If you’re someone who imagined, or even expected, that motherhood would be part of your life, the option of a life without children isn’t one you’d be in any hurry to consider. But for many women, that can become the only reasonable option.
I never thought that I would be childfree, childless, a non-mom, or however you’d choose to describe me. Children were always going to be a given for me, “No matter what it takes.” But in reality, I wasn’t willing or able to do whatever it takes, and eventually the option that started to make the most sense to me, even though I didn’t like it, was a life without children.
Medical technology has made great strides over the past decade or two (I was just reading an article this morning about the latest procedure that enables women to freeze ovarian tissue.) Adoption has lost much of its stigma and is considered by many to be the obvious next step for someone who can’t have children of their own. In many ways, there’s a perception that infertility is never an insurmountable obstacle to a family, and that there is always a next step available.
In theory, that’s somewhat true, but in practice, it’s never as simple as that, and many us find that we reach the end of our emotional or financial paths long before we exhaust the list of family building options available to us. It’s hard to walk away from the dream of motherhood, but sometimes it just makes sense.
This week is National Infertility Awareness Week. There are many things that I would wish for my former self, if I were starting out on the road to parenthood again. I wish I’d had more information; I wish I’d had someone I could talk to, who could guide me through the process; I wish I’d had one great doctor who could have given me a step-by-step work-up, an accurate diagnosis, and a set of options sooner, before I’d exhausted the emotional stamina and financial means to use them.
But now, three years after deciding to end my quest for motherhood and starting to make peace with my life without children, I have this wish: I don’t want to promote childlessness as an option. I don’t want to say, “Hey, you! You don’t need to put yourself through all that hell any more. Come over here and be childfree!” I don’t wish “unresolved infertility”, as I’ve heard it called, on anyone. But when some of us reach that point, I wish there was more support available. I wish that infertility resources included information about choosing to walk away from motherhood, and how to come to terms with that decision.
The theme for NIAW this year is “Don’t ignore…” and my request is this: Don’t ignore those of us for whom the infertility journey does not end with a baby.
And now for some resources that are available: There are lots of us out here in the blogosphere, talking about this topic. Check out the blogroll on the right and please support their efforts to have our voices heard. If you have a blog on living without children, and it isn’t yet on the blogroll, include it in the comments and I’ll add it to the list. We have a strong community here on this site, so if you’re new here, cruise around and see what we’re talking about. You can also sign up for the password-protected site where you talk to other women in a private forum.
If you’d like to hear some live voices (and see some beautiful childfree faces) please join me here this Saturday, April 28th at 12:00pm PST as I talk to three wonderful women about their own journeys to come to terms with being childfree-not-by-choice. There’ll be the opportunity to chat live with other women online and make connections with some kindred spirits.
Finally, if you’re here supporting NIAW and want more information about infertility, please visit these links.
I feel as if you took the words right out of my mouth…or heart, as I’ve not spoken up enough.
Thank you Lisa for this blog, this support group, for your book, and mostly for acknowledging “us” as a group. I couldn’t have gotten to this place of almost-peace without all of you!
Yes, as CiCI stated…thank you Lisa for this blog, this wonderful support group, and most of all for your book. While reading your book, it was the first time that I didn’t feel so alone and that I will eventually get through this. Thank you!!! I am so looking forward to Saturday at noon.
I totally agree with you. It’s been 7 years since we accepted we could not/would not have children, stopped trying and moved on with our lives. At that time, I felt so alone, could not find any resources, and had to figure out everything and sort my feelings myself. This website has been so helpful even after having found it when I thought I had figured everything out. I wish it was available 7 years ago but I’m glad it’s here for everyone now. I hope this website helps bring awareness of what we go through to others who don’t, and greater understanding by those who have not suffered like us. Thank you again and I look forward to the articles and discussions on your site every day.
Pamela M Tsigdinos (@PamelaJeanne) says
Amen, sisters. Amen.
Everyone else has said what I would have said if I’d got here earlier. I like that by participating in this community we can help those coming after us, and show that life is good.
I’m not at that point yet, but I find it reassuring to know about More To Life.
Such a great post! Thank you for “filling the hole” … and reminding us that there needs to be support and resources for those parents whose dream is forever deferred.
Amen, Lisa, and thank you so much!! 🙂 It is easy to feel ignored in this corner of the infertility world — but it IS getting better, and you have been a great advocate for us!
FYI — I had to take my blog private this week — after being inadvertently “outed” on Facebook by a clueless relative who found a link to one of my posts (a non-IF-related post about my grandparents) & posted it to our private family FB group. As one of the group admins, I managed to delete the FB post & link, & take my blog private before too much damage was done (I hope…). I’m sitting tight for a week or so in the hopes that things will blow over, people will forget about it, & I can go back to blogging soon — I miss it already!
Loribeth, I wondered what happened! I have enjoyed reading your blog.
