As told to Kathleen Guthrie Woods
Oh, how I want to offer you HOPE as we embark on fresh starts in this new year! I want to tell you everything will be okay, that you will be happy again, that everything will work out for the best.
But here at Life Without Baby, we’re about being real, and sometimes reality sucks. Some days we feel numb from our losses and grief, or we feel that our partners would be better off without us (because we’ve “let them down”), or we give up on ever experiencing any kind of miracle.
Teresa articulates these raw truths so well. At 34, married to a “wonderfully loving and strong husband”, she is struggling to come to terms with the end of her dream of motherhood. She’s also got some ideas about how she might start healing and moving forward in life.
Here’s her story.
LWB: Describe your dream of motherhood.
Teresa: At first, my dream of motherhood was to make reparations for the parents I had, I wanted to be a better parent than my own. I wanted to build children that would step into the world as self-assured, confident, wacky, loving individuals. My children were named, spoken of, talked about. We’d send them to this school, or that school. We’d introduce them to this or that; we’d teach them this or that. Our nonexistent children were loved in every way.
LWB: Are you childfree by choice, chance, or circumstance?
Teresa: I am childless by circumstance. Even though my husband and I knew I had PCOS [polycystic ovary syndrome], I thoroughly believed that I would get pregnant. I thought the medications and procedures would work for me, and we both thought kids were in our future. A few months ago, we chose to stop fertility treatments. We were not interested in IVF [in vitro fertilization], and the doctors told us that my body was not responding to anything else. There was nothing more they could do for us.
LWB: Where are you on your journey now?
Teresa: I am numb. My little sister will bring the first grandchild into my side of the family early in 2018. My heart and soul jump with joy for her, but at the same time, they battle the sadness that strikes me to my core. I thought the treatments would work, and when I visited her in the spring to see my new nephew, I would be able to share that my own baby is on his or her way. This is no longer the case. I do not understand why this is my path. I have given up on God. There will be no miracle, just this emptiness. I need to find a new purpose; the only thing I ever wanted will not come to pass. I am directionless.
LWB: What’s the hardest part for you about not having children?
Teresa: The knowledge that I am disappointing my husband. Now, this isn’t how it really is, but it is how I feel. He frequently repeats that he loves our life together. He is here for me. What he doesn’t realize is that I watch him when he cares for his sister’s children. I watch him around babies, toddlers, with kids in junior high. He’s amazing. He would be a perfectly imperfect dad. I am unable to give him this.
LWB: How do you answer “Do you have kids?”
Teresa: A long time ago, I decided to stop skirting the issue. Infertility is often taboo because it has to deal with sex and emotions. No one knows what to say or how to act when they speak with an infertile couple. People feel uncomfortable when I say “My husband and I cannot have kids.” As soon as those words come out, people feel like assholes to have asked a question that is none of their business. In my feeble attempt to raise awareness, I am honest. Hopefully, one day, we’ll all be able to have a real conversation about it and acknowledge that infertility is a tremendous loss.
LWB: What is the best advice you’d offer someone else like you?
Teresa: It’s going to hurt for a long time. You’ll find that as you age, you won’t fit into a group anywhere. You don’t fit in with parents with kids. You don’t fit in with 20-somethings. You’ll find that a lot of your friends are retirees. You’ll hang out with elderly people, especially if you live in small towns. Your family will not know what to say or do.
LWB: What’s is your hope for yourself this coming year?
Teresa: That my husband and I can heal together. He has been my rock, but I find myself pushing him away because I do not want him to be beholden to me. He can have children and should leave me and find a woman who can give him what he wants. My other hope is to stop all this silly thinking and embrace my wonderfully loving and strong husband.
LWB: How are you moving forward?
Teresa: I looked into my partner’s eyes. I wrapped his love around me. I breathed him in and asked him to never let go. I fight with myself daily over whether or not I should just leave him, give him the “out.” But he loves me, and he can handle this. So I let him love me, no matter how difficult.
Someone once told me to collect moments of joy. Everyone gets sad. Remember to count the moments of joy because they do come along. Then, after all the crying and disbelief, for a brief moment, your heart will be full. Hold on to that feeling because it will have to last you through the desert.
Won’t you share your story with us? The act of answering the questions itself can be very healing, plus we’d like to support you by telling you “You are not alone.” Please visit the Our Stories page to get more information and the questionnaire.
Kathleen Guthrie Woods is mostly at peace with her childlessness.