But I was desperate. God was not answering my prayers. The prayers I sent up to him for more than a decade. I became so desperate that I begged him to forgive me for whatever sins I had committed. I asked him to forgive my family for any generational curses that were causing these cursed fibroids. I bargained with him. I begged him for a husband, I begged him for a child.
The silence was deafening. Sometimes I would feel Him impressing upon my heart that everything would be alright. But as far as I was concerned, it was not. I wanted a child. Nothing would ever be alright without a child.
Mr. Right never showed up, I never had the baby, and I ended up having to have a hysterectomy.
Now I am going through natural menopause. It is nowhere near as bad as the man-made menopause. I am not depressed and I am not having mood swings, but the incessant flushing is almost impossible to bear. It feels like salt is being rubbed into the wound. The wound of everything I endured. How many people do you know who have gone through menopause twice?
They say God will not give us any more than we can bear, but honestly, I believe that is just a saying.
I am not whining, because many people around the world, children, and adults alike, are enduring unbelievable grief and sadness. As a fellow human being, I think about people around the world on a regular basis. I think about childless women, I think about abandoned and enslaved children, and I wonder what I can do to make things better for them, for others.
The fact is, although my heart is broken, it is healing. Although nothing that breaks will ever be the same again; whether we are talking about broken china, a broken leg, or a broken heart. They will never be completely brand new. But they will be functional. And the level of functionality depends on use. We can walk on a leg that was broken after it is healed, and we should. Using the leg increases its functionality. We can use broken china after it is glued if only to put or keep it on display. We can function with a broken heart if we push through the hurt and help others. In each of those cases, a choice had to be made.
We have to choose to function with the broken heart. There is a lot to be done in this world. And I believe we can do our part broken and healed.
When I sought out an online support group to help me with my emotions, I had been dealing with them a very long time. It was long overdue, and I had not been honest with myself about how I truly felt inside. Here is a bit of my story.
At the start of my adulthood, I spent 10 years with a very good man. We were together from the ages of 20 to 30. We were both very career oriented, had great social lives, and were not thinking about children. When I graduated from University, I wanted to invest in my work and my future. I felt if I had children young, it could interfere. In a way, it was a good decision, because after 10 years the relationship ended. It was not an easy time, but it was the right choice. When a couple grows up together, sometimes their paths diverge. We parted ways.
After the split, I spent several years alone before I met my husband who has two sons to whom I am a step-mother. I have a good relationship with them thankfully, of course with normal family ups and downs. They love me and accept me as family. At the end of the day, however, I am not their mom and I will never expect to cultivate that type of attachment with them. I am grateful that they are in my life, and I will always love them.
Despite having my husband’s sons in my life, my husband and I tried to have a child together. It was a difficult decision for him as his kids were older, but he knew how important this was for me, and so he agreed.
I could take you through a long story of miscarriages, an ectopic pregnancy, and emergency surgery. For those who find themselves interested in this content, you have probably gone through these experiences yourselves, but for the reader who has not had to deal with childlessness, l will spare you the difficult details.
At first, I was very pragmatic about it all. The body has a way of eliminating pregnancies that have complications. I rationalized it. Miscarriage was nature’s way of fixing things. I could intellectualize and accept these facts, so we kept trying. After all, miscarriages are common, even if women do not seem to talk about them much. I have a great OB/GYN who was very supportive and encouraging. As time went on, however, and as my age advanced, it became clear that perhaps this wasn’t in the cards for us.
After the final loss, which came with middle of the night life-saving surgery, I made the decision that I was done trying. Between my age, health, and emotional response, it was time to accept things and move forward. It was not a hard decision. It was the right one for me as it came easily because I knew it was time to stop trying. At least I told myself that I was good and forged ahead with life.
What I did not realize was that in my bid to be strong, positive, and constructive with my life – as my own mother had always taught me to be through strife – a grief sat inside me that I ignored. I had feelings of fear, envy, disappointment, and sometimes anger. I pushed that all down inside. I would not accept self-pity. I have a wonderful husband, a fabulous career doing what I love, friends and family around me…there was NO reason for me to dwell. While I told myself I was moving forward, those emotions stood still inside me, like an airplane in a holding pattern waiting to land.
