On aching and love

The frozen table | SusannahConway.com
When I talk to anyone about my nephew I know my eyes sparkle. I imagine I sound like a teenage girl mooning over her pop star crush — he’s SO funny! He’s SO clever! Ohmygoodness, he did this thing the other day that was SO hilarious! <Insert dreamy sigh> He’s just amazing….. And he is really is. I can provide documented evidence of how Noah is possibly a MENSA-level genius and already displaying the comedic ability of a young Ben Stiller. And that’s before we get to the fact that he’s the Cutest Kid in the Universe.

I know I am biased when it comes to my nephew. I know that all of us who love little ones are biased — it’s part of the deal. We see the magic in them through the lens of our unconditional love. I have moments when I look at Noah and have actual physical aching in my chest. Having the privilege of watching him growing up — and, even better, being an active part of his world — is the greatest gift I have ever been given. It’s been the absolute making of me — I can’t really remember my life before him. It all feels so grey in comparison (okay, so biased aunties also tend to be a bit melodramatic).

Whenever I am with Noah I am 100% present. We play, we dress up, I wipe his bum, we jump on the bed. I do my best to help his mum out and try to be the most hands-on auntie I can be. I’m too busy dealing with my exploding heart to think about my own stuff. But when I get home, back to my quiet life in the city, I feel it hard. Mostly it’s me missing Noah, but woven through is a little ache that’s been growing lately. Knowing this great love I have for my nephew, who feels like a part of me in the way my sister does, I wonder what it would be like to have a child of my own. Created with love and born from my body. To be a mama, with all the sleepless selfless responsibility that involves.

While no one has actually said this to my face, I know there is this crazy idea out in the world that unless you have children of your own you don’t really know what selfless love is. Or maybe it’s unless you’re a mother you don’t know what real love is. Or is it that women who choose not to have children are selfish? Whatever it is, it makes me feel like shit and it’s patently untrue, as any auntie, uncle, grandparent, godparent and carer can attest. I didn’t do the feeds in the middle of the night and I know I don’t carry the responsibility that my sister and brother-in-law do (though I carry the worry with them 100%), but I love Noah as if he were my own child. It feels bigger than just “family” — I feel like I am his second mummy. I don’t know how else to explain it.

I’m at this very delicate point in my life where I have to face the fact that my fertility is declining and the likelihood of me having a family of my own is becoming remote. This was brought home to me last week as I sat in the office of the doctor who’ll be surgically removing my fibroids. He mentioned my age three times in our 20-minute appointment. It was unpleasantly sobering.

I honestly don’t know what the next few years will bring for me romantically or reproductively. There is still the possibility of my own child, and yes I know adoption is an option — the sperm donor route, however, is not for me — and perhaps my future beloved will have children of his own I will grow to love. But just as I wish to find the best most brilliant uncle for Noah, I still hope to make a cousin for him. And typing that makes my eyes prickle with tears, so I know that is the absolute truth.

I don’t have a neat ending for this post. It is what it is. This is my life, my right now, and just as I know circumstances can change in the (missing) beat of a heart, I also trust that this is the path I am supposed to be walking. It’s not comfortable but it is real.


Noah turned four earlier this month and asked for a Frozen party, so we all pulled together and made it happen. It was MEGA.

And bowling for the first time the day before:


30 responses
  1. Carol Cassara

    Childless me agrees. My own nephew is now 24 and I’m as crazy for him now as ever.

  2. Anthony

    Oh, Susannah! Sending you much love.

    A x

  3. Kristy Daum

    I definitely feel much of what you are saying here. I am an Aunt for the first time (my Nephew is 1 year and 2 months old) and immediately I became the lady with the photos showing everyone…whereas before him, I didn’t have a single photo of my family anywhere in sight.

    Even at the young age of 18 and for years since then, I can remember my family saying that I would likely adopt…like it was this sign I wore, that everyone else; but me could see. I am 35 now, and have no immediate prospects…so maybe it was foreshadowing, who knows.

    Thank you for sharing your joy and heartfelt words with us.

  4. Jen

    I agree, and I am in the same boat. We have been trying to get pregnant for almost 3 years now with no success. I have begun the process of accepting it’s probably not in the cards, but it is still incredibly painful. Right now what is killing me is that stupid commercial playing here about the Hardest Job in the World.

    I have value and I have worth – with or without a child. Whether it happens for us or not does not mean that I am better (if it does) or worse (if it doesn’t) than I am right this moment. It will just be whatever it is. Which is achy and tender in ways that are terribly difficult to explain.

  5. Shanon

    This made me cry. Anyone can see how much you love him and I am doing my small part by sending you positive energy that “what will be meant to be” will fill you with even more love and joy. Loving a child is like walking around with your heart outside your body, they say, and how true. You are both immeasurably blessed to have each other. It’s beautiful to observe, even from bloggy/ig-land. Positive engery your way!

