In the past week two different people have made comments to me that have amounted to the same message: Don’t give up hope; there’s still a chance you could have a baby.
Whether you’re childless-by-choice, or by circumstance, I’m willing to bet you’ve had someone say something similar to you.
“It could still happen.”
“You’ll change your mind.”
“Don’t give up hope.”
The “don’t give up hope” type of comment is the one that hits me closest to the core. While I think that hope is key to human survival, I think it can be dangerous if it isn’t backed by action. Just hoping something will happen someday is how potential and lives get frittered away.
While I was trying to get pregnant, I was full of hope, but I was also doing everything I possibly could to make it happen. Now that I am no longer trying, I am no longer holding out hope.
But this doesn’t mean I feel hopeless. And this is what I want to be able to explain to people who still carry hope for me.
Losing hope of having children is very different from accepting and coming-to-terms with the fact that I won’t. I am not hopeless; I haven’t thrown in the towel; I haven’t rolled over and surrendered to my childlessness. I have made a conscious decision to stop my quest to conceive and for the past two years I’ve been working on coming-to-terms with that decision. I haven’t lost hope; I’ve just changed my outcome. I haven’t simply given up on the idea of having children; I’ve made a decision to live childfree.
I know that many of these comments are said with the best of intentions. People who care about us can’t bear to see us not get something we want, or not get something that they think we should want. There is still a pervading idea that people who don’t have children do, or eventually will, want them. But some of us just don’t, or won’t, or did once, but don’t anymore. For the latter group, it’s not about giving up hope; it’s about accepting what is and building a life from there.
Kate B says
I found that continuing to hope prevented me from moving on and accepting my situation. Once I was able to put the hope of having children away (mostly away), I was able to beging to heal and learn how to begin to carve out a happy life without children.
Well stated. I don’t think people realize that when you keep thinking “it could still happen” that it is really holding you back to live your life. It is like carrying around a bowling ball everyday. Maybe I am strange but I would look at certain foods and think “I can’t eat that” or should I take that new job “but it will screw up my FMLA”….It is a huge weight that you get to a point that you just can’t carry around anymore.
I felt like a huge weight was lifted off my shoulders when we followed through with our decision to stop trying to conceive. I was full of hope the whole time, always thinking “this is the month,” and when it wasn’t, I was devastated. There is no way I could have continued with that. Like you said, I don’t feel hopeless now, I just redirected my hope to something else. Now I hope that my husband and I will continue to enjoy each other’s company and continue to find fun and interesting things to do. I hope that I continue being a good teacher for my students. I know when I was carrying around the bowling ball of hope (good description, colleen!) I was not the best teacher I can be. It was too distracting.
I kept getting these sorts of comments long, long after we had decided to remain childless/free, and long after even most fertile women would expect to achieve (& carry through) a pregnancy. Even if we’ve accepted it, it seems like it’s very difficult for others to do so. It’s hard for people to believe that any ending that doesn’t include a baby can also be happy one.
I LOVE love LOVE this. I have so often seen or heard people say (usually to others, sometimes to me) “don’t give up hope, it WILL happen.” And I hate that. I hate the implication that giving up hope is a bad thing (when it’s not, as you and your commenters point out), and then that trite, callous “it will happen” when you know that it won’t. Argh. Thank you for posting this.
Ugh. Thank you for posting this. I am currently in the middle of a fit of hope and have completely regressed into fruitlessly charting BBTs. It goes in waves, no?
It goes in waves, yes, I think so.
I’m torn between wishing you good luck and yelling “Don’t drink the Koolaid!” Just ride the wave, I guess and see what happens.
i had to ask people to stop saying it in the end, all it does is remind me that actually NO, no matter how much HOPE i have, it probably WON’T happen, so will you please stop saying that it STILL MIGHT?!?!
I am sooooooooooo glad for this post.
I have only very recently come to understand (emotionally, for myself) this connection (or non-connection) between hope, coming-to-terms and acceptance.
I’m 39 and childfree because i tried to conceive during 4 years (including fertility treatment), the medical problems being on my partners side…. after the four years he declared he’d “never really wanted children” and after some more struggling, our relationship broke apart after 10 years.
ALL i’ve been hearing from people – friends, but also childless people in online forums etc. and even my psychotherapist – is “but you could still have children. Just get a new partner”.
And this has been hurting me so much… and i’ve taken MONTHS to even understand for myself why that hurts and doesn’t seem possible for me right now.
If you think the same: Please try to take just one minute to try and understand what the events of the last two years of my life meant for me. Two years filled with pain, confusion, feeling rejected and a huge loss.
this is what i need to COME TO TERMS with. To “find a new partner” i must “Move on in life”. And that means coming to terms with what happened and accepting it FIRST. It means i can NOT “hope” for a man and a baby to just come along. Specially not for the baby.
