It’s not all about the bollocks


I hadn't realised the impact socially of being childless until I went to a wedding at a pub. As you'd expect, it would be rude to refuse the beer because the landlord was the groom. At the bar I was joined by friends and then before you knew it, there was a gender divide. Men over here, and our partners over there.

My wife found me later. I was slightly embued of the spirit of 6% 'brewed for the wedding' beer and I was thus terrible at realising her distress at having to sit with women who were mums, grandmothers or yet to be mums with not one infertile person amongst them. Except for her. And nobody listened.

I haven't worked out whether we did talk about children in our man cave at the bar but I'd be fairly certain we didn’t. Not because of me but because one of our wider gang had lost his son not long before. At the time I didn’t think a great deal about it but have later understood that my losses are somewhat merrily skipped over because they aren’t seen to be as big as my friend’s son.

It was a tragic event and he was a wonderful child who deserved so much more. As his dad said it should have been him, for he had lived his life. There is nothing you can say to that.

I don’t know that grief because it’s not mine and it’s a different one to what I have felt. To be present at the first scan and hear your baby has no heartbeat, is not the same as finding the two-week wait didn’t work and it’s not the same, I imagine, as the loss of a child who has started their born life. Grief isn’t measurable but it needs fixing by talking. And blokes can talk about the football scores and argue the merits of England and Gareth Southgate but we’re terrible about talking about why we don’t have kids. I have many friends who don’t but we don’t say why! I know one friend and his partner, both men, didn’t chose surrogacy and wanted a child free life. Another I think is child free.

I now do mention our story when I’m asked. When my wife chooses not to come to the pub at the end of the week gathering with friends, because of something to do with our journey, then I share it. If she wants me home, I’m there but I always tell our mates down the pub why. And those are the more likely reasons. I don’t think I’ve been asked if I have children in the way that women are. That my wife often has and I’m certainly of an age when others think I have grandchildren. I’ve also been single for a long time, happy not to settle down with one woman and viewed with suspicion by parents, which I think is a common and taboo subject.

It’s not a lecture, no reveal or bells. I’ve no trouble with chatting about their children or grandchildren but it’s making them aware that I’m here, that infertility is in their midst and it’s not all about the bollocks, it’s about real people. 

Ken Smith


Kenny is married to Berenice and they are both World Childless Week Champions and helps his wife to run Walk In Our Shoes, a site that allows stories to be told in confidence, illustrated by feet selfies. They went through 3 rounds of IVF and 3 rounds of ICSI treatment and are not parents. Due to their age gap, they were told that adoption would be very unlikely to be successful.