Reflections

My Childlessness Is Not My Fault

It may seem that way, as I am using the possessive adjective to describe the fact that I am childless. That my life did not turn out the way I expected it would. But the more important issue is that human beings tend to blame each other for things we cannot control. My childlessness is not my fault.

If you are a Bible reader, you may recall the story of the man with the shriveled or withered hand. The Disciples asked Jesus if it was his parent’s fault or his, why his hand was withered. Jesus’ answer was ‘it’s nobody’s fault.’

Be honest, have you never wondered to yourself ‘what in the world did he/she do to deserve that?’ when you see something bad, horrible, or horrific happen to someone. You may have even heard someone verbalize it as ‘karma’, or ‘what goes around comes around’. As human beings, we figure it’s just payback.

But isn’t it possible that stuff just happens? Don’t we live in a world where stuff really just happens? I believe we do. Yes, I believe to an extent that what goes around comes around. That we should treat people the way we would want to be treated. But we all know that it rains on the just and the unjust. The difference though is how we manage the cards we have been dealt. In fact, having or obtaining the tools for managing the cards we have been dealt.   

three women

I believe one of those tools for any problem or issue you or I have, is community. I strongly believe that when we belong to a community of strong, positive, people who want to get better and not wallow in the self-pity of what happened to us or what did not happen for us.  Community protects us from those who secretly or passive-aggressively nicely tell us that we did not pray hard enough for a child. Some of us are told not to give up even though we no longer have a uterus. Indeed, some are told so even when they were born without one. I especially like the ‘well, it was not meant to be’. It is one of my favorites. Right up there with ‘you should be happy you don’t have kids, they are a lot of work’. These are the same people who tell you that ‘you don’t have kids, so you would not understand.’

And sometimes these remarks come from the lips of the same person. ‘Be glad you don’t have kids, they are a lot of work’, and ‘you wouldn’t understand, you don’t have kids.’  Which one of us seems unhinged? Because unhinged, among other things, is what many childless women are called. And God forbid if we are also single. Then we are weird, overzealous with our nieces and nephews, lonely, clingy, needy, or mean.

Society says that’s why we did not get married or have children: We chose the career over the kid, or as a friend of my mom once told her, I was too picky. Mind you, this woman couldn’t pick me out in a crowd. She knew nothing about me, but she knew I was being too picky and that is why I never married. 

Well, regardless of the cards we have been dealt, I believe we can all be weird, overzealous with the children in our lives, clingy, needy, picky, or mean! After all, we are all human beings first, and none of us are what has happened to us or what did not happen for us, however.  

 

So the next time your initial response is to blame someone for their ‘condition’, do a quick self-check and remind yourself ‘it’s not my fault it’s not your fault. Stuff happens.’  How we deal our cards is what sets us apart.

my interview on the That Anita Live Show

My interview with That Anita Live was done in 2017, so a couple of changes since then: The name of my Podcast is Childless not by Choice, and I do blog about childlessness. I really enjoyed this interview, and I hope you will too!

Video conversations with Trailblazers in the Childless not by Choice Demographic

Jody Day, Pamela Mahoney Tsigdinos, Sarah Chamberlin, Loribeth Kohut Bianco, Lesley Pyne, Nicci and Andrew Fletcher, and myself.   We got together and discussed the 40th Anniversary of IVF–because it is.   We also discussed childlessness and the different paths that lead childless not by choice women to the realization and acceptance of our childlessness.  If you are childless not by choice, or you know someone who is, this is a wonderful eye-opening discussion that should be heard by all demographics, not just the childless not by choice. I would love to hear your thoughts!

A Brave New Ending

Our long and bumpy road of infertility began 9 years ago. After numerous tests and failed treatments, IVF was our only hope of conceiving. In 2015, the procedure was successful. Early in the twin pregnancy, one of our embryos stopped developing, however, subsequent ultrasounds revealed a strong heartbeat with the second.  Our prayers had finally been answered and our dream of having a child was becoming a reality. At nearly 10 weeks, the doctor uttered the words no one ever wants to hear, “I’m sorry, there’s no heartbeat.”

 

Overwhelmed with grief, and so many other unnamed emotions, the months and years that have followed haven’t been easy. No one is ever really prepared for how to cope with loss. It’s not something that is taught in school and in most families, not discussed openly. Men and women grieve differently and we would soon learn, these strong emotions began to manifest in different ways.  

In the months prior to IVF, I made it my mission to prepare my body for pregnancy the best I could. It was almost like training for a marathon. My regimen included an anti-inflammatory diet and numerous vitamins and supplements. I felt strong and hopeful and started a blog to share my journey and encourage others struggling to conceive. 

Soon after the loss, that feeling of hope began to fade. Between the IVF medications and miscarriage, the hormonal roller coaster was unrelenting. I no longer felt I had a reason to focus on my health. There was nothing to look forward to and feelings of apathy set in. Not sure how to help me through this emotional struggle, my husband did the best he could to be supportive and loving, while dealing with his own feelings of grief. He often found solace in lone fishing trips and spending time with nature.

