real life

'The day I thought about kidnapping another woman's child.'

This post deals with miscarriage and could be triggering for some readers.

Two decades ago, I nearly kidnapped another woman’s child. 

The woman was a stranger. We were both on a jetty, and her young daughter had chatted with me about seagulls and sharks. The girl was blonde, like me, and fascinated by the sea, just like me. 

At one point, she leaned over the edge of the jetty and was in danger of falling. As I gently tugged her feet back to safety, her mother was looking the other way, oblivious. 

I would make a better mother than her, I told myself. 

In that moment, my urge to grab the child and run was so overwhelming, I couldn’t breathe.

Then I made myself walk away - fast.

Watch: A tribute to the babies we've lost and the significance of remembering their names. Post continues after video.


Video via Mamamia.

The night before the scene on the jetty, I had finally abandoned my seven-year long quest to have a child. 

After three miscarriages, one broken relationship and a year of solo IVF, it was time to find out who I might be if I would not be a mother. But the desire to have a child doesn’t just evaporate when you finally give up. It has to be wrestled into submission.

I always wanted to have children. I loved the questions they asked about the world, and how they could turn any activity into a game. All along, I assumed that when the timing was right, I would simply get pregnant and have that long-awaited baby. It came as a rude shock to discover that my body had other plans.

Throughout my early to late thirties, I kept trying - and failing. Meanwhile, I watched from the sidelines as other women planned their families, had the children they’d planned to have, and sometimes had unplanned children. I longed to be in their shoes, to share in the joy and amazement of having produced a new life and a lasting legacy. 

When the grief of three miscarriages crashed my relationship, I decided to go it alone. But at the end of a year of IVF treatment with donor sperm, I reached my limit. I could no longer face the prospect of having my hopes dashed month after month. And so my decade of grieving began. 

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It was a quiet affair, a sadness that dogged me everywhere I went, but remained mostly unspoken. Underneath the sadness there was also anger - with my body, with the medicos who’d failed to diagnose my health problems, with the man whose children I’d miscarried.

Listen to No Filter ,where Dr. Anne Coffey shares her personal experience with miscarriage and her advice on how to get the support you need during this difficult time. Post continues after podcast.


Anger is not socially acceptable in a situation like mine. Sorrow is okay, but it should be a modest sorrow. A stiff upper lip is good. Counting one’s blessings, accepting the roll of the dice, is highly commended. Some days, I wanted to rage against the unfairness of my situation.  

Instead of shouting at the world, I started putting it all down on the page, as a kind of writing as therapy. And I began asking myself some hard questions:

Would my life have been any better if I had a child? There were no guarantees. 

Would I have been a perfect mother? Definitely not. 

The more I wrote, the more I realised it was time to turn this situation around. To avoid spending the rest of my life feeling sorry for myself, I had to stop focusing on what childlessness had taken from me and work out what it had given me. 

The biggest gift of all was freedom. All of my work was then freelance, and much of it was portable. Whilst the parents around me were busy attending to their children’s needs, I was untethered.

So when I turned fifty, I bought myself a little campervan and began travelling the country. Every winter now I head north, visiting glorious beaches, bushwalking in national parks, camping beside rivers, awaking to the dawn chorus. 

One year I flew to Iceland and hiked up volcanic mountains to view giant glaciers. Another year I visited Italy, Wales and Indonesia, ticking them off the bucket list. Next year I will drive across the Nullarbor.

It’s not the life I would have chosen, but it is my one wild and precious life, and I’m making the most of it.

Sian’s latest book is called ‘Childless: a story of freedom and longing’ (Text Publishing). You can follow her on Twitter at @sianprior and on Instagram at @sianshyprior.

If this has raised any issues for you or if you would like to speak with someone, please contact the Sands Australia 24-hour support line on 1300 072 637.

You can download Never Forgotten: Stories of love, loss and healing after miscarriage, stillbirth, and neonatal death for free here.

Join the community of women, men and families who have lost a child in our private Facebook group.

Feature Image: Getty.