Childless: A Story of Freedom and Longing

Sian Prior

Childless: A Story of Freedom and Longing
Text Publishing Co
29 March 2022

Childless: A Story of Freedom and Longing

Sian Prior

I always wanted to have children. The earth might be in trouble-overpopulated, descending into ecological crisis-but I was always sure my kids would help make the world a better place. I would be a green-feminist supermum, having it all. Nothing turned out the way I expected.

Like many women, Sian Prior arrived at the point where she was ready to start having babies - and found they were not hers to have. Three miscarriages with a supportive partner; a new partner who already had all the children he wanted; step-children; step-grandchildren; the decision to parent solo, followed by many rounds of fertility treatments.

After all this Sian found herself, at fifty, childless and coming to terms. Weighing up the freedoms against the losses. Dealing with the unacknowledged legacy of her own lost father. Observing parenthood itself - how we succeed at it and how we fail - from a perspective outside the trenches.

Compelling, moving, beautifully written and unexpectedly uplifting, Childless is her story.


The question of whether or not to have children was never one that held any ambivalence for Sian Prior: she always wanted to have children of her own. She had many concernsabout the future of the planet and its impending environmental catastrophe and what that might mean for generations to come – informed by a personal history of research and activism – but hope was there, and with it, an acute and irrepressible desire to become a mother and leave a genetic legacy for the future. But in spite of Prior’s thoughtful approach to the issue of reproduction, she found, through a series of painful events, that her life’strajectory would not include giving birth to a baby of her own. In this carefully crafted and emotionally rich memoir, Prior moves the reader back and forth across the years of attempt and failure, reflecting on the many events that coalesced to lead her to a state of childlessness in her fifties.

When I think about this book, I am overwhelmed by the courage that it must have taken to write it, and then set it free into the world. It’s such an intimate story that exposes its writer in so many ways, and covers myriad topics that are rarely discussed openly, and are on the verge of taboo. Prior does not shy away from describing the cruel physical experience of miscarriage and the grief associated with the loss of potential that a miscarriage represents. She reveals the ongoing mental and physical pain of unfulfilled maternal desire, often tied with feelings of guilt. She details the relationships that were made and broken during her attempts to become a mother, and is openabout the complicated ways in which other people’s children have featured in her life. Childless is a welcome interruption to the ideology of motherhood (frequently presumed to be the natural state of the female subject), and an incredibly candid account of the way that the female body can torture and foil the person who inhabits it. Alongside this story of ‘failure’ is also a hard-fought path of self-discovery and self-acceptance, of becoming comfortable with the possibilities afforded by a life without children, as Prior learns to let go of an imagined future that cannot become her present. There is a sadness here, of course, but also many moments of joy and humour, and a story of living with purpose and intention.

I hope so many people read this book – people with and without children, by choice orby fate – to understand an experience that is infrequently given space to exist in public, but which is by no means unique.

Alison Huber is the head book buyer at Readings.

This item is in-stock at 2 shops and will ship in 3-4 days

Our stock data is updated periodically, and availability may change throughout the day for in-demand items. Please call the relevant shop for the most current stock information. Prices are subject to change without notice.

Sign in or become a Readings Member to add this title to a wishlist.