Three years later, drawing strength from our faith in God and each other, the healing process continues to be a work in progress. Anyone who has experienced loss will tell you it changes you. We soon realized this life-changing event was stressful on our marriage. Communication has been key and we are both learning how to lean into the pain and allow ourselves to be vulnerable and honest about our emotions with one another.

By reading and studying emotional resilience, grief, and loss, we have started on a new path of healing by embracing and reckoning with the painful scars that infertility has left behind. Facing a lifetime of childlessness, we are rumbling through the middle of the messy emotions. Grief has no timeline and no one really knows how long the rumble will last.

While life hasn’t turn out the way we had planned, our story isn’t over and we are hopeful for the future. We are learning to flip the script and write a brave new ending. One where it’s okay to be sad and joyful, to grieve a painful loss and embrace the wonders of life with gratitude and most importantly, together.

Community, Commiseration, Conversation!

As I approach four years from the day I created this platform from scratch, I do so with wonder. O how time has flown by! As I consider the depth and width of the platform, it is exactly what I had in mind.  

Is it perfect? Well, as perfect as it is supposed to be right now. I still work daily to create content and build our Community. Now more than ever, commiseration is needed to help battle the loneliness that can set in for childless not by choice women and men.

There are more than three hundred women in the Facebook group Childless not by Choice with Civilla Morgan. This group is for women only, who were never able to have children.

In the Childless not by Choice Supporters Facebook group, there are just under 100 people. The Supporters group was created for those who may not necessarily fit the childless not by choice demographic, but who want to support the platform and learn more about the demographic.

In addition to all of that, we now have a Community group (for women only) on the website. Within the Community, are even more groups such as the group for the childless not by choice woman who adopted, or the childless not by choice woman who married a man with children. There is a group all about health and wellness, and a group for books all about the childless not by choice dynamic. Visit  www.childlessnotbychoice.net  for details!

If that is not enough, we have a newsletter that is just about two years old. The Podcast is approaching four years old, and the blog is still thriving at around the same age, although I’ve been blogging on various subject matters for years! Thus all of the constant content creation!

But wait, there’s more! We have a 31-day devotional that has been read by people of all demographics. And an offer for anyone to speak face to face!  That offer is on the website under the Shop tab, along with various products for sale.

I continue to build out the platform with written and verbal content. I am absolutely in my zone of helping others come to terms with their childlessness. It’s not always easy as we are all in different places in our grieving process. But I believe it is what I was created to do.

Do I wish I were not the one chosen to do this? Yes. Those people who say they would not change their lives after having come through some severe adversity, I’m not one of them.

But I am here, doing the best I can with the cards I have been played. That is what we all must strive to do in life. The fact is, as long as we are alive, adversity will come from time to time. The key is in how we deal with it.

Some people do not deal well, and that is why so many human beings commit such horrendous acts upon themselves or upon each other.

Acceptance of what is, is the first step to wholeness, no matter the adversity. Taking our grief out on others is not the way. Taking our grief out on ourselves is not the way. Checking out of our own lives is not the way.

We all need assistance in making our way through this life. And that is where Community comes in. As childless not by choice women, we must find a good, positive community where we can commiserate. There is a lot of negativity out there. But negativity only keeps us where we are, wallowing in self-pity and dwelling on what we did not get, what we do not have.

Our Community thrives on the positive but allows women to feel the waves of sadness. We all know about waves, they come and go. We expect them to show up during the grieving process, but we do not welcome or hang onto them.

If you are childless not by choice or you just want to know more about the platform, come join us and we will plug you in where you fit, as a childless not by choice person, or as a Supporter.

Rubbing salt into the wound

Years ago, when I was still trying to hang onto hope, I did everything my OB/GYN suggested. One of those things was to take an injection that was available in a monthly or 90-day dose. I tried both doses. The medication was used to dissolve fibroids.  It didn’t do much for me. And unfortunately, one of the side effects of this medication was menopausal symptoms. I called it man-made menopause.

I had hot flashes, mood swings, depression, and sadness. But I believe the depression and sadness were mostly due to the drama of hanging on, buying time, while waiting to meet Mr. Right. I had considered IVF and I made two attempts at adoption. But I decided against IVF because it was too expensive and because my mom compelled me not to take that avenue.

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.

Silence.

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.

Silence.

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.      

You are not alone!

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.

 

Childlessness is not what defines me

‘It takes a village to a raise a child.’ – African Proverb

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.

Welcome to February, the month of love!

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!

Wiggle room

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!

 

Single, childless, and still fabulous!

Growing up in suburban Melbourne, Australia in an era where it was expected I would finish school, get an office job, marry, and raise a family – society had my life all mapped out.

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!

How I faced being childless not by choice -How my career gave me purpose

 

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.

Joanna

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