  6. Steve Birkbeck

    Hey Sis, you are the best Auntie in the world. FACT! And that love you feel for Noah cuts both ways. He loves you just as much XXX

  7. Jen

    I feel your truth and your reality and you are not alone. People say senseless things. I am often told that I am selfish not to have children … yet, I don’t feel the need to tell my truth – divorce, miscarriages, infertility issues … I love my nephews and niece but I ache for what might have been and chose not to do the donor route either. My good friend chose the donor route and has never been happier. He just turned 2. Sending you much love across the pond, dear one. Thank you for sharing your reality. xx Jen

  8. Heather Davis

    Susannah, the feelings are so hard. I always expected to meet the guy that I would want to share the experience of being a parent with but it never happened. I knew I still had time though so life went on. Then suddenly at 47 I was told that I was in perimenopause and suddenly my options were basically gone. I was devastated. I was angry that I had lost my choice. Then a wise friend who had already gone through this chapter told me to treat it as a death, as a passing. Allow myself to feel everything I was feeling. I was to mourn the loss. I did. It took a while to work through the stages of grief but I came out the other side and was able to go forward with joy. That is my journey. If there had been a child or children I would have loved it but it was not to be. My aloneness allowed me to become an international teacher and travel the world. Which would I have chosen if given the choice? At 63 years old I don’t know. I love spending time with children. I am a teacher after all.
    Take it a step at a time Susannah. Listen to your heart and your body. It doesn’t steer you wrong. One of the teachers here that I work with decided to do artificial insemination because she knew she wanted to be a mother. Our little Michael was born three days before Christmas and his mom says, that even with the challenges of being a single mom, it is the greatest thing that has happened to her. choices and decisions – my thoughts are with you.
    My nephew is now 30 and I have another generation of three nephews from my niece. The boys are 11,8 and 6. So funny such joy.

  9. Angela

    I know what you mean. You’re only two years older than me, and I’ve been dealing with the fact that I’ll never have my own children. Then, two nights ago, I saw photos of a newborn baby that a friend of mine is a father to, and I just *cried*. Happiness for them, and sadness for me. They’re over the moon with happiness, and I will never know that. My life is too messed up to even think about adoption, as well.

    I also know what you mean re: unconditional love. I have had little ones in my life that I would have done anything for.

  10. Gerri

    Sending the biggest kisses and tender squeezing hugs your way…Compassionate witnessing, I see you love. xxO

  11. Cherie

    I totally feel where you are coming from. I turned 42 today & am single (working on year 2 of being single after 15 years in a relationship.) I have not ventured out on the dating scene yet because ugh. I’m not quite ready for that business yet. But I can feel that kids are not something I want to have (come out of my body) & with my advanced age (ha!) my chances are diminishing. I’d consider marriage, but only if it’s Tom Hiddleston, because seriously. Since that doesn’t seem likely either, well, I’ll just keep on keeping on. Who knows what the future/next 10 minutes will bring? I might change my mind about everything anyway & that’s fine by me. Life has a way of being a slippery weasel, so whatever happens, happens.

  12. Kristine

    I am a “Childless Auntie”, Also – I have 3 nephews that I adore – The difference with me is that I am content without having my own. I feel I have a very full life with family & friends and lots of love – Selfish or not, This is my life – I am embracing it as you are doing with your dreams – Great Post Xo

  13. Lucy Chen

    Oh Susannah, how sweet and loving you are! You sound like a mom obsessed with her child! haha! I mean it in the good way of course!

    It’d be nice to have your own child one day, but Susannah, I think you’re enjoying just as much with Noah. He’ll love you as much as he loves his mum.

  14. Sheila Bergquist

    Susannah, you would be a wonderful mom. But if it turns out that you don’t have children of your own, being a wonderful aunt is the next best thing. And remember, things happen the way they happen for a reason. Much love to you!

  15. Lisa

    Oh love. I don’t understand the thought that someone who chooses not to have children must be selfish. Why? People who have children sometimes have them for incredibly selfish and not so noble reasons. Before I had my boy and was going through fertility issues, I was very offended when people used to say ‘you don’t know what love is until you’ve had a child of your own’. Rubbish! Love comes in all different forms and strengths. There can be no denying the strength of your love and bond with Noah. I also believe you would be an excellent mama, but if that journey doesn’t happen for you, then you’re amazing Aunty-hood is the very next best thing. Sending you a hug xxx

  16. Jo

    I love you. And I love how much you love Noah and I know, because I’ve seen it, how real and deep it is. I also know how much these thoughts are hurting you. But I have seen you work miracles and this story is not over. xxxx

  17. Fiona

    oh love, I hear you, I see you, and you are doing so brilliantly at creating a life you can be proud of. Hold onto the hope and the miraculous.

  18. Amygretchen

    I absolutely love you, and this is why — your big heart. I felt this post deep in my soul. I suppose we never do know just how are family will come, but come they do –take heart and keep your hope alive. You will be a most excellent mummy. ???? Thank you for sharing you with us.

