I’m thrilled to have found this wonderful group but I’m still not sure I belong here. I am mum to Rose. She’s a care-free seven-year-old, occasionally cheeky, seldom moans. Sadly, Rose was stillborn, so she is currently somewhere else and one day I’ll catch up with her. Until then, my daughter is with me only in heart and mind, as are my early pregnancy losses, who don’t have names nor photographs.
Baby-loss groups refer to bereaved parents as mum and dad, but in other groups, as I have no living children, I’m definitely a not-mum. ‘Still a mum’, or dad, is another term often used for parents of stillborn babies. In the right context that title can be comforting but in others, I know some women just find it patronising. It’s a very different kind of mothering experience.
I don’t feel childless, or child-free as Marcia so eloquently advocates in her blog, so what am I? Child-neutral? I’ll go with that for now but what is an appropriate term for a situation that isn’t a comfortable fit with either societal norms or our own expectations?
To most people, I’m a childless, 47 year-old woman. When asked if I have children, the easy answer is ‘no’ and ‘just the way life has worked out’. That sparks the often-unspoken question ‘why’? It seems that some people feel the need to understand whether you’ve been unlucky or have made a ‘bold’ choice. Society appears to draw traditional lines here as if to categorise people into different sub-groups that fit with some rather basic reference points around spoken norms. I could bang on about that point for a while, but let’s keep that treat for another blog!
It’s not always necessary to tell people that I’m child-neutral. Sometimes it’s just a longer discussion than there is time for, or it can lead to an awkward moment, wishing I could manually unclench people’s butt-cheeks because it’s clear they’re now uncomfortable with the conversation. Although sadly, stillbirth is not an uncommon event – around 1 in 250 births in the UK I think – many people just don’t know what to say about it.
Even without discussion, some people make assumptions or form an opinion of what my life choices have been. A colleague, with whom I had never spoken about my situation, once said out of the blue, that she ‘respected my choice’. Obviously intended as a kind and tactful statement, but at the time I had no idea what she was talking about. It later became clear that she meant my choice to pursue a career and not motherhood.
For so many people it’s rarely as simple as making a decision. What has led a woman to being a mother or not is a very broad spectrum. All paths equally as valid and complex. While our reasons for being part of Mumsnot are probably very different, I’m delighted to have found a group of women who celebrate the positives in life without children. The journey is always better with friends who share the experience.
Davina is a child-neutral woman from Edinburgh. She runs her own PR company and is still working to perfect a kick-ass frangipane.
Contact her on Instagram @mistywyper