Eventually, those emotions started to make themselves known more easily. If I saw a commercial for baby food or diapers, I would start to cry, sometimes even sob. Commercials about healthy eating and being role models to children would make me change the channel immediately. Anything that had to do with parenting suddenly brought those emotions to the surface and they were intense. Because I ignored them for so long, the emotions were almost explosive. I was alone at home one night watching a movie about a woman who had a miscarriage. I broke down and realized, the feelings weren’t going away. As hard as I tried to accept and to be strong, I had to give these feelings their space and to deal with them.
That’s when I started to look for a support group.
I needed to connect with others in order validate that this was not just me dwelling on things or feeling sorry for myself. As I began my search for people sharing similar experiences of childlessness, I quickly found Childless not by Choice with Civilla Morgan. Immediately, I realized how many women go through this very challenging life outcome. I read story after story of women feeling EXACTLY like I did! I was not alone, and I had felt completely alone for so long – by my own doing I might add, as I refused to even discuss my journey with anyone. Reading the posts of other women as they shared the very emotions that I was struggling with was incredibly impactful. It lightened the burden somehow.
These emotions, the loss, the mourning, it’s all very personal. But that does not mean that there isn’t a group out there that cannot at least share, even if indirectly, with your pain. That is the point of this very short blog. If you are reading this, and continue to keep those emotions to yourself, being strong, being an Island…stop. Reach out, even if just to read about others, and to support them too. Helping others helps us heal, and others want to do the same by supporting us. There are no circumstances in the world that are so unique that someone isn’t there to share or want you to share and empathize.
If you have ever flown on a plane, the flight attendants always say that if the oxygen mask comes down out of the panel above you, that you should always put your mask on first, before helping others. This is true when it comes to problems in life. You cannot help others if you do not help yourself first. I’ve learned that now, and I am so much better for it. Still sad, and some days still struggle, but never again alone.
I think a lot of kids grow up playing house and dreaming that someday they will have children of their own. As a child, I believed the same. The oldest of eight children, I grew up in a religion that is very family oriented. When people asked me what I wanted to be when I grew up, I, of course, said a mom.
In 1999, I married a wonderful man. We decided to wait a bit before children. But a few years later I found out my lower back was broken, and I would never be able to carry a child. I was heartbroken, and became angry and bitter, crying when people told me they were pregnant. Mother’s Day was very hard, and I dreaded the question ‘when are you having children?’ I was frustrated with God for giving me a broken body.
One day I prayed and asked God to provide me the opportunity to influence a child. I knew I would have been a good mother and had so much to offer children. Be careful what you pray for. At the time, I was so focused on me and my sadness I did not stop to think how many children I was already helping.
Looking back on who influenced who I am today, yes, my parents did. But it was also church leaders, teachers, aunts, and uncles. I decided I wanted to be that person in someone else’s life. That decision lead me to start a small business teaching children to sew. I am a 5th-grade teachers aide and I also help in the after school 4-H program teaching sewing.
I help in my local church groups. And I know I make a difference in the children’s lives. They have taught me that helping any child is a huge blessing, and doing so has filled that void for me.
It does take a village to raise a child. There was a choice to be made. I could either spend my life angry or be part of that village. I believe it is a blessing to help any child we encounter.
And I also realized being angry at others who have children, or angry at children isn’t how I wanted to live. Just because I can’t have children does not mean others should not. A child that I bare does not define me. How I treat other people and children does define me.
Today, I have a good life with my husband and two fur babies. Is every day easy? No, but I am learning to love me and the life that I have.
Are you subscribed to the Newsletter? Read below for a snippet, and Happy Valentine’s Day!
Let’s face it, not all of us are in a relationship. Not all of us will celebrate Valentine’s Day with that significant other over a candlelit dinner.
Not all of us have little people to buy cards and chocolates for. BUT, we are still valid and valuable. I hope you have relationships where you feel valued, and where you value someone else. Whether that is a best friend, a sibling, a parent, or nieces and nephews.
Those are all valued and beautiful relationships. Do not take them for granted!
I’ve been sitting here the last few days of 2017, watching the clock wind down. It’s been a whirlwind the last couple of weeks of the year because no part of planning life ever works out. This is especially the case when you have people you need to interact with, like family and friends for instance.
