As we approach the holidays, I want to remind the childless not by choice community as well as those who have children, that we must consider each other. Recently, I heard commentary from someone who just allowed words to tumble out of their mouth because they are living a life they by all means expected to live.
They probably cannot understand those of us who by luck of the draw got none of it–no husband, no two and a half kids, no white picket fence. As I listened to this person I recalled thinking to myself, ‘keep your mouth shut girly, you can’t bat every ball.’ The comment from this mother was so generalized it was grievous.
Here’s the thing, if someone’s child is unruly in public, most of us would try to ignore the situation, or just move away. After all, children are typically afforded the space to be children. And I personally believe they should be children for as long as possible!
Unfortunately, some people do not know how to let kids be kids, so they verbalize their aggravation, and that of course, can make most parents upset. I believe even childless people know that children need room to grow physically, mentally, and emotionally.
If someone says something mean to a mother about her child, of course, that is never nice. Who knows what she may be going through with the child or in her life in general. Still, it should not be assumed that the person who verbalized their aggravation does not and should not have children. If that is the thought process, who is being mean now?
Look, I believe the reason society continues to propagate that mothers are more important than childless women is due to the innate need for humans to perpetuate the species. Perpetuating the species is a natural thing. This means though, that we will continue to hear mean spirited thoughts and belief systems spilling out of people’s mouths. They may not mean to be mean, in every instance. But the fact is, society tends to believe that once a woman has a child she is elevated to a special place, while childless women remain low on the totem pole. We are seen as society’s packing peanuts.
What use are you exactly? Why are you here? Those are the questions we as childless women and men will have to answer on our own; without any assistance from friends, family, or strangers. Because everyone has an opinion, and we definitely do not want to hear the opinion or beliefs of someone who is not living our type of life. The fact is, if we are here, we are indeed here for a reason, whether we have children or not. And like every other human, we will figure out our purpose.
After all, no human being should ever have to explain his or her existence. We belong here. And in fact, we childless women and men, expect to have our place at the table.
As I have said on the podcast, https://childlessnotbychoice.net/episode-105-my-interview-with-pamela-mahoney-tsigdinos/ we pay taxes too. We buy groceries, we go on vacation, and we enjoy our family and friends. We do indeed make beautiful, regular, normal contributions to society. We are wonderful aunts, caregivers, scientists, artists, siblings, bosses, guardians, employees, etc. Just like any other demographic in society. We should not have to explain this, but alas, we seem to have to. Regularly.
Let’s explain with our lives. With our decision to be happy. With our relevance. With our joy.
This holiday season, we will, as usual, attend the family get-togethers. We will attend the work parties. We will cook, bake, be a shoulder for our nieces and nephews, and whatever it is we find ourselves doing. But we will feel empowered to leave any gathering where we do not feel valued. We will create kind but firm boundaries, and exercise those boundaries with people who feel they have the right to speak to us in any manner they wish because our lives, the cards we have been dealt, do not meet their standards.
We will live the life we have been given to its fullest. As we all should. Because whether we got that family or not, life is very short, and we cannot afford to live in fear of society. Society will march on long after we are gone. And although by our very existence it is possible to change society’s apparent died in the wool opinions and expectations, that is not all we were placed on this earth to do. We are also here to live our best most relevant and joyful lives!
This holiday season, if you are a childless not by choice woman or man, remember you deserve to be here, there, or anywhere. Ignore the naysayers. Walk into that party or family gathering like you belong there. Because you do!
Yes, my dogs have birthday parties and get ice cream cones in the drive through! My dogs are my babies. I do not pretend that they are human, but I love them and care for them the best way I can. They are not spoiled. They are just very well taken care of. You see, I did not choose to be childless. I did not choose to be a dog mom. It just happened.
One day I went to a pet adoption event and there she was. A black fur ball who had just been spayed. Our eyes locked and I knew she was mine. I had found a soul mate. Sadey was 3 at the time and lived 15 more years with us.
At a family Christmas party early in December 2001, I watched her tail go faster and faster as my husband helped my niece open a talking Care Bear. I saw her disappointment when she realized it was not for her.
