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When time runs out : the experience of unintentional childlessness for women who delayed childbearing Koert, Emily Christina


Given that an increasing number of women are waiting to have children there is growing concern that more women will end up unintentionally childless as they continue to delay childbearing past the time when a viable pregnancy is possible. However, little is known about the experience of permanent, unintentional childlessness for women who have delayed childbearing. This phenomenon was the focus of this study. A qualitative approach was used to answer the question: What is the meaning and experience of permanent unintentional childlessness for women who delayed childbearing? In-depth, tape recorded interviews were conducted with 15 women who had expected to become mothers but were now permanently and unintentionally childless after delaying childbearing. The interviews were transcribed, coded, and analyzed using van Manen’s (1990) hermeneutic phenomenological method. Thematic representations and rich descriptions of the experience of this phenomenon were developed. Six common themes were identified across the women’s experiences of unintentional childlessness after delay including: 1) Sense of Grief and Loss; 2) Sense of Being an Outsider in a World of Mothers; 3) Sense of Judgment and Assumptions; 4) Sense of Powerlessness; 5) Need to Make Sense of Childlessness; and 6) Sense of Reconciliation and Acceptance. Trustworthiness of the results was determined using criteria consistent with the hermeneutic phenomenological method. The findings are compared with the theoretical and extant literature, with emphasis being placed on how they extend our current understanding of the phenomenon of permanent unintentional childlessness after delay for women. The implications for Counselling Psychology practice and future research are also addressed.

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