You’ve heard the saying, ‘no man is an island.’ I don’t know who said it, but it’s true. We may want to be an island sometimes. And those of us who are introvert homebodies try to be an island, but the fact is, we live on a sphere with almost seven billion other people. We must participate from time to time. That’s just the way it goes.
Another saying I have heard, probably loosely taken from The Bible, is ‘While we are planning our lives, God is laughing.’ Because we all know nothing goes as planned when it comes to life. The fact is, we should plan. Because there is yet another saying, ‘those who fail to plan, plan to fail.’ So, planning is appropriate, wise, and mature. But we can’t really get bent out of shape (too much) when things do not go as planned.
My suggestion: leave some wiggle room in your life for the unplanned. If you do not, you will become one of those bitter, tired, angry, sad, lonely, frustrated, and the list goes on; people that we see daily. We work with them, we drive alongside them in traffic (scary), we may even live with them!
If you maintain wiggle room, you still get to grieve loss or the unexpected left turn; but chances are you will find a way to live with your new reality. Let me be real, wiggle room can even lessen the possibility of contemplating suicide. And wiggle room can create a new platform from which to help others.
Wiggle room can save many lives—yours and those who see you struggle but make it through, scars and all.
Wiggle room does not completely alleviate stress, it lessens the stress. Wiggle room allows us to make good decisions during the stress. Think about how to create wiggle room for yourself and your family in 2018.
Here’s a tip, wiggle room goes by other names:
margin, like leaving a little bit of margin in your checking account. Having a savings account. And generally watching your spending.
grace, like not being on ready when someone offends you or cuts you off in traffic.
time, like giving yourself extra time to make an appointment.
attitude, like having a good attitude in front of your kids when interacting with another adult, no matter how you feel about that adult.
Planning, I know we talked about planning earlier. But yes, we still need to have a plan.
Thankfulness, like realizing that if you are reading this, you are doing so much better than most of the people on this planet.
Those are just a few types of wiggle room. I’m sure you can think of some more. Create a list of your own, use this list, or combine the two lists. Then refer to the list regularly during 2018.
We will get caught off guard from time to time, but wiggle room along with a positive mindset will generally allow us to bounce back faster! Create some wiggle room in 2018!
Now, 33 years later, newly single, I discovered I had breast cancer. Because of the deemed severity of the cancer, the oncologist insisted I commence treatment immediately. However, thinking there was much opportunity to meet a life partner, settle down and raise a family I instead chose to first have a crash course of IVF and managed to harvest 4 eggs. The treatment caused me to go into early menopause, so I accepted IVF would be my only resolve.
At 36, I finally found the strength to put myself back out into the dating scene. But part of me was missing – my confidence went into hiding and my belief was that no one would want a barren woman, no one would love me enough to tackle IVF. My limiting belief was stopping me from experiencing opportunities that did present themselves, I was self-sabotaging.
To top it off, I discovered I had contracted an STI. That was it, my self-worth was completely shattered. I truly believed the universe was rejecting me – I had no business being in a loving relationship, I had no business bringing another life into this world. Over the years, I contemplated being a single parent, however medical advice suggested, if IVF was successful, I would be putting my unborn child at risk of cancer and/or contracting the STI. I considered donating my eggs to someone who was reproductively challenged but having cancer put a stop to that too.
Receiving my bi-annual egg storage fees was a painful and stressful experience. It was a reminder of ‘what’ I was and more to the point ‘what’ I was not. And it was not until after my mum passed away, that I knew something had to change. I realized something had to give – I was miserable, yet so sick of myself – it was exhausting playing the victim of my circumstances.
So, I started on a journey of self-development. And it has been through this journey that I have started to love and accept myself for who I am, to become aware of my thinking and emotions, their triggers and my responses and I have learned that blaming life or blaming others is of absolutely no value.
Now at age 48, I have let go of what society thinks a woman should be, and what I thought a woman should be. I have donated my eggs to research and am embracing the woman that I am, accepting responsibility for my life. I have chosen to make choices that will bring about change – I choose to be a cause, I choose to focus on risky problems, I choose to think above the line. I no longer pity myself when I answer, ‘Not married, No children’. Instead, I am proud of myself for working through my challenges and living my truth.