On another Christmas Eve, I ran around to several Walmart stores, searching for a talking Care Bear for my baby. I found one on my third Walmart stop. I took the last one on the shelf and honestly, I would have fought anyone who tried to take it from me. She loved that bear and she deserved that bear. To me, she deserved anything as I could never repay her for all she gave to me.
We had many more adventures together; cabin trips, camping, parks, and just being together. In 2008 my depression was bad and Sadey comforted me. She was an angel here on this earth.
One day in 2016 she looked at us and we both knew it was time. She wanted to go home. We had the doctor come to our home and she locked eyes with me one more time and took her last breath. I believe she is in heaven waiting for us.
Sadey gave me a purpose. I was able to take care of her and in return, I found the most selfless love I have ever found. I know that animals are here to comfort us. That is why they are used as therapy animals. They break down the toughest barriers with their unconditional love. Studies show that the hormone released when breastfeeding is the same hormone released when petting a dog. Not only in the human but also in the dog. That hormone helps in the bonding process. It helps with depression. But I do not need science to prove to me that pets make a difference. Sadey had such a special spirit that she filled the void of being childless. I did not even realize I was missing something.
When she died it was hands down the hardest time for me because I not only grieved the loss of my fur baby but I grieved never having a human child. I did not think anything could help me. I did not think I could love another dog like Sadey.
Then we found Madi and she helped heal a lot of my loss. She will never be Sadey but she is helpful in different ways. Life is hard without Sadey but I can’t imagine it without Madi. I actually did not even look for this group until after we found Madi.
We are not meant to go through this life alone. If it is a bird, rabbit, cat, or pig; whatever animal you connect with; your heart needs that unconditional love connection. Allow your pets to help you heal.
Featured image by http://paintingbyrebeccacooper.com
This year I was asked to oversee a church youth girls camp. The girls ranged from 12-18. I almost laughed out loud and then I realized they were serious. I went home to think about it and started crying and laughing at the same time as I asked God, “Is this for real?” “I have a broken back. I am not a mother. I am not a camping person. I am struggling right now!”
I decided I would do it. After finding out that only five of the girls on a list of 27 came to church on Sundays, I went to work trying to get these girls to be motivated about coming to camp with me. And I started working with the other ladies in our group. It was overwhelming. But I was finding purpose. I was asked to help them, but they were helping me.
Because I teach sewing, I asked the girls over to sew matching pillowcases. They talked and laughed with me like I was someone they wanted to be around. I was learning to love these girls. And the other adult leaders never once questioned my capability even though I am childless. This debunked my belief that because I am childless I could not have good relationships with those that did. I had never given them a chance.
Teenagers see through the masks we adults put up and I found myself dealing with my childlessness in a real way. I began to accept that I could have a happy fulfilled life by helping these girls and other children. I had helped children before, so why was this different?
This experience broke me down. Managing my back and dealing with 100-degree weather, I was putting up tents and telling the girls not to give up. Telling them they could do this. One of the leaders also encouraged the girls, continually saying to them that she knew they could do hard things.
I made it through camp with 15 girls and God’s help, finding an internal strength I never knew I had. I realized I could do hard things. This was one of the hardest situations physically and mentally for me but when it ended I had faith in myself. I realized I was going to be OK.
This is not the future I planned. But I am strong. I can handle childlessness and be happy towards this situation, I just have to want to.
I realized if I want people to believe in me, I first need to believe in myself and then give others the chance to be a good friend. No more allowing fear to rule the outcome of my life.
You know, not once during this summer did I feel sad about being childless. I even went to a family reunion with all my nieces and nephews and allowed myself to be happy with them. What I got in return was a love that no one can ever take away!
My parents married with the intention of having a large family together, which is how I’m the firstborn of seven: five girls, two boys. Of all my parents’ daughters, I’m the only one diagnosed at 15 with polycystic ovarian syndrome and informed I’d never bear a child. While one of my sisters has chosen to remain single and childless so that she can achieve her dreams of international travel, each of my other sisters has married and had children.
