By Lisa Manterfield
My friend was recently sideswiped by sadness. Like me, she’s been off the “baby train” for several years and has truly come to terms with the fact that she won’t have children.
Then she had a birthday and found herself totally sideswiped, caught off-guard by her grief, and in the kitchen having a meltdown.
She’s not sure and neither was I. Maybe her birthday signified moving one step closer to menopause and the final loss of the possibility of motherhood. Maybe spending time with a friend’s son reminded her of the missing part of her life. Maybe she was feeling alone in her family-oriented community.
The point is that sometimes, even when we’re sure we have it together, even when we’ve done the grief work, even when we’ve cried an ocean and think there’s nothing left to resolve, sometimes we just get sideswiped.
Has this happened to you? What unexpected trigger has caught you off-guard?
Jane P (UK) says
I wonder if I’ve done enough grief work – everyday I feel I’m reciting my mantra’s and telling myself – I’m enough. I get sideswiped pretty much daily. Pregnancy announcements are the hardest – perhaps my colleague who sits opposite is the reason for the daily work again. I also visited my MIL (she married my FIL this year – they had both been widowed) for her birthday yesterday – I was excited by the things we had bought. However, her Son was there and he’s just become a grandad – she insisted on showing me a new born baby picture on her phone. I showed as little interest as I could and handed it straight back – i didn’t show my husband who was stood next to me. She let it go and the conversation moved on – hopefully this was enough to remind her that we couldn’t have them and all the pain and heartache we’d been through. I reminded myself that she had only known us for the past 4 years but got together with my FIL when our journey ended with an ectopic pregnancy. Even reminding myself that she forgot our struggles in the moment – it left me with an undercurrent of sadness for the rest of the day. it also spilled into today – I’ve only just started to feel better again reading the post from Lisa today and Kathleen yesterday. Thank you everyone for reminding me how hard it is to live a different life to the one expected.
Jamie Ramirez says
I just had a tearful moment this morning when congratulating a coworker on his newborn twin sons. I thought I was past all of the grief and had accepted my role as perpetual “auntie” and now “grantie”. I had given up the idea of being a mother even before cancer forced a total hysterectomy on my 42nd birthday. After all my husband is now 62 and I have multiple sclerosis- where we would we get the energy for a child?!? Yet there it was sideswiping me today just as bad as my thirties when I would run out for a pregnancy test every time my period was late.
I had this this weekend. Out in bar with friends. Overheard that a couple who had been trying longer than I did for a baby had finally succeeded and she’d given birth the day before. I had foolishly assumed they were in same boat as me. I excused myself, walked to the toilets, broken down in the cubicle for 20 minutes, slapped some makeup on and came out smiling. Tried to forget about it and did ok all night. Until I went to sleep and had a horrendous vivid dream in which I had a miscarriage. Your mind doesn’t let you get away with forgetting sometimes
I haven’t been sideswiped for at least a year … I don’t think! The last one I remember was this time last year, around Christmas arrangements.
They come and go in those first years. But I found being in my late 40s and now 50s has reduced the frequency of sideswipes dramatically. If that offers any hope to others.
Rachael York says
Had one today. Still having one. Feel an emptiness I can’t wrap my head around. Have dealt with this for years. It’s an extremely hopeless feeling. Most days im fine. Overly independent…i like my freedom with time. But today…everything is questioned. Purpose in life..feeling of failure and emptiness. An extended family member passed sort of suddenly and I’ve had several deaths around me in the last 2 years. I think this is definitely a trigger to the finalities in life and not wanting to be wasteful with the time i do have. I’m usually a pretty positive person with a lot of drive. I’m typically stubborn and hard to move on things im passionate about. Today I feel defeated and completely lost.
It was Thanksgiving I went to my mother’s place. She invited a friend of my brother’s (female) her mother, and 2 year old child. My brother’s friend is round my age..a couple years younger and married.
Well as soon as I walk in her mother starts asking questions. “So do you have a family of your own?” I paused as I was caught off guard. I said no, if I did I would be with them. She goes no you could just bring them here. My mother listening and agreed with her. It was so awkward and upsetting. I wanted to scream and tell that lady off about her question. I thought to myself ..
why would she ask that. I mean shed see my baby if I had one. But..Not everybody is fortunate like your daughter to be married with a child.
The child was 2 snd took everybody’s attention because she was. “So cute”. My mother catering to the child’s every need. Having mother conversations with the child’s mother. Which honestly sounded like she was purposely taunting me. She’s extremly critical and judgemental and says things that cut deep. Especially when it came to wanting me to have kids and then insults for not having them.
Well, it was awful after that lady asked me that. I wanted to leave and dreaded even coming. I had to excuse myself to go cry. I felt terrible like really where is my family. Or baby, I’d be ok with just the baby and myself. But I’ve got nothing I felt less of a woman and questioned my existence.