I believe our purpose in life is to ‘be you’ – to love, to learn, to give and to grow. I am ‘being me’ – I am loving who I am becoming. I am learning more about myself every day, learning to be vulnerable and have trust in the world again.
My mission now is to assist others in working through their limiting beliefs, face their fears, brave the world, and roar with the courage to find a renewed direction!
When I was 25, I couldn’t sleep the night before my final exam at University. I wrote a letter telling myself that the exam was irrelevant and that the degree I was completing would provide me with the best possible job only until I became a wife and stay at home mum.
By this time, I had dreamed of being a mum for 18 years; ever since my youngest brother was put in my arms. Freed from anxiety, I fell sound asleep. The next day I passed the exam which was the first step along the career path I am still on today.
I am 46 now and have had to accept that I will never be a mum. My dream has died, but I have found a way to live. In many ways, I have done this through my career. I have changed jobs from that original degree and have completed another degree to further my journey.
Along the way, I have had adventures like driving a minibus full of strangers from Scotland to the south of France -having never driven in France or driven a minibus! Twice I’ve made drastic changes to my work life that left me with almost no income for a year. Last year, at short notice, my partner and I went to Jordan for a friend’s wedding. I would not have been able to do any of these things if I’d been responsible for children.
Today I work with adults with profound disabilities in a day service, bringing meaning to their lives and value to their self-worth. They learn skills and develop talents in ceramics, art, horticulture, and other crafts.
What was originally intended as a pleasurable stop-gap, has instead been a 21-year journey that has given meaning and purpose to my life. Each time the grief of being childless not by choice overwhelms me, I think of the pain it would cause these people if I ended my life. My pain has been that deep. But my care for their well-being strengthens my will and I find the resolve to continue. And each day I live, I am blessed by being surrounded by their joy and courage.
I don’t know what my future holds, and I am not the kind of person who does a bucket list; so, I have no list of future adventures. With good health, I will be working for another 20 years. And I would like to visit my partner’s home in Iraqi Kurdistan. I will grab the adventures that present themselves to me with joy and enjoy every single day for the blessings I receive.
As childless not by choice women, and even more so, in my opinion, childless and husbandless women; we can often fall through society’s cracks. Society forgets us, and in some cases, mocks us. In some cases, society even physically hurts us. Human nature tends to either ignore or question what is not ‘normal’.
I am not saying I was being mocked in this service. I am sure the leader of the service did not recognize what was happening. Why would they? In fact, this person was recognizing what is normal to most human beings. Most humans have or had a marriage. Most humans have children. The ‘odd’ person is forgotten not out of spite, but because it is not most people’s normal. In fact, most people are not walking around wondering, worrying, or thinking about the person who has a different lifestyle. They are not aware.
So, what to do? Well, I suggest that we do not cower in the background of life. I suggest we stand tall in our childlessness and our husbandless status. Why hide what life handed us? We should instead find out what we are supposed to do with the life we have been given, and then get to work. We do not need pity. And we should not seek it out.
It’s true, life did not give us what we planned and hoped for. We assumed we would have the same life as our friends and family. Realizing we would not have the life we dreamed of was a shocker. It was for me, and many of the childless not by choice women I know say the same. Many of you deal daily with the shock and surprise of finding out the issue is infertility. Some are saddened by the life circumstances that kept them from having a baby.
No matter the reason for your childlessness, do not allow those reasons to stop you from living life open with head held high! Face the monster of childlessness by admitting your feelings to yourself. Admit your sadness, your pain, your anger, your jealousy. Whatever the emotion may be. Trust yourself to grow through the pain. Accept the process. Accept the stages of grief. One day you will be able to acknowledge to yourself that there is a missing puzzle piece, but you are OK. All will be well!
In every Childless Not by Choice (CNBC) online support group, I’ve seen the question: “Is it possible to find happiness after being CNBC?” A year ago, I believed it was possible, but I couldn’t say that I knew how to get there. Today, I can say that it all came down to building a new dream.
In 2016, my husband and I chose to accept that we were going to be a family of two. 2016 had been a difficult year coming to terms with being childless. As I was closing the door on 2016, I was looking forward to opening a new door in 2017.