It hurts to be the only married, childless woman among my fertile, married sisters. It hurts when I see two of them pregnant at the same time, especially when they pose together for pictures. It hurts to be at family gatherings, and their conversation turns to motherhood, and I cannot participate. Not knowing what else to do, I stopped going to family gatherings. I was hurting too much, and I wanted something I did not know how to communicate.
One time, I texted my sister, Sarah, volunteering to babysit for her. She replied, “Okay.” But due to lack of communication, I felt like she preferred that only women with children babysit for her. From that thought, I jumped to the conclusion that Sarah did not consider me qualified to babysit her children because I am not a mother.
My reproductive disability had me feeling “less than” my sisters because of how I desperately wanted children.
I felt that babysitting my sisters’ children was a privilege I desperately coveted, but how could I ask for it? I was like a beggar at a king’s banquet table, stomach rumbling with hunger, staring at heaps of delicious food, but unable to take part.
Many days I cried because all I wanted was to spend time with my nieces and nephews, but because I did not ask, I did not communicate; my sisters had no idea how much I hurt, or how to help. Even so, my mom and sisters told me they consider me a vital part of the family – a phrase which felt so meaningless to me. I thought, “If that’s true, then why can’t I babysit my sisters’ kids? I love them, too.”
I arrived at the bottom of my pit of despair when my oldest sister Sarah began mentoring our youngest sister April, who had her firstborn some months ago. April lives in another state, and she needed Sarah’s help in adjusting to the pressures of motherhood. I grieved over what my infertility cost me just on the sisterly level, and I felt just enough anger over my loss to finally verbalize what I had buried deep inside for too long.
I called my Mom and cried as I explained how one time, lots of months previously, I had offered to babysit for Sarah, and she had rejected my offer. I sobbed as I told her how that made me feel that I wasn’t qualified to babysit her children because I’m not a mom. I said that whenever I’m with my sisters’ children, I don’t feel the weight of my infertility grief because I’m focused on how blessed I am to be their aunt. Mom let me cry, and she listened, and then she said that she would approach both Sarah, and my other sister Laura, and ask them whether they would mind letting me babysit for them. Sarah has four children, and so does Laura.
Weeks passed, and silence prevailed. I didn’t get an update from Mom. But I felt so much relief from having expressed my desire to babysit, I didn’t despair. Instead, I made the choice that I would not place the burden of whether I could be happy upon my sisters. I knew that for the sake of my sanity, I had to choose to be content no matter what.
The next time my Mom saw me, she gave me a beautiful bouquet of yellow roses, and a greeting card congratulating me on my new job. Then she told me that she had spoken to my sisters, and she asked them if either of them would mind letting me babysit for them. They both enthusiastically embraced the idea. Each of them had thought that if they asked me to babysit for them, they would be burdening me, they had not felt comfortable asking me.
Their conversation had occurred weeks back, and Mom had forgotten to tell me about it, and she apologized for taking so long to get back with me. I cried again, but this time, feeling so loved! That phrase about me being a vital member of my family didn’t feel so meaningless anymore. My Mom hugged me and told me she loved me, and that she was thankful for how I dared to be vulnerable with her in the middle of my pain.
I visited with Sarah, and she said that she would be delighted to let me watch her children, as often as I ask. She said that she knew I was hurting, but she didn’t know a practical way she could help until our Mom asked her if I could babysit for her. I advised her that children were no burden, but my infertility grief is. Sarah told me she loves me so much.
We planned a babysitting day and she allowed me to keep her oldest two for a few hours. It happened! And their behavior was perfect – I enjoyed every moment with them, watching cartoons and eating snacks. Sarah used the time to get a massage. We both felt loved–her for getting her ‘me time’, and me for getting to spend time with her kids. The kids felt loved because they got to watch cartoons and eat snacks.
Soon, I have plans to visit Laura and her children. They are good at loving on me, too.
The beggar was given favor and allowed to take part in the feast. And now the beggar feels like royalty, too.
