A Woman Without a Child

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“A woman without a child is like a man without an arm.”

This line comes from the brilliant, but little known 1941 film, “The Great Lie.” But this perspective is far from outdated. For many reasons, not the least of these being normal human biological impulses, it is simply expected that if you are a normal woman, you are planning to have a child.

The pain of an empty womb is unique and often misunderstood, disregarded, or made light of. Be it the result of infertility, miscarriage, or a conscientious choice, the void that should be filled by her own child but that remains a barren landscape is a source of deep, enduring pain for the would-be mother. Every new baby born to friends or family renews the strength of the innate urge to carry her own infant. But cruel circumstances keep her from a natural and cherished desire.

In some instances, even a loving mother has brought her children into the world selfishly, longing to delight in the joys of motherhood without fully considering the child’s needs and future life prospects. Most children in the Western world are raised by someone other than their families. Nannies, daycare workers, teachers and aftercare providers raise and care for most children while their mothers go to work to pay for the childcare services. The fortunate children are cared for by grandparents or other relatives. Very few are actually fortunate enough to be reared, trained and cared for by their own mothers. Once maternity leave is over, cash flow must be maintained, especially now that Baby must be cared for. Sadly though, once Baby is old enough to voice his nascent opinion, what he wants most is for “Mommy and Daddy to have time for me,” and precious time has already been lost. What should have been cherished memories, experienced first-hand, are simply stories related by childcare providers of first words and steps.

There are few who make the conscientious choice not to have a child until circumstances are favorable to providing all the child truly needs: not just a home, food, clothing and education, but most importantly, the time with his parents, particularly the mother in early years. Time equals love to a child. You could provide luxurious living arrangements, designer clothing, expensive classes, and the like. But if you didn’t spend adequate time with the child, he would feel something was lacking, perhaps even feel unloved. Yet still, the time and money considerations are not all of the equation.

What if there are genetic considerations in addition to the financial considerations? Perhaps chances are high that your child could be born with a disability or a severe illness. How responsible and loving would it be to knowingly bring an innocent child into the world to suffer a serious illness? Even if testing could be done during pregnancy, what good would it do if the mother refused to abort an abnormal fetus? Why create a life just to snuff it out when it was shown to be unsound? Better to not create that life in the first place, and prevent needless suffering.

If after considering both financial and genetic factors, a woman decides that she cannot, in good conscience, provide adequately for a child, why should she then be a social outcast? Her decision is made out of love for the unborn, not yet conceived child; because she loves it so much that she would not have it suffer needlessly by bringing it into the world in a less than ideal situation. This decision brings her pain, due to her strong maternal urges and love of children. Yet other women, blessed with children of their own, (perhaps in ideal circumstances, perhaps not), may ridicule her, making insensitive remarks and even assuming that because she has no children of her own, she must dislike children and of course knows nothing about them.

Here is where the trial becomes yet more difficult. Having the opportunity to care for the children of relatives or friends may soften the affliction of not having her own child. Yet those friends or relatives, rather than showing support may instead treat her as if she is ignorant of the needs of children, or they may display the attitude of, “If she likes children so much, she should just have her own.” The empty womb becomes more and more painful, until the words ring true: “A woman without a child is like a man without an arm. A right arm.”

I suppose I shall have to learn how to use my left arm.

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