Family Life, September 2018

The Childless Life

The childless life

by Lisa Tramontana

  • Did you know?
  • 1 in 8 women struggle with infertility?
  • 20% of all women reach the age of 45 without having children. 

For the childless woman, there’s nothing quite as painful as Mother’s Day. Sandy Michelet remembers walking into a restaurant and being greeted by the host with a carnation in his hand. “Are you a mother?” he asked cheerfully.

It was so unexpected Michelet didn’t know what to say. After years of trying to conceive a child, such a question seemed almost insulting, but she knew he meant no harm. “People say things that are insensitive all the time,” she said. “Usually they mean well, but it still hurts.”

Michelet married in her early 30s and tried for years to conceive, but it just never happened. “For a woman, there’s so much pain and shame associated with being childless. It’s different from being child-free. Childlessness is not a choice. And you really question why this is happening to you. Don’t I deserve to have a child? I remember wondering if I was being punished for something I did … maybe I talked back to my mom when I was 20 years old? What did I do?”

When everyone knows about your struggle, their first impulse is to offer advice. “Just relax,” they say. “Pray more. Start drinking apple cider vinegar!”

Holidays and social events are especially painful, Michelet said. Most people don’t stop and think about what it’s like to navigate the everyday world without a child. At Christmas, it seems like everyone has a child on his or her lap opening presents, she said. At family get-togethers, parents are either bragging or complaining about their kids. “So many times, people have jokingly said to me, ‘Well, I’d be happy to give you one of mine!’ Really? Would you?”

The jokes are probably meant to ease the awkwardness. “It just seems natural that women are supposed to have children,” Michelet said. “Over the years, I found myself often offering to host or provide food for family gatherings. It’s the only way I could feel that I had a purpose like everyone else.”

Although Michelet mourns the fact that she never gave birth, she is grateful for her stepchildren, now adults, whom she has loved since she married their father Craig 18 years ago. “They are wonderful,” she said. “We’ve had a full and happy life together.”

But it’s not the same as it is for a woman with children. Especially when Michelet thinks of the “family tree” concept. “I move into new phases of my life,” she said, “and new concerns pop up, especially as I get older. Everyone else has ‘branches’ on their family tree. But generations from now, there will be no children to trace back to me. It just ends. That’s part of the reason I started my blog (The Childless Life).”

Two years ago, Michelet sat down at the computer and just started typing … the words, the pain, the anger all started pouring out. “I realized I’d been hurting and hiding for so many years,” she said. “I just couldn’t keep it in any longer.”

Many women have benefitted from her blog, which gets thousands of hits every month. Michelet believes it’s her down-to-earth conversational style, her honesty, and the fact that she isn’t afraid to sprinkle in a bit of sarcasm occasionally. “I also understand the struggle with faith,” she said. “For years, I stopped going to church, and many women have that same experience.”

Michelet has found a new church that nourishes her spiritually, and she has come to terms with her childlessness. “It’s a hard thing to deal with, but I’ve accepted it and I realize now that I’ve had a ‘rich and satisfying life’ just as the Bible says in John 10:10. And John doesn’t say you must have children to achieve that.”

It took time, but Michelet has found happiness with her supportive husband, her stepchildren, friends, work, and her blog, which has become a meaningful ministry. “Not everyone can have children,” she said. “And if you don’t, it doesn’t mean you’re less than anybody else. You’re just different. Your life will just take a different direction that what you planned.”

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Thousands of readers visit Sandy Michelet’s blog each month
(from left) Brant, Craig, Sandy and Erica Michelet