My husband and I began to talk about what we wanted for our future, knowing that we needed to create a new dream together. We talked about what we valued, and all the things that no longer mattered. Our three-bedroom home in the family-oriented suburbs seemed too big. It no longer fit the new life we wanted to build together. We both fell in love with a city 12 hours away where we could minimize our lifestyle, travel more, and have a life that matched our values. We have a few things to accomplish before we can move there, but we will make that dream come true!
In building our dream together, I also realized a dream for myself, something I needed to accomplish just for me. If motherhood wasn’t in the cards, I was going to go back to school and pursue my master’s degree. When I graduated from university in 1998, there was a fork in the road. I chose love, marriage, and family; and left behind a dream to further my education. Since my family became a family of two, I decided to go back to that fork in the road and fulfill the other dream. In just a couple of weeks, I begin my first class!
In walking my childless path, building new dreams has given me a new sense of hope and a chance to accomplish something different. My husband and I found something that we both value, something that would sustain us, together. I will always quietly mourn the children I dreamed of, but the dreams we’ve built will allow the two of us to live a happy and fulfilled life, because it’s ours, and we chose it together!
(PLEASE NOTE: any responses to guest blogs will be forwarded to the guest blogger.)
What does crisis mode mean to you? I believe it means something bad has happened or is about to happen to an individual or group of people.
I Googled the word Crisis, and this is what I found:
That last point is intense. ‘…indicating either recovery or death.’ Death is not always literal. Do you think a woman who finds out she will never have a child could go into crisis mode? Do you think she could die without dying, just checking out of the rest of her life?
I asked that question on Reddit, ‘could finding out you will not be able to have children send you into crisis mode?’ I got one response: ‘humbly, no.’
I respect that opinion. But I believe we are all guilty of the fact that we do not think deeply enough about most issues or most questions we are asked. To be fair, I did not ask this on Reddit, but what if the woman’s marriage, livelihood, even her safety, depends on whether she had a child or not? Could it be a crisis then?
Consider this: A landslide in a faraway land killing hundreds of people is sad. We feel bad for the survivors who lost loved ones and now must rebuild. But unless we were in the middle of that landslide, feeling bad about the situation is about all we can do. Jumping on a plane and going to help any way we could, might be a bit much and most likely unaffordable for most of us. Besides, isn’t that what organizations like The Red Cross is for?
If we think about all the very sad and scary situations going on in the world right now, we could become overwhelmed, maybe even immobilized or depressed, right? Don’t we have enough to deal with in our own lives?
By now you are probably asking ‘what does she want me to do about any of the world’s situations, or about the woman who cannot have children? Good question, because really, what can you do. It is her problem. We can feel sorry for her, but that would be about all we could do. And besides, how is a woman in danger because she cannot have children, why would she be in danger just from being childless?
Most of us do not realize that in 2017, it could be dangerous for a woman to not be able to bear a child. Living in the Western world, a childless woman can, for the most part, go through life unscathed by the shame, fear, and stigma of being childless. She would most likely not be beaten by her husband, divorced, or shamed by her husband’s family.
Sometimes we miss what is going on in the rest of the world because we are just too busy with our own lives. And to be fair, that is a worldwide phenomenon. We think the rest of the world operates like our world, our country. And honestly, most times we just cannot be concerned with an issue that does not resonate with us. That may be viewed as selfish, but I do not think that is the case. Life is short, and we just cannot pick up the sword for every cause.
But may I suggest that though we cannot pay attention to every issue, every cause, that we can at least be aware. We can put ourselves in that person’s shoes even as we go about our day and about our lives. We could at least empathize. I believe awareness and empathy make us more human. And being more human makes us less mean, less hateful, and even less scornful.
Scorn. Not a word we hear very often. But it tends to happen when we look down on someone who does not could not have the thing or things we have, with contempt. The thing about contempt is that life has a way of taking turns. We could end up in the very situation for which we had contempt.
May I suggest that as we make our way through life, let us remember to be kind, empathetic, and aware.