Thanks — I hope to be back soon. : )
thank you for your words. I stopped blogging recently but still have the blog up for anyone who wants to read it about my path from TTC to deciding to stay a family of two.
Thank you for writing this. I has been 5 months since we decided to no longer pursue parenthood after our donor egg FET failed. One of the reasons I decided to stick around twitter & lately to add my blog to Stirrup Queen’s list was because I wanted to find and give more support. The wounds are still a bit fresh but I think finding others has helped and now I feel, I can really dive into this corner of the blog sphere. Like others have said, once again thank you for keeping the conversation going.
Eeeep! here is my tumblr,
Great post, thank you Lisa!
I also think there is another issue to consider. As fertility treatements advance scientifically they get more and more accepted by society. But this “society” is mainly made up of people who only have the vaguest idea about how it works and what it means to go through infertility treatement. They don’t know how much it hurts physically, they don’t know how stressful it is psychologically, and they have no idea what the cost in money is. Most people don’t understand about the “real” success rates either or just don’t want to know.
This leads to an extremly distorted view on the whole issue.
We, the childless, are then put under extreme pressure by people in our private circle who have no idea what they’re talking about.
We are also put under pressure by a medical and pharmaceutical industry who looks to earn money from us (not to talk about people earning money illegally from this by enslaving women as surrogate mothers or children as adoptive children in/from countries where people are extremely poor and have no other choice).
And again the whole issue revolves around us women and doctoring our bodies, souls and attitudes towards life (“well don’t start so late, career woman”) when only a fraction of the same attention goes to men’s bodies, souls and attitudes- completely ignoring that it’s men’s bodies, souls and attitudes which very often are the reason for a woman having to remain childless. Yes, that opens up a whole lot of discussion points concerning out society, women’s and men’s roles in it, society’s attitude towards family and the life-work-balance, ethical questions and and and. Just promoting “better” fertility medicine WILL help many couples but not answer these questions.
THANK YOU so much for pointing this out. People suggest things all the time when they have no actual idea what their suggestions entail. After someone very cavalierly suggested that we have IVF because “it worked for so-and-so and now they have twins!” I pointed out some of the specific things IVF involves, to which this person replied, “I don’t know about all of THAT.” To which I wanted to scream, “If you don’t know about all of THAT, then perhaps you shouldn’t be offhandedly suggest I put my body, soul, mind, and marriage through it!”
So, thanks. I appreciate your comments. 🙂
Some really, really excellent points here, Mina!
Thank you for sharing this. As you already figured out, I shared the link to this on my blog in the hope that it will enable more people to see it because I think you’ve covered so many important points here.
One of those points was when you said this:
“I wish that infertility resources included information about choosing to walk away from motherhood, and how to come to terms with that decision”.
Couples who are having fertility treatment should absolutely have support that includes information on how to walk away from motherhood/fatherhood and how to come to terms with everything. It’s very unfortunate that such information is not always readily available. Please keep speaking out about these issues. Thank you again for this post.
Coming over from Pamela’s blog and I have to say, this is so very well said. Thank you!
Thank you for this post. Pamela’s called my attention to it early on this week. I was so inspired by it and I am sorry I am just now returning to comment. I really appreciate your perspective here. In retrospect there is much that I wish I knew or could tell my younger self when I was just starting out on my five year journey through secondary infertility and loss. I knew I wanted to write something for NIAW, but it wasn’t until I read your blog entry here that I realized what I wanted to say. Just as your words advocate so well for those living childfree, I wanted to try to do justice to those who have experienced secondary infertility. So thank you, on so many levels. I wish you the best in your life and am glad that you have found your “tribe” of others who have made the choice (though I get it wasn’t what you hoped for and dreamed of) to live childfree after dealing with infertility.
Hello, I heard about this post from Melissa’s Friday Blog Round up. I loved this post. My husband and I aren’t in the child-free category yet. We are somewhere in the middle (hence the name of my blog) of waiting to hear if we get matched with our adoption, and living child-free. I’m not really sure where I fit in this community anymore.
Living child-free doesn’t scare me. I love the life that I have with my husband, and yes, I’ll be sad if we are not given the opportunity to be parents, but I know I’ll be okay. Thank you for this post.
I’m fairly new to all of this and am still trying not to be “reclusive” about what we’re dealing with, but here is my blog: http://hopeprolonged.blogspot.com/.
Jannie Funster says
Hey, Lisa, I’m a friend of Jeanne’s from “Chronic Healing.”
I’m sure a lot of women are finding your site a wonderful haven for them. Good job here.
It’s easy to feel alone when we’re going through heart-wrenching experiences. I hope those in need are Googling and finding your posts!
I think that not to ignore your emotions is good advice in most life situations, particularly difficult when the rest of the world would prefer that your unpleasant emotions would just disappear.