Ugh, what are people thinking? I’m so sorry. I went to my husband’s friend’s memorial service for his father. When we got there his friend’s wife answered the door. After we shared our condolences she asked if we had kids. I politely said no then asked why she wanted to know. She said that if we had kids, they could go play with hers. WTF?! Shocked at the cluelessness.
I can relate. I found myself sideswiped the other day when a relative announced her pregnancy. And as happy as I am for her, it still triggered the pain and shame and brokenness I feel that once again, it’s not me. I smile for her joy but with tears in my own eyes.
More like a slow derailment, with various things battering my train’s cars and slowing me down while I struggle to keep things on track… I make & sell toys for a living and just had the BIG christmas craft show (11 days of “you must have children!” and “it’s all about children” and “we can’t have any fun this christmas, no children in the family.” ARG! Adults CAN have fun, it ISN’T all about children and why would I need children to make toys?! Kris Kringle in that Rankin Bass animation couldn’t have children and look at him!! HE BECAME SANTA! Grrrr.) Normally I can respond to all this with a smile, a joke, with positivity, but it might be several friends announcing pregnancies, second pregnancies and a couple of births, all together. I say, “oh no,” now when I read people’s happy posts – and I want to be happy for them, I really do! but I feel so crappy and like I am nothing. I keep thinking about what a great mom I would have been. But then I think about how poor, both financially and health-wise, I am, and… oh well.
Involved in my own daily life, I’m mostly happy.
When I think, speak to, see pictures of my pregnant sister who lives 4000 kilometres away – I’m jealous, tearful and reminded of what I will never have.
On the baby’s day of birh (yesterday). I couldn’t look at my nephew’s picture and has to have my husband send a text message back for me. I purposely left my phone at home so that I didn’t have to talk to her….
Today I know I have to talk to her, hear about the birth, and see pictures…. all things I don’t want to do or know if I can.
In March 2018 she is planning a visit. I’m afraid of seeing her and the baby. At this point I don’t think I can even look at him let alone hold him.
Jane P (UK) says
So sorry Jean – its so difficult. I don’t know how to help you through as I don’t have nieces or nephews from a sibling, all I can say is that my strategy was one of avoidance. We went to a close friends wedding and we had a picture of them on the fireplace. When she made her announcement I couldn’t even look at her wedding photo as I cried buckets every time I saw her picture. I put their photo away in a drawer and backed off the friendship – not so easy with a sister. I do hope your sister is understanding and will be sensitive when the time comes (in the meantime, do what you need to do to protect yourself a from the pain). Thinking of you and all of us finding a way through together. I have always found it helpful to see that my reactions are normal and its all part of the grief. xx
Brandi Lytle says
I haven’t had a meltdown in quite some time, but I do still get twinges of pain. And they happen at odd times, it seems.
One happened while I was at the theater with my hubby. A song they were singing caused a deep pain in my heart. It caught me so off-guard! But I allowed myself to feel the grief for a moment, shook my head, grabbed my hubby’s hand, and focused on the beautiful date night we were having.
I think we just have to be gentle with ourselves, allowing the emotions to come and go. We are human, after all. Hugs to everyone!
rashmi adwani says
The sadness overpowers all the ready moms to have that tiny toddler but alas! they can just wish and have to paste a smile on there face while wishing any of the new mom. The pain is evident, how I just wish to be a Santa and grant the wishes of all the moms who wish to have that little one.
I was touched by all the experiences shared here .
Thank you for sharing your stories .
I’ve been sideswiped quite a few times recently. I am an elementary school teacher and this past month has been filled with holiday concerts and kids telling me about what their elf-on-the-shelf did last night. Usually being a teacher helps with being childfree-not-by-choice. By the end of the typical school day, I am happy to come home to just my husband and dogs. But for some reason, seeing parents watch their kids sing songs and listening to the innocence of kids excited about Santa has got my heart breaking a little all over again.
Today I received a card from an old friend I haven’t talked to in years. She included a picture of her four children and told me she has one on the way. She asked me to write to her and tell her about what I’ve been up to. Thinking about what I would tell her, I felt an emptiness around the part where I should have been able to write about the kids I have.
Anyway, all of this has kind of taken me by surprise. I would say that in general, I am in the acceptance stage of being childfree-not-by-choice and that I even celebrate certain aspects. I feel a little set back and sad.
I have felt side swiped recently due to others announcing pregnancies and just holidays in general. It’s been about a year since I have felt this way, but tonight my aunt asked me if we were going to have kids. I’ve been married 19 years and 41 years old. She is not that close to me and I am very private about the whole thing but my mom overheard the question and jumped in to say “oh, I would love it if she would…” Really?! I know my parents would love to be grandparents and they don’t pressure me… but it is like an elephant in the room and I feel so alone in my thoughts and feelings.
Brandi Lytle says
I’m so sorry that you feel alone, Jules–especially around your family. I’ve felt this isolation as well, and it is miserable. I’m glad you’ve found this community of like-minded childless women. At least we know that we can find support here. Sending hugs to you…