Childless-not-by-choice. Childless-by-circumstance. Childfree. There are many terms used to describe those who do not have children. It can be hard to know where one fits in the no-kids community, let alone society in general.
A childless friend once told me I am childless-by-circumstance because of my medical condition. They said it was a unique circumstance that prevented me from having the children I wanted.
They are right, of course.
But ‘childless-by-circumstance’ has never quite fit for me.
But the truth is, the term ‘childless-by-circumstance’ has never quite fit for me. Yes, I live with a medical condition that would threaten the life of any would-be child. Yes, I am childless due to bad blood and terrifying medical risk. (To find out more of my medical story, you’ll have to read my upcoming book, Surviving Childlessness.)
Yet the ‘circumstance’ thing does not sit comfortably with me.
Perhaps it is because ‘childless-by-circumstance’ is most often used to describe those who are childless because they cannot find a suitable partner, including those partnered with someone who does not want children or who already has children from a previous relationship.
So how shall I describe myself? Childless-by-killer-blood-abnormalities?!
How shall I describe myself? Childless-by-killer-blood-abnormalities?!
‘Childless-by-circumstance’ also implies a lack of choice. It suggests you did everything possible to have children, but the circumstances were against you. What about those of us who made a choice not to have children, but the choice was not made freely—or happily?
So I have invented a new term for people like me: childless-by-forced-choice. It applies to those of us who made devastating decisions not to have children. It is for those of us who wanted kids but did not want the danger that might have accompanied it.
Childless-by-forced-choice is for those who had to choose between the lesser of two evils.
My chronic illness might have made pregnancy very dangerous—both for me and the child. That was my forced choice. Others may feel backed into a corner by their medical conditions or perhaps by family genes, mental health issues, disabilities, trauma, abuse or fear.
Anyone who has made a difficult decision not to have the kids they wanted can describe themselves as childless-by-forced-choice.
Anyone who has made a difficult decision not to have wanted children can be childless-by-forced-choice.
Yes, it was a choice we made. But it was a choice we wish we never had to make.
If you are living with the consequences of forced choice, I hope you know with certainty that you are not alone. There are a bunch of us who have faced that difficult decision. We get it. We understand. We hear you.
You are not alone.
Are you childless-by-forced-choice? How has that forced position affected you? Do you know any childless people who might see themselves as childless-by-forced-choice? Share your story. Let’s have a countercultural conversation.