness, to know my interconnectedness as a woman without a large biological family, deeply connected in the human family. Eldering, in the end, comes from an increasingly populated consciousness of the interconnectedness of all.
My friend often urges me to trust that all I need is deep within me. And it is. But our consciousness differs too, rooted deeply in our bodies’ differing experiences. In the end, she and I simply feel what could be true for the other, honoring our difference just as much. We cherish one another fiercely, across any and all of these divides.
Gives me hope.
*(#NoMo is a positively-reframed word for humans without children, in circumstance-reason-choice.)