I recently had an exchange with a woman who wrote in response to this month’s On-the-Ground Question: Who has been least accepting of you not wanting kids? She said that she’d have to say her infertile friends. She has wanted kids, has been in the process of accepting she can’t have them, and her child”free” status is a recent development. I asked her if she would be willing to tell me more about her journey from childless to childfree.. I found it moving, and just have to share it with you (with her permission of course!)
“Well, moving on was a long time coming. I think it took about 5 years. (I was diagnosed with premature ovarian failure about 5.5 years ago, at age 28, 6 months before my wedding.) I actually really wanted kids all through my 20s, and planned my life around having a family in my late 20s and being a stay at home mom. We didn’t actually do any treatments, besides hoping and praying nature would have a happy surprise for us.
The clomid, IUI and normal IVF routes were already closed to us (fortunately, perhaps) because I don’t have any eggs. We talked to a couple of REs about egg donor IVF, and it just didn’t call to us for a lot of reasons. And donor embryo and adoption didn’t call to us either. I know it sounds very casual, and that we didn’t try at all… but, I had years of hope and disappointment before finally deciding to let it go and be happy with my life sans kids.
Right after I got diagnosed with POF, I went a little nuts, quit the job I hated and went back to school, then I joined the Navy. My mom said she thought I was running from my problems, but, the new career has really been my salvation. I love my job as a nurse.
For a long time I still felt a lot of hope and indecision and anxiety about not having kids… and initially, we had planned to do egg donor IVF. Secretly, I think I thought God still had a miracle in store for me. But, time passed and the miracle never happened, and I had some other health issues – MS and trouble with the most fertility friendly HRT regimen.
And finally, I had to decide if I wanted to suffer having my period for most of the month, or change to a different HRT. While it wasn’t really a forever decision, it felt like it at the time. I went for being healthy. It was like I grieved the POF all over again for a few months.
Around that time, I also read Silent Sorority. There is a part in the book where she talks about a moment when she really started to feel better, and understood that she might be able to get over the grief of infertility. I thought, is that moment ever going to come for me? I felt like I would grieve forever. But, it was like, having had that revelation, so it was. I kind of made a decision that I wanted to be happy with the rest of my life. And, it’s funny, now I am.
There are still things that push my buttons about being childless…Seeing all my friends baby pictures on facebook, for one thing. But, overall, I really do feel like the sun has come up and life is going forward.
So, now, instead of saving for my kid’s college, I’m looking at grad schools for myself. And you know what? I think it might be more fun to go myself!
It was a long, complicated decision.
The feeling better about being childfree has been a recent development for me…like within the last six months. I’m kind of scared it’s just a phase and the grief will come back. Or later, that I’ll regret choosing this path.
But right now, it’s so great to be happy. It’s like now that I’ve had a taste of being happy, I’m greedy for it, and I don’t want to go back rub salt in all the sore places anymore. I think I used to whip myself with my infertility like a scourge. I kind of can’t believe that the grief is really better.
Thanks so much for this story…please pass on to those you know who could benefit from reading it!
If the woman who sent in these comments reads this, I’m curious to know how you decided that surrogacy with a donor egg or adoption weren’t good options for you.
I’m in no way judging your choices, just curious about how you came to your decision.
When I was a teenager I knew 100% that I never wanted to be pregnant or to give birth but thought I might be a foster parent one day. I had a lot of compassion for older kids that had been bounced around the system for years. Eventually I realized that I was uninterested in parenting as I was in pregnancy/childbirth and that there were countless other ways to help that didn’t involve actually becoming anyone’s parent.
I simply didn’t/don’t have the desire to raise another human being. It was as simple as that.
Compassion was a different matter.
My husband and I are going through the same thing: transitioning from being “childless” to “childfree.” While infertility can be painful, it is liberating to make it to the “other side,” where you can appreciate the opportunities of being childfree. Thank you for sharing your story!
Hi there, Lydia,
Well, to be honest, I think we just felt overwhelmed with the process – both for adoption and egg donor IVF. I’d start looking into these options, and I’d just feel overwhelmed. I also had some ethical concerns about egg donor IVF. Would it be safe for the donor? The REs assured us yes, but I wasn’t completely convinced. My hubby disliked the commercial-feeling pitches from the REs. It was surreal for me to look through all the photos and profiles of pretty young women who would potentially be the biological mother to my husband’s child instead of me. Egg donor IVF is the right choice for a lot of women, but just like parenting, I think it’s not for everyone, and that’s ok.
At the end, it was kind of strange. I’d have this physical baby-hunger feeling, wanting to hold my own baby in my arms, but we just seemed to have all these reasons why none of the options felt quite right. And finally, I just thought, well, maybe this is a symptom of some deeper feelings of ambivalence about parenting. If I’m not motivated enough to sort through all this, maybe I’m not motivated enough to be a parent. I think if we hadn’t been faced with infertility, we wouldn’t have had to explore all those feelings so carefully. We just would have gotten pregnant, and then would have had to explore our new identities as parents after the fact.
Finally, I love babies, but I work with them. I love my job – I get to be nurturing to others at work. And I love my husband and my cats, so I feel like I have other things that are starting to fill in the baby-shaped hole in my life. And like Andrea said, it’s liberating to let go of all that sadness surrounding infertility and embrace the good things in your life.
That’s kind of a long answer, I guess. Does that answer your question? Hugs to you both!
Yes, that answered my question. Thank you for taking the time to talk about it!
Thank you for sharing this story and for being so frank and honest. I am also happily childfree after being unhappily childless and I undersatnd the distinction clearly. When facing infertility there is always another option, another thing to try that just might work. The hardest thing to do is to listen to your own heart and know when to stop, not because you are out of options, but because you know you’re heading into options that don’t suit you, but you feel you have to try them because they’re available.
Happynenes, you made a brave decision and it sounds as if you have made peace with it. Now you get to move on and live that full and happy life.:-)
Peace and hugs.
Thanks, Lisa! Peace and hugs to you too!
While I empathize, I can’t relate to this at all. When I see baby pictures of the rural friends I left behind when I moved to the city on Facebook, I don’t feel envy or sadness, I feel a little bit creeped-out and I wonder how boring their lives must be. I have no maternal instinct whatsoever.
20 something–I find it hard to relate too, but get a bit closer if I put in my mind the idea what if I wanted something SO badly but just for whatever reason will never be able to get it. I do think that the child”less” too often get stuck on having their own biological child, and see adoption as not as good, and dont see the opportunity in finding other ways to have children in their lives. Asking themselves the experience they are truly looking for in being a parent can often result in finding ways to get that experience in other ways than parenthood~