My husband and I sat in the waiting room of the fertility doctor’s office waiting to get the results of the extensive testing we had endured just a few weeks before. Every single test was still fresh in my mind and I had still not recuperated from the trauma of the rounds of bloodwork and the multiple ultrasounds I had done in the weeks leading up to this day. It should not have been a surprise that we would get bad news that morning, but I still held on to hope.
We were called into the doctor’s office. For the next 45 minutes, he explained to us all the health factors that were most likely contributing to us not being able to conceive naturally. I was a complicated case. As he talked, I found myself holding back the tears and with each new medical condition he brought up, I felt my heart breaking just a little more. Endometriosis, Adenomyosis and a blocked tube meant that his only recommendation was IVF. By now, I was crumbling, and I could tell by the look of concern on the doctor’s face that my pain was starting to show. The nurse gave us a packet of paperwork and told us to go home and think about it and call back if and when we were ready to get the IVF process started. I felt all my hope leave me that morning.
That was a year ago. I did go home to process it and pray about it… but I never called back. I decided instead to face this journey of childlessness. In the first year of my journey, I’ve learned some valuable lessons that are worth reflecting on and sharing with other women who may be walking their own path of childlessness.
Two days after our doctor’s visit, I made the huge mistake of hosting a barbecue for a group of our closest friends – four of them, couples who had just recently had babies. For a few hours that afternoon, my house became a nursery full of crying babies and nursing moms. I was in total denial at that point. As soon as the company left, I crashed physically and emotionally and it took me days to get myself back together. What I had not yet learned that day was that I was starting my grieving process and that I needed to give myself time to acknowledge my loss. This is crucial but incredibly difficult. As women, we tend to want to quickly move on to the solution or to the part where we are “better”. Sometimes we want the world to think that we are fine in spite of our wounds and we put on a mask of “all is good”, when it is clearly not. It is okay to not be okay all the time. And it is certainly okay to give yourself the time and permission you need to deal with your pain. For me, that meant spending time by myself, journaling, reading, crying, meditating, listening to music, etc. Healing requires that you devote time to yourself and make yourself a priority. And there’s absolutely nothing wrong with that.
Before the infertility roller coaster, my husband and I made the decision that IVF was beyond our limits. We were convinced that IVF was too invasive and I was unwilling to subject my body to the strong medications and the high level of stress that come with it.
So when IVF was suddenly the ONLY option, many well-meaning people assumed that we would be going down that path. No one seemed to understand our choice to refuse IVF as an option for us. Few have been able to accept that childlessness can be an option too. I learned that even in the middle of chaos, you must make the choices that are right for you, even if those choices are not understood or accepted by others. It has been a big relief to know that although I’m still childless, I have stood by my values and made the decisions that are right for me. Childlessness is tough enough and you do not have to let your choices be swayed by the opinions of others.
In the months following my diagnosis, I felt like a complete failure. Being made aware of all the many things that were “wrong” with my body, left me feeling like damaged goods. I started believing that my body had betrayed me by not functioning properly and doing the one thing that it was supposed to do naturally. It wasn’t until recently that I started realizing that my body has been housing me for 38 whole years! For the length of my life so far, it has awakened every morning. It has seen, tasted, touched, moved, breathed…. My body is a miracle. It is far from perfect, but it is still a temple. So I’ve started to practice mindfulness and gratitude for it. Infertility makes it so easy to get hung up on the parts of us that are “not working” that we fail to see all the many wonderful parts that are. Being present and grateful for what is working in your life (and your body) is what helps to get us through the tough times.
It is true what they say that everyone on this planet is dealing with their own type of battle. We may see other people’s lives and think they have it so much better, but we never know what they are facing. It is important to treat others with kindness and respect, even while in the middle of our own storms. It is just as important to extend that same kindness and love to Ourselves.
My first year was not easy, but even through the many ups and downs, I’ve noticed myself growing as a person. I believe that a positive and kind attitude is what determines whether we thrive or wither through this childless journey. I have hope that life can and will be much better.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
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.