I pray to the patron saint of barren women, St. Anthony of Padua. He is also the patron saint of lost things and amputees. What can he provide? I should be paying homage to the patron saint of the fecund, whoever she may be.
Barren women, whether by choice, circumstance, or biology (his or hers), are an anomaly. Giving birth is, understandably, the default. “Why don’t you have children?” is a question somewhat dangerous, fairly personal, but mostly reasonable to ask someone with whom there is any bit of a close connection, maybe even without it if the setting is right. “Why do you have children?” is unequivocally gauche. Societally, we all understand that is an obnoxious, gasp inducing, scorn deserving question to which the only dignified reply is a gracious sip of your cocktail and a discreet cast of your gaze at some vague fixture across the room.
“Why don’t you have children?” Better hope the answer is biological, or better yet, “Oh, I hope to!” Biological works if it is clearly too late, “And we’ve tried everything.” Biological, “But we might adopt.”
“I didn’t want to,” is deemed wholly selfish, but is a banner to fly, which has something of a following. It can even be substantiated by something meaningful like concern for one’s carbon footprint, overpopulation, or one’s own, abysmal childhood.
What if the answer is, “I meant to; I assumed I would, it just never happened.” That comes across as plain lazy. Maybe that answer is true, maybe that outcome isn’t necessarily careless, but surely the childless one is culpable for her oversight? Reproducing is a duty, it’s a drive; it’s not something to be left to chance. One doesn’t just forget to do it, or neglect to get around to it. It ought to be a priority and if you haven’t done it, well you best get busy.