Furthermore i just had the terrible experience (yes, you might think thats nothing new, but it does feel terrible when it happens, as you all know too) that life doesn’t turn out the way we planned it. How on earth could i just decide that i will go on with my “plan”? It would mean to totally ignore what my current situation is: No partner, therefore, no baby.
All people are talking about is the “hope” – side of things. Totally ignoring, that the “coming to terms” MUST come first….accepting what is NOW…. there is no hope without that.
I hope this is understandable…
Elena, I can sort of understand your situation. After years of a not so great marriage my husband royally screwed up. After much forgiveness and therapy I felt we arrived at a place where we could have a conversation about children. I felt that my trying marriage made me a stronger person. I was grateful to arrive at a place where I felt happy and in-sync with my husband. I felt centered and “ready”. Only to find out that he isn’t willing to take that step with me.
Now I find myself in the position of staying or bailing out of a (like you) ten year relationship. I’m held back by that “bowling ball of hope”, by the ticking clock and by the question we all ask ourselves at one time or another, “WHAT THE HELL?”
And like you, either way it’s going to take some time to process and move past these emotions. At my age time is a luxury I truly don’t have to squander. In my case I do still have “hope” but right now hope seems silly and worthless and if anyone told me not to give it up – well, I’d want to tell them where to shove it.
i’m so sorry you have to experience this. I understand how really difficult it is. Exactly because there seems to be so much reason for “hope” – which is nearly nothing to do at all with the situation as it is in reality. Please take care of yourself.
Thank you for your truly insightful comments. Even though I wrote this post, reading your comments turned on a light bulb for me. This won’t be the last time someone throws out the “there’s still a chance” and now I have a very clear answer for them and an explanation of why their comments aren’t helpful. Thank you.
Wonderful Post. I have been TTC for 3 years and I just need the relief of not trying anymore. I don’t want to think about it anymore. I just need freedom from the whole problem. I want to accept that I have a worthwhile and wonderful life without a baby. Thanks for the great thoughts.
I am so glad I found this site. I have been waiting for an adoption for 8 years and it’s tearing me apart, I feel like I can’t do this anymore but nobody will support me in that direction. I feel exactly the same like you wrote….I dont’t even know what I want anymore, the only thing I want is to put an end to it and move on..But it is a difficult decision.
Lauren T says
After two unsuccessful rounds of ICSI my doctor told me that it wouldn’t be worth trying again because of the number of eggs I produced the last round (two). He also said that there is probably a problem with me because we never seem to get viable embryos – we did the screening. My husband who is 12yrs older that me has two kids from a previous marriage and had a vasectomy thereafter. I am struggling to come to terms with the news. My sister has two healthy kids. I can’t believe that this is not going to happen for me – this was meant to be my destiny. I’ve read that ivf medication can affect the quality of ones eggs esp on older woman. I am 39. I have moments of hope that this was the case and that we can do SOMETHING. Then I tell myself that my situation is what it is and then all I see ahead of me is a life devoid of joy and living out my lonely widowed twilight years in an old aged home where the smell of urine wafts through the air. And that’s when I try to find hope in my hopeless situation….
I cannot agree more. I find holding on to hope really silly. I tried to conceive for two whole years with no success. At this point, I think “continuing to hope” is quite silly. I want to enjoy life. I cried, still do but holding on to hope is something which has done me more harm than good. I do not imagine at this point I will ever have children (I’ll be 37 in October) and hence, I just want to put this horrible chapter behind me and move on. So, well said and I wish you deep happiness.
Thank you, thank you, thank you for this message. I miscarried twice in the past six months and although I realize that I am relatively young and have reason to hope, I also don’t know if I can or should continue breaking my heart to get a dream that may not be meant for me. I hate that so many well-meaning friends and family tell me that I will have a healthy baby… as if they have the power to promise me something like that! My husband keeps on telling me that he will support whatever decision I make (whether I try again or not) and that it’s a decision that he and I get to make and no one else’s opinion ultimately matters. Now I am starting to wonder if I should stop talking to people about any of this. It’s so personal and I hate their well-meaning comments!
Hello everyone I love this post and the many wonderful comments thatI can relate to its so refreshing to find that I’m not alone. I have two children but have been trying unsuccessfully for almost two years for the third and everyone keeps saying have faith, don’t lose hope. I have to admit at times when someone speaks to me as if I’m weak for feeling like I can’t take another month of disappointment and pain I resent them. The charting watching what you eat taking vitamins doing any and everything you can to achieve what you want how can I be seen as weak? It takes so much strength to get back up when being emotionally knocked down month after month. It’s now to the point where I am starting to resent my partner because he tells me to have faith.
