The shamed ignorance is becoming more and more fragile.

Our shamed stories are gaining more and more attention.

The shamed silence is breaking.

Infertility continues to see more and more media coverage:

As the discussion and the education (thank goodness) continue to grow surrounding infertility, the claim over certain semantics has also grown.

In particular, the semantics surrounding the terms childfree versus childless.

I have read many articles and blog posts and also been confronted myself on why my use of the term childfree is incorrect.

To some people, maybe even most, the term childfree describes those who have chosen to not have children or the childfree by choice group. Whereas, childless describes those of use who have tried but cannot have children.

However, I describe myself as childfree, and will continue to do so.

The subtitle of my upcoming book Ever Upward is Overcoming the Lifelong Losses of Infertility to Own a Childfree Life.

And yet, I desperately wanted children. I paid a lot of money to have children. And, I suffer lifelong losses from the journey I endured to have children.

I choose the term childfree over childless because I am not less of anything. I am not missing anything. I am not less of a woman because I cannot be a mother of the traditional sense. My life does not mean less than anyone else’s. I am not not whole because I cannot be a mother.

My heart, my soul, my life are not missing pieces. They are simply scarred by three tiny souls. These soul scars have not left me lacking anything but rather have left me more whole. For I am a more loving, more compassionate, continually healing person because I so loved those three tiny souls and even more so because I lost them.

I choose the term childfree because I refuse to be identified as less than.

I choose the term childfree, yet childfull, because this is where I have found my continuing recovery.

And yet, there are days it doesn’t feel like a choice at all.

But I will continue to practice my recovery and choose my whole self and my whole story.

And, that is nothing less but really the true definition ever upward.

**I want to thank Adrie for taking the time to read and comment so thoughtfully on this post. She has made me completely rethink the term childfree and yet I am still not willing to use the term childless. So, I’m not sure where that leaves me but I can assure you I will find it. Maybe it is my term childfull or maybe I will just make up a new word. And, I’d love to hear your ideas! Thank you for joining me on this continually healing and messy journey!**

*To read more about my story and my recovery make sure to pick up a copy of the soon to be published Ever Upward: Overcoming the Lifelong Losses of Infertility to Own a Childfree Life.*

If you found this post enjoyable, inspiring, helpful, hopeful, interesting or even infuriating 😉, please take the time and the chance to share it through your social media! More shares means more eyes, means more people helped and the message heard on a wider scale. Thank you! Justine

Linked with Amateur Nester’s Weekly Link Up.

21 thoughts on “The Semantics

  1. I can definitely understand the more positive connotations of the term “childfree,” but I still really don’t like that term. It seems to indicate that having children is… restrictive? Or a hindrance? I think our culture already really believes that children are a necessary evil, or even a “punishment.” I would hate to identify myself with that belief.

    It sounds too much like “Smoke free,” or “drug free” to me… and we know that drugs and smoking are bad for us. Are children bad for us, too? The term “childfree” somehow feels that way to me. Just my thought. I also can see how “childless” feels like a punch in the gut. Trust me, I know how that feels, too!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Adrie, thank you so much for taking the time to read and for your amazing and thoughtful words. I love your point! Maybe I need to stick with my term childfull?!? I’m definitely going to marinate on this and consider our other options.


    2. Adrie, Actually, going to edit the post today a bit…


    3. Adrie, Just added a note at the bottom of the post with a link back to your blog. Thank you again! J


      1. Adrie | A Little Wife's Happy Life says:

        Aw, Justine- I’m honored!

        I’m with you- I’m not sure of the word to call this way of life. “Childless” obviously doesn’t work- that word just feels like a knife to the gut.

        I love your thoughts on having a childfull life- I think we’re fostering that, as well- we have so many little ones that we love and in whom we invest. And how important that is!


  2. inconceivablefc says:

    I agree with your usage of the terms. As well, there are always the adoption option for those who don’t want to be ‘childless’….you chose to be child free!


    1. Thank you for reading and your comment. I love the conversation this is starting. I am not sure adoption is that simple of an option to fix my childlessness though. But I also know that is an active part of my recovery is owning that. Thank you again! J


      1. inconceivablefc says:

        I certainly wasn’t suggesting that adoption was an option for you. It is not for us. But it is for some.


      2. Oh, I know! I think that one just cuts me so much because of how much our society simplifies that decision and process. Practicing my shame resilience over here on that one a lot ;). Thank you for just being here with me on this journey!


      3. inconceivablefc says:

        I hit reply too soon. People are always shocked that we aren’t choosing to adopt. We are much more comfortable with the idea of being child free then many people are. It is interesting to hear the different perspectives.


      4. Absolutely! Us too!


  3. gsmwc02 says:


    You are so right that it is semantics. I think it’s whatever works for the person. For me being ChildFree means making the decision not to have children in any aspect of my life. I couldn’t do that which is why I consider myself childless meaning I lack children. But that works for me, who am I to say that it should work for everyone.


    1. Greg, Thank you so much for reading and commenting and for your brave honesty. You are right, it is for each of us to decide. But I am loving the help I am getting from my fellow warriors on this! Much love, Justine


  4. I think when we all talk about it and put effort forth to understand where we ALL are coming from, the terminology doesn’t matter so much. We live in a careless, judgmental society. I think it’s important to move beyond these barriers. When we listen to each other and know what it means for that person, there’s no “correct” or “incorrect” term, because the point has been made, and WE GET IT!
    Justine, you’ve already defined your journey…”Ever Upward”. It’s beautiful.
    Adrie, though I absolutely respect and love how you make us think, terms like “cancer-free” have a very positive connotation…it’s overcoming something, moving on, and being able to LIVE life. Maybe even grasping it with both hands.
    So, I would have to say everyone is absolutely right! However we use our language, the meanings we all take from it, a reflection of our different journeys, no right or wrong…just who we are…just where we are.
    Blessings all!


    1. You’re right, we’re all right. This is what I always come back to compassion and connection and the courage to own it all. Thank you so much for reading and this comment and engaging in this amazing conversation! Justine


  5. jasmineshei says:

    It always makes me sad thinking of myself as a childless mother. I like the way you think. As long as you are happy with the term, It does not matter what others call them.


    1. Thank you so much for reading and the comment. And, you are so right! J


  6. Lisa says:

    I love the term childfull. And I think you’re so awesome for being willing to have this conversation about the semantics publicly.


    1. Lisa, Thank you so much! This one was nerve racking to hit publish and I was worried about the backlash. But the conversation has been amazing! I think childfree yet childfull may just have to be my semantics! Hope you are feeling well! J


  7. loribeth says:

    I wrote a similar post in the very early days of my blog:

    I know there is an urge to slap a label onto everything & everyone, but some situations don’t lend themselves to a black & white label, & this is certainly one of them. People aren’t very comfortable with ambiguity or shades of grey.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you Loribeth! I loved your post, thank you for the link to it. We are mothers. I am settling into my descriptor still I suppose. Thank you for taking the time to read and comment! Justine


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