As told to Kathleen Guthrie Woods
One of the most touching aspects of our Life Without Baby community is our willingness to openly, candidly share our stories. Together we’ve learned, grown, sympathized, encouraged, accepted, and celebrated. What a gift!
We want to encourage more story sharing, so we are launching this new column space, and our brave and beautiful leader, Lisa Manterfield, has agreed to be our first interviewee. We’ve learned a lot about and from her as she’s shared the stages of her journey here on Life Without Baby. Read on for a few of her insights, then consider sharing your story through the link on our Our Stories page.
Lisa always wanted and expected to have children, but knew it had to be with the right person. She was 34 when she married “Mr. Fab” and believed she still had plenty of time. Initially she thought his vasectomy reversal might put a wrinkle in her plans, but it turned out her own infertility was the real issue. Now 43 ¾ years old, she has fully accepted that she won’t have children, and she can see the opportunities she has had because of it. Lisa has chosen to answer the following questions.
LWB: What’s the hardest part for you about not having children?
Lisa: If you’d asked me this three or four years ago, I might have answered feeling like a social outcast, not relating to friends, not leaving a legacy or having someone to leave my stuff to, not experiencing the joys of shaping a little human, never experiencing pregnancy…the list goes on. But I think if I went back to that list every six months or so, I’d find myself crossing things off. Most of the things that used to be so hard don’t seem so important anymore, and I’m really enjoying the advantages of not having children.
LWB: What’s the best advice you’ve received?
Lisa: It wasn’t so much advice as a passing comment that stuck. A friend hinted that she and her husband had had fertility issues, didn’t have children, and now she realized they were okay as a family of two. Her comment struck me on two levels. Firstly, it caused me to rethink my definition of family and I realized that, yes, I too already had a real family, just a small one. I’d always thought of us as a couple who wouldn’t be a real family until we had children, but that wasn’t true. I also saw in her my first infertility survivor, and I knew that if she could say she was okay, I would too. It was a big shift for me.
LWB: What have you learned about yourself?
Lisa: I’ve learned that I’m incredibly resilient. I now know from experience that I can go through whatever life might throw at me and come out the other side in one piece, and perhaps even stronger than I was before. I’ve learned to be less judgmental of others, because you never know what personal hell someone is going through at any time. My experience has made me more compassionate towards others who are hurting too. I’m much more likely to stop and take the time to reach out to a friend in need.
LWB: What is the best advice you’d offer someone else like you?
Lisa: Everyone’s journey is so different that it’s almost impossible to give advice. How do you tell someone it’s time to give up on a dream? That stopping point is different for everyone. I might advise someone like me to decide ahead of time which options she’s prepared to try and how far she’s willing to go and for how long, but in reality, you do what you do, you get caught up in hope and a growing desire for success, and the last thing you’d want to hear is someone telling you to stop and accept that it’s not working. So, I’d just offer support instead. It’s much more valuable than advice.
LWB: What is your hope for yourself this coming year?
Lisa: I’ve been working hard for a long time now on another big dream—to be a fiction author—and this year, I feel as if something good is going to happen to me. That resilience I talked about earlier has come in very handy, as I seem to have a habit of picking dreams that I can’t fully control. It’s been interesting to see how much of my experience of dealing with loss has come through in my latest novel, even though it has absolutely nothing to do with infertility. So maybe this will prove to be the silver lining of my experience. I hope so.
Kathleen Guthrie Woods is a Northern California–based freelance writer. She is mostly at peace with her childfree status.