Childlessness may be one of the last vibrant taboos in our culture. Women, especially, who don’t have children are still regarded as somehow incomplete or thwarted, even by liberal and tolerant people. It may be that childless women are viewed, covertly, in some quarters, as selfish or unnatural or unfeminine. But the most common reaction now is pity — the idea that these women are missing out on one of life’s greatest experiences. Writer Courtney Hodell recalls a friend who “held both my hands, her eyes drilling into me, and said that for her, having children was like flicking on the light in a dark room.”
The essayists in a searing new anthology, address this widespread pity. Many are defensive or defiant, reacting to friends and strangers who have made them feel that they have failed to live fully.