As the months rolled by, I continued to work on building my childless not by choice platform, concentrating on website and podcast content. After pushing back for a full year, my podcast producer finally convinced me to schedule my episodes. Once I agreed to a podcast schedule, I began to feel like a professional podcaster! I was compelled to stay ahead with my episodes, as falling behind schedule stressed me out! Not having an episode ready for its scheduled posting date was not a good look.
Many late-night hours have been put into the website and podcast, and there is work being done on them all the time, even now. In fact, I could not go any further without mentioning that just about all the technical work done on both the podcast and website, was done by my podcast producer/web builder, Kevin Scullion of Alba Digital Media.
Early in my journey, I had prayed for God to send someone to help me, to teach me since I did not know what I did not know. And along came this man from halfway around the world, five hours ahead of me; who would stay up via Skype, and work with me to build what you currently see today. I will always be thankful to and for him. He has been a true mentor.
Alba Digital Media manages and creates for many clients, and I feel fortunate to be one of those clients. And to prove what a wonderful match he is not only to myself but also to his other clients, he too is a podcaster. I have listened to every single episode of Passing Places! So of course, when he makes suggestions I know he knows of what he speaks. But in true fashion, I did not always agree with his suggestions. Typical me. Thankfully, he has always been patient. And he’s always been right.
As I continued immersing myself into the world of podcasting, I started listening to other podcasts, including podcasts about podcasting. I am currently subscribed to 49 podcasts, down from 53!
I continue to learn from podcasters who have been in the business from the beginning and don’t mind sharing. Podcasters generally love to share and help each other. And that has made all the difference in the world as my podcast has evolved with better sound and better content. I have felt the encouragement not to give up during the rough times. Those times when I wanted to give up because I was not enjoying the thousands of monthly downloads that many other podcasters have. I have had to learn not to compare myself to others, to put blinders on, and to continue making improvements. And to just continue podcasting.
I am so honored to be a part of this community. They have gifted me a ticket to a podcaster’s convention when I could not afford to go. I have received recognition during Women’s history month. The community is always ready to respond with suggestions when I post queries. And although I can hardly believe I’ve made it to two years, I know I still have a long way to go, and a lot more to learn. But that’s OK, my dream of helping women, and men on a global level is coming true.
At the two-year mark, I am beginning to see the fruits of my labor, Just as Kevin predicted. I am looking forward to many, many more years of podcasting, blogging, building, and helping!
Cheers to 21st Century Hannah, and to Childless not by Choice! And thank you for listening in, sending words of encouragement, and telling others about the platform. YOU are amazing!
How could I possibly be two years into building a platform created to help women who are childless not by choice feel better about themselves? Feel better about their lives? Many of you know, my byline: ‘Living a joyful and relevant life although childless not by choice.’
It all started a few days before Mother’s Day. It always does. I thought I had gotten over the feelings of loss enough to make it through Mother’s Day without feeling like a second-class citizen when the pastor asked all the mothers to stand, as I remained seated. It’s a feeling only childless not by choice women could understand. At least the ones who are not over the pain. Because I hear tell there are childless not by choice women who are ‘over it’.
My brother said, ‘maybe one day you will realize how many people you have helped.’ He just could not understand how I could feel this way after telling him how the platform was finally taking a hold and growing.
My good friend said ‘you are not a fraud. Your primary audience is the women who feel the way you do. How could you talk to them if you did not understand how they feel?’ Then she recounted the multiple organizations and platforms that were created out of someone’s grief. I understood what she was saying. I understood what they both were saying. But will there ever come a Mother’s Day when my heart will be OK with remaining seated while all around me mothers stand up and accept their due recognition?
How could I possibly encourage childless not by choice people when my heart still breaks on Mother’s Day. It’s not too bad the other 364 days of the year. And I do not want to dim the light of recognition for mothers. After all, I have a mother. And every day I am thankful for her. But the fact is, the way God answered my prayers, my begging, my deal-making, was to not answer. Healing did not come. The adoption did not come. Honestly, I would have been more than OK with never marrying if I had had the child. But to hit a brick wall every turn I took was hard.
How am I supposed to convince other women that we can live relevant and joyful lives when I still battle sadness and a broken heart? How could I not be a fraud? But I am not. I am not because I battle those feelings and I help the childless not by choice anyway demographic anyway. When I battle and help, I am being transparent. And there is no such thing as a transparent fraud.