So why did I choose this week, why is the 16th September so significant? 

Society is made of families. We listen to the stories that our grandparents tell. We help our mum make cakes in the kitchen. We pass our dad his spanner when he’s under the bonnet of the car. We laugh at family parties and scowl just a little at (yet more) family photos.  These are stereotypical images of a happy childhood that run in conjunction to my toy kitchen and dolls, and to my brother’s toy cars and Action Man.  

There is nothing wrong with these images or these toys. People are slowly starting to break through some of these preconceptions. They are accepting that their daughter may want to be with dad in the garage whilst their son adds glitter dust to the cake he’s just made with mum. It is great that a wider understanding and acceptance is spreading that children are individuals. That children can want different things.  But, how many parents still automatically assume that one day their children will have children and they will become grandparents? 

So this is where there can be an almighty hiccup because things don’t always work out the way people perceive. The after effects may start as a ripple, but can lead to a full blown tsunami. Some people choose not to have children. Others who grew up with the dream of being a parent suddenly find out for one reason or ten it just didn’t, or couldn’t happen. Suddenly the nuclear family hasn’t been created.  Family and friends may raise eyebrows, question the person directly or just not address anything and this is where the difficulties start.

To suddenly find yourself at the point where you know in your head (but possibly not in your heart) that you will remain childless is a gut wrenching pain. It rips at your dreams of how your life will lead and who you are in your head. Your plans are squashed, your identity is wilting and it feels like you are the only person going through this pain. Then when you wipe the tears from your eyes you get hit with an avalanche of daily reminders. Reminders of the dreams you’d held in your heart but will never materialise. Your dreams appear at every location and in every situation. They are so tauntingly near but they are out of reach. Someone else (everyone else) seems to be living your dream. The life they have is the life you want.   

Everywhere you look there are women who are pregnant. If they are not family, friends or work colleagues then they are on the bus or at the checkout, in the soap opera you watch, the celebrity magazine you read or all over your social media. Then they give birth.     

Today the 16th of September is the World’s most common birthday. Today is the day that most women give birth; a privilege that the childless not by choice have been denied.

Numerous families are celebrating today as a day of happiness and new beginnings. Whilst they shed tears of joy there will be others shedding tears of sadness. Today represents the day most childless women would have marked in their diary as their due date. For those childless women today is a day of endings. Today is the day that most childless women grief. 

Stephanie Phillips

Founder of World Childless Week