As told to Kathleen Guthrie Woods
Karin first shared her story with us in 2014. At first glance, she seemed to be in a good place with accepting a life without babies. Then we read the parts about the fears that plague so many of us: growing old alone, facing more isolation as our friends become grandparents. I was right there with her, yet I took strength from her example.
Has time healed her wounds? You’ll find out when you read the update below her original story.
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Although she came from a very close extended family, Karin didn’t really think about motherhood until she experienced infertility in her early 30s. Then it became a “dream.” Now 41, she and her husband of 19 years find themselves in a place of mostly acceptance, but she feels somewhat alone in her concerns about the future. If you can relate, please reach out to her—to all of us—in the Comments.
LWB: Are you childfree by choice, chance, or circumstance?
Karin: We were first childfree by chance and now it’s by circumstance. After years of unexplained infertility, various drug treatments, one horrific miscarriage, and lots of ovulation kits, my husband and I decided to stop trying for children. At that point, I began a very intense hatred of my body. My [menstrual] cycles were very long and painful, and as I grew older, they got worse and worse. This only intensified the self-loathing I was carrying around. It got so bad that the only option I had left was a hysterectomy. Knowing that I was not going to be able to conceive without massive medical intervention, and knowing that path was not for us, I decided to go through with the hysterectomy. It was the best decision I have ever made. I feel like I got my life back! Thanks to mindfulness training, yoga, and that surgery, I’ve been able to accept my body again and, more important, regain peace.
LWB: Where are you on your journey now?
Karin: I’ve been in the acceptance phase for quite some time. I have a wonderful husband and a very fulfilling job. But the residual feelings of isolation and fear of the future are what dominates my infertility issues now.
LWB: What’s the hardest part for you about not having children?
Karin: The fear of who will take care of me when I am old. My grandparents were in wonderful assisted living facilities toward the ends of their lives, but they were still attended to by my mom and my aunts—everything from shopping for basic needs to handling the finances. I cannot think of anyone in my life now who I could rely on to help us in our old age. My husband is an only child, and my sister has only one daughter. I do not have the nieces and nephews that many others have and will hopefully rely on when the time comes. And this truly terrifies me. This is, by far, the most difficult issue for me now. I feel quite alone in this. I don’t think many other people who are childfree have this worry, or, if they do, it is not as intense as mine. Also, I am the only person in my immediate social circle who does not have children. I feel like all the feelings of loss and isolation will resurface when my friends become grandparents.
LWB: What have you learned about yourself?
Karin: That I’m stronger than I thought I could ever be. You read that going through infertility will make you a stronger person, but until you actually feel it, it’s hard to believe. I’ve also learned to live life as consciously as I can with as much compassion as I can muster. Living a life with as little harm as possible toward others, including the environment around me, is rewarding and purposeful. I didn’t feel it this intensely prior to trying for children.
LWB: How do you answer “Do you have kids?”
Karin: I say “NOPE!” And if they ask why not, I simply say “We tried and it didn’t work out.” That usually stops people. Occasionally, people will ask why we didn’t adopt, and I say adopting does not cure infertility and we believe adoption is a calling that we just didn’t have.
LWB: How has LWB helped you on your journey?
Karin: It was the first community that got it!! Besides Pamela Mahoney Tsigdinos’ book Silent Sorority, what else did we have? LWB has been so incredibly integral in my journey that it’s hard to put into words. I would, however, like to see more information or discussion by others about being childfree in old age and the new dynamics that will come into play when we are not just non-moms but non-grandmothers!
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LWB: Where are you on your journey today?
Karin: I never would have guessed 10 years ago, or even five years ago, that there would come a time where I do not think about my childlessness daily. As much as it consumed me years go, it is now just a small piece of me. I think about so much more than childlessness these days. As cliched as it sounds, time really is the ultimately healer. But I do believe that there is more to it than that. I guess my childlessness is part of who I am. It is a part that makes up my whole, and this is not a bad thing at all. I think this comes from deep acceptance. At some point, I accepted my life situation, stopped fighting against it, and once that truly happened, childlessness ceased to be that all-consuming problem in my life.
LWB: What would you like to say to the you of 2014?
Karin: Well, I still think about the same issues involving who will take care of me in my old age. But reading over the post I wrote at that time, I used the word “terrified” to described it. I kind of chuckled when I read this, because that is exactly how I remember feeling. But that feeling is much less raw and emotional than it was then. Now I think about my old age with the feeling of privilege. It would be a privilege to live into old age. And I have feeling that I will be able to take care of myself much more than I gave myself credit for.
We’d love to hear your story! Go to the Our Stories page to get more information and the questionnaire.