As told to Kathleen Guthrie Woods
I can always use a little bit of outside light as we head into the holidays and what for many of us who are childless-not-by-choice is a cold and dark season of the soul. Brandi gave me that light of hope when she shared her story with me. Forty years old and happily married for 16, Brandi endured over 10 years of the infertility nightmare. When her husband told her he couldn’t do it any more, she made the choice to build a new Plan B life with him, one that was childless.
After “a long climb out of the pit of despair”, she is able to state (and here’s where she knocks my socks off): “I have accepted that I am a childless woman, but I do not identify as childfree.” Since her decision, she has filled her life with children, other people’s children, and has found what she calls the “bright side of infertility”.
Read her story below, then learn more about Brandi and her journey at her own website and blog, Not So Mommy.
LWB: Describe your dream of motherhood.
Brandi: I always thought I’d be just a good ol’ fashioned mom, with two kids, a husband, a dog, and a cat, living in my traditional house. Even as a little girl, I toted my Cabbage Patch Kid around in a carrier on my chest. I didn’t dream of my wedding day, but I did dream about having a husband and kids.
LWB: Are you childfree by choice, chance, or circumstance?
Brandi: I am childless by chance. (Actually, I usually say I am childless-not-by-choice.) My husband and I suffer from severe infertility. I have endometriosis, and after seven failed IUIs [intrauterine insemination fertility treatments] and 10 years TTC [trying to conceive], my husband decided he didn’t want to keep trying. So, at the end of 2013, I began trying to accept my childless life.
LWB: Where are you on your journey now?
Brandi: I have accepted that I am a childless woman, but I do not identify as “childfree”. I have kids in my life (nieces, nephews, and an exchange daughter who has become family, plus our fur baby).
I started writing a blog, Not So Mommy, because I want to help others who are struggling in their childless journeys. I try very hard to focus on the good, so I write about the positive side of being infertile, childless, a dog mom, an aunt, a host mom, a wife, etc., and redefine what “momhood” means to me. When I was in the pit of despair and at my darkest moments, I never thought that I would come out of my infertility journey able to say that I am okay with being childless. But my life has turned out pretty well! I want others to know that there is hope, there is a light at the end of the struggle. I hope to continue to inspire others to embrace their authentic selves and live their imperfectly perfect lives.
LWB: What was the turning point for you?
Brandi: December 26, 2013. That was the day my husband told me he didn’t want to keep trying to have a baby, and he didn’t want to adopt either. He said he just wanted to enjoy our life like it was. Because I love my husband and could not imagine my life without him, I decided that I had to accept our childless life. So, I went into 2014 with the resolution to do just that. It was not an easy road, and I definitely had struggles (sometimes still do), but it was freeing to let go of one dream (having a baby) so that I could open myself up to other possibilities.
LWB: What’s the best part about not having children?
Brandi: The freedom to travel, the freedom to have spur-of-the-moment dates with my husband, the freedom to spoil our nieces and nephews because we don’t have to pay for college or braces or everyday expenses.
LWB: How do you answer “Do you have kids?”
Brandi: I’ve always been honest about my infertility. I never hid it even when we were going through our struggle and treatments, so, when people ask, I tell them that we can’t have children. I go on to explain that we have nieces, nephews, a fur baby, and have hosted an exchange student who has become family. We usually end up talking about dogs or they ask about our hosting experience. I hope it allows people to realize there are different ways to have children besides getting pregnant or adopting.
LWB: What is the best advice you’d offer someone else like you?
Brandi: Allow yourself to be open to a different dream. My husband and I never considered hosting a foreign exchange student until we met a student and her host mom at a cooking class. Deciding to host a student turned out to be the BEST thing that ever happened in our life! God answered our prayers, but His answer looked different than we expected.
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.