My very best friend couldn’t seem to stop herself from saying, “You guys are meant to have children – I just know it.” I didn’t know how to tell her how unhelpful that was at the time; I just felt so helpless. Now that we have stopped trying, she is angry at the unfairness of the world (as a children’s doctor, she sees abused children and it breaks her heart), and I still don’t know how to respond. I am angry, too. I feel like I have lived a lifetime in the last year, and I have so many more years ahead of me of trying to be OK – of trying to move from hope to acceptance. Right now, I am in neither place, and it is dark and lonely. I know that my husband and I are a complete family, and that we will have a wonderful life together. I know that, but I don’t feel it, yet.
I found love later in life, and it was worth the wait. We truly are each other’s complimentary partner and love each other completely despite our own imperfections. Before we married, we discussed children and the possibilities that may come with or without them. Once established in our marriage we decided that we would try and conceive with the idea that we would not seek fertility treatments or in-vitro if we were not able to conceive on our own. My husband is 7 years my senior and we gave ourselves a ‘cut-off’ age for when we no longer wanted to become parents. (A long and comprehensive discussion produced the timeframe, based on his and my own wants and reservations about age and parenting.) As we approach the cut-off point we previously decided upon when planning our future and family, we grow more anxious, for despite having made a year long attempt to conceive we have been unsuccessful. The many…many attempts although at first were fun and intimate have become tedious and taxing on our relationship. Every month seems worse than the last and the anxiety build up from one negative test to the next is becoming more than I can handle emotionally. I feel that wanting so badly to conceive is actually creating distance in our relationship. I am almost at the point where I wish I could simply move on, accept that we will not have children of our own and rebuild the intimacy with my husband. There is however that other part of me that wants to have children so badly. It is difficult to ignore.
Thank you for the article, it is good to know that there are other women out there who share in the same feelings.
Thank you for this post and for all the comments. It is helping me feel less alone and less of a ‘failure’. I too met my husband later in life and we discussed parenthood openly and honestly…I remember at the time having NO doubt that it would happen ..that is not meant to sound arrogant but I think deep inside that is what I thought. This ‘certainty’ gave me a somewhat bravado attitude and the ability to say (and truly believe) that if it doesn’t happen by X we will move on, if Y assistance doesn’t work we would not try Z…how naïve, foolish and mistaken I was. 8 long years, much heartache and loss later I reflect on the fact that I have repeatedly changed/morphed/pushed those statements confusing myself and my husband along the way. I got on and off the crazy fertility train and still if I am honest, haven’t fully got off. I feel like I am lingering on the platform, with a hesitant foot on a speeding train for which I no longer have a ticket….for which I seemingly didn’t ever have a ticket. But that was the destination I was headed for and now I am lost. No other trains, no other tickets and no mental strength to figure out a new itinerary. AND moreover, in equal measure I am managing to beat myself up for not trying hard enough and for trying too hard….(figure that one out!?). I saw a photo of me earlier today taken 8yrs ago and thought blimey I look young. But I remember seeing that same photo at the time thinking…oh my goodness I look old! So I guess my point is that all I know is that I don’t want to fritter away the next 8yrs but I have no idea how to move forward, give up this ‘hope’ and find new/different hope.
Add to that 2 of my closest friends have had beautiful children since my wedding 8yrs ago….One bridesmaid had her first daughter almost at the same time we too would have had a child had I not had my first miscarriage, her 2nd daughter was born at the time as we were experiencing our first failed IVF. Second bridesmaid had her son in last October…a few months after a ‘chemical pregnancy’ ……
I thank you so much for this post as well as others who have responded. I am single and trying to conceive for a bit now. It’s tough thinking to go alone and then have no success and reaching the point age-wise where I have to stop trying. I always hear that I would be a great Mom and don’t give up…what about this treatment and that? It’s draining and heartbreaking every month. I almost get to the point of letting the dream go and then try yet again because the thought of not trying is so difficult but then up and down is killing me. The best thing that was said to me was “it’s okay to stop”. But this same person says don’t give up….so I hear both. It’s tough. My heart is broken. I feel alone like my life is over. I wish there were more posts like yours.
Its entirely up to you to decide whether or not to carry on and if its causing more upset than anything else it’s better to stop and in no way does that mean you have failed. You can fail at things you attempt but that in no way means you have failed as a person.
you say you are not hopeless but rather accepting what is. I don’t know how to stop thinking about it, hurting about it or letting it go. It’s all I know in my heart.
The decision to live childfree is something that I can understand could bring peace in its own way.
Again, thanks for the post
I understand. I too am single and have been trying but when do you stop “hoping” and just accept. As many posters say, I too want to be happy and spending day after day in hoping and month after month being disappointed, I just wish I could accept and move on. I wish there was a way to “know” it’s time to stop. I am told I will know but I don’t think I will. Giving up feels wrong.
I am so grateful to find this site and these posts. I know I’m not the only one. Wish I had a spouse to share the ups and downs but life is what it is.