  19. Amygretchen

    Btw those question marks are suppose to be a kissy face. Guess it didn’t translate ;)

  20. Barbara Sinclair

    Dear Susannah, Your post went straight to my heart. I don’t know you personally, but I could feel your pain and I wanted to reach through the computer and give you a big HUG. First of all, the LOVE you that obviously have for your beautiful nephew, Noah, is every bit as important to him as the LOVE he receives from his own parents. I truly believe that. You two were surely bonded in another life! :) My two children were adopted as infants and are now adults. I can still remember the pain of seeing others around me with babies. I would lock myself in the bathroom and cry. So I get it. I never refer to my children as my adopted children. I say, when necessary, that they WERE adopted. It was just a process. The LOVE is all the same. And I truly believe that if it’s meant to be part of your journey in this lifetime for you to have your “own” children, then it will be, whether you try to plan it or not. In the meantime, how absolutely precious that you and Noah have each other! And btw, loved the “Frozen” birthday party theme! My friend’s daughter (I’m an auntie to her! :) ) is also turning four and wants a “Frozen” birthday party. I’m just learning that the dolls, etc. are practically on the black market…not to be found anywhere! Sorry this is so long…Thank you for the beautiful post!

  21. Sara

    I think you were given a very good advice!

  22. Heather

    Giant lump in my throat and an ache in my chest reading your beautiful words. I too long for motherhood (whatever shape that is) and I’m beginning to believe it won’t happen. I’m 43, single, with no children. It’s a jagged little pill to swallow. The reality of it. I’m so incredibly happy for you to have sweet Noah in your life and I’m sure he loves you with all his heart.

    Thanks for sharing your thoughts. I’m glad to hear I’m not the only one. :)

  23. Sara

    People and women in particular can be so judgemental. Let´s not care about what other think. I´m blessed with two pretty girls even though I said when I was young I would never have children. I loved children back then but I just had a feeling it wasn´t for me. But as the standards in todays society catched up on me (you know the picture of a happy, tanned family of at least four members, in front of a fenced house in the suburbs, well you know…) and I met a man I found security in, my opinion slightly changed. I love my kids and I don´t regreat them one bit! But I do know and understand why I once said I wouldn´t or shouldn´t have kids: because I hadn´t found myself, my true self. Because of my own childhood I don´t have a lot of self-esteem, I don´t even know myself. And it has been even harder sometimes to find myself AND being a mum. It is still a struggle to do so, to be that harmonious mum and treating them in a way that allows THEM to build their self.esteem when I´m struggling with my own. Well well, at least I´m aware of that now and I work hard on this and to be the best mum possible for my kids. Maybe your Sacred alone class would be one good thing for med to do. I´m giving it a thought… Hugs and love to you and Noah!!!

  24. Heather

    Exactly Heather…it is like a death. I too mourn my unborn children that will never be. They never get to be born and I never get to mother them. It’s a HUGE loss and one that sadly is not talked about enough. Most days I’m perfectly fine with it, then I hear that someone is pregnant and I start the cycle all over again…being happy for them and feeling sad for myself. That’s basically why I’ve stopped going to baby showers…I just can’t take it. I want to be happy, bu sometimes the bitterness is too much to handle. So I mourn too. :(

  25. Grace


  26. Caroline

    Dear Susannah,
    I wrote about this several months ago… and while reading your words, it didn’t feel less empty..and even a sense of regret came back to my heart. Not long, but just enough to have that thought…what if…

    here the link if you feel like reading… and I’ve posted an amazing video at the end…so heartening and emotional.
    with much love,


  27. xanthe

    Such a tender post…. hugs xxx

  28. Melissa gomeZ

    Susannah….what a heartfelt post…I too at 43 recently divorced, no children wonder if that is in the cards for me…I have two nephews that I love as my own and while reading your post I am glad to know I am not alone and there are others out there also with the same issues and feelings…sending lots of love and hugs your way…you are such an inspiration..:)

  29. Steph

    I always read your posts and on very many occasions I thought to myself that you should adopt. Honestly Sus, I thought it so many times you wouldn’t believe it, but felt it was NEVER my place even to come close to saying something like this because you’re you and you know best about yourself than I do, and how could I pretend it’s any different?

    But as you brought it up so openly and clearly with this post, then, there you go. I think you’d be amazing at it with the added bonus that you are gifting something life-changing to a little one who is already here, already breathing and sleeping and dreaming and needing you. S/he is already out here and already waiting for you. I’d adopt Sus. You’d be AMAZING. Sure, we tell ourselves that to have a family is ‘right’ with the right man, but frankly I think that if you haven’t got the right man and may never meet him, then his lack shouldn’t stop you from being a WONDERFUL mother.

  30. Whitney Rhiannon Till

    “so I know that is the absolute truth.”

    I remember sobbing in the middle of a yoga class once as I opened my heart up to how much I missed the baby that was not yet there. I so appreciate your honesty and wish you the best in your love and family journey.

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