Hello everyone! Welcome back to Childless not by Choice, where my mission is to recognize and speak to childless not by choice women and men around the world. Civilla Morgan here. I am spreading the great news that we can live a joyful, relevant, and fulfilled life, although we did not have the children we so wanted. I would also like to thank everyone who recognizes that we are not all living the same type of life.
Welcome to episode 110!
Questions or comments? Contact me at:
Visit the website at http://www.childlessnotbychoice.net, look to the left on the home screen and click on the link below the telephone to leave me a voicemail. You have 90 seconds!
Well, this is a special episode. I will do my very best to get through it without breaking down. You may wonder why I’m doing this while everything is so fresh, so raw, but I believe now is the time. I need to do this to move on. Bear with me.
So, here’s the thing: I got my first real job when I was 14 years old. It was a summer job helping build the set for a play that would be performed that summer by members of our community, including my school’s swim class teacher. The play was called Guys and Dolls. I could not begin to tell you much about the job or the summer, but I will always remember the tune to the title song of the play. I have found myself humming it from time to time over the years.
But I also remember one incident. My swimming teacher was apparently also a set designer. She was painting backdrops and I was positioning the backdrops. The only thing I remember her saying to me that summer was ‘ did you tell your parents?’ I responded ‘no.’ Within hours of my response to my teacher, and making my way home after work, I was confronted by my very upset parents, asking how I could not tell them such a thing. Ugh, she had told on me, and somehow, even at age 15, I knew she was doing the right thing, and probably also covering the school of any backlash and I totally got it. I don’t recall being mad at her.
What did I not tell my parents? Well, some time near the end of the school year I had stayed after school for intramurals and was trying to be cool, jumping into the deep end of the pool knowing full well I could not swim.
I nearly drowned.
Someone had run and called the teacher that was covering intramurals that day. All I remember was feeling two really strong hands grab me from behind and pull me out of the pool, and my coughing embarrassingly on the pool deck. He was just in time too, because I had begun to run out of energy from flailing around, and had started to drift to the bottom of the pool.
As a deeply shy and introverted 15-year-old, I wonder even now, if I had properly thanked those two teachers. I hope so.
That was the second time in my life I almost died. There was one previous incident when I was nine, and there would be one more when I was in my early 20’s.
I’m wondering why I’m thinking about that long ago swimming pool event in particular. I’m not sure. Maybe because at that point in my life I believed my parents would be around forever?
But of course, that is not the case for anyone. We all die don’t we? All of these years later, the last time I saw my sweet mom, my best friend in the whole wide world was the evening of Sunday, May 5th as I got her ready for bed. By the morning of May 6th, she had exited this world leaving behind chronic pain, and chronic illness. I miss her terribly. What breaks my heart the most is I did not have a chance to say goodbye.
My heart aches for my dad as June 5th–a month to the day after she died–would have been their 54th wedding anniversary. They loved each other so. I watched them all my life, through the ups and downs, thick and thin, flat broke, and money in the bank. They stuck it out. We don’t see many couples sticking it out through thick and thin these days. We hear a lot of ‘I don’t love him or her anymore’, ‘we’ve fallen out of love’, ‘we just can’t see eye to eye on anything anymore’.
How exactly does one fall out of love? And could it be that couples don’t see eye to eye because no one wants to give in once in a while? Or maybe the same person is always giving in and the other person just doesn’t get that it can’t always be their way? Hey, I’m not a shrink. So I will leave those thoughts and questions right there.
I sometimes thought I did not deserve my mom. She was quiet, reserved, her favorite color was beige. She taught us how to clean up after ourselves as young women, and my brother as a young. She taught us how to live clean, how to cook, and how to maintain a clean home. As nice and kind as she was, she did not mince words with us when we got out of line. But she also taught us how to be kind to others, how to let things go sometimes, and as she said ‘put the best construction on things’. Something I usually found difficult to do.
I believe I was the most difficult of her five children because of that very difficulty. As an adult, I often wished I had listened to her more. But she was a patient mom.
Being the mother of five children, she did not know the intricacies, the emotional pain, of being childless not by choice. She asked me questions, and she defended me when I told her the latest stupid comments or actions of those who did not understand the life of a childless not by choice person. She was my biggest defender. No matter how old we got to be, we called her Mommy. We call my dad Daddy. I guess it’s a Caribbean thing.
I will never trust another human being as much as I trusted my mom. You may say that is just the rawness of such a recent loss talking. But it’s a fact.
My mom learned how to text on her Android phone, and use her iPad very late in life. But she learned them. She enjoyed texting the entire family. She enjoyed researching celebrities ages on her iPad. She did not consider herself a smart person, but whenever she started with that ‘I’m not smart’ bit, I would remind her that she was one of the smartest people I knew. She could tell you about every event that was going on around the world. She knew who Lady Gaga was, she loved listening to The Gaithers and watching Bobby Schuller’s service on Saturday nights and Sunday afternoons. She was the smartest woman I knew.
My mom raised five kids without serious incident, working her fingers to the bone to provide for us. She was mistreated on some of her jobs. And I remember feeling so helpless when she would tell me about the latest incident. But she always said she wanted to keep a righteous heart. And several times she would tell me how she had run into one or two of the people who did her wrong and they were not in a good place. But she never spoke badly about them and their plight. It will take the rest of my life to become half the person she was.
I battled the medical community to pay attention to her needs the last few years of her life. Unfortunately, they did not care about the role of the caregiver, and I felt they definitely did not care about the plight of the elderly. Many of them ignored anything I had to say because although I knew my mom much better than they did, they could not hear above the din of their seven to 10 years of education.
One time when she was in rehab, against my wishes, they gave her two similar diabetes medications. I ended up not sleeping that entire night as I did not trust the rehab staff to stay awake and prevent her blood sugar from going to zero. They proceeded to feed her junk all night to keep her blood sugar up. Shortly after that I had her taken out of the facility and brought her back home. I am not a clinician, but I did my best by my mom.
I truly hope that one day caregivers will be heard in the medical community. In the meantime, if you are a caregiver, do not ever give up on your family member. Advocate for them even when the medical community gets upset and kicks you out of the hospital. Yes, that has happened to me.
They would rather say ‘I’m sorry’ or say nothing at all if something terrible were to happen during one of their ‘mistakes’. I heard from one of her specialists calling to give condolences.
The life of a caregiver is not easy. No part of it is. Becoming a caregiver changes your life…forever. And most times there is no warning that you are becoming a caregiver. It literally just kinda happens. Initially, you are taking your loved one to doctor’s appointments, then you find yourself handling prescription issues at the pharmacy advocating for your loved one, and then you begin to administer medications, and the doctor is talking to you even more than to the patient, about next steps after each appointment.
Then you incorporate their schedule, their life, into yours; into your calendar, or in my case because I’m old school, into my daytimer.
Caregivers have to watch time: time away from the person being cared for, time to administer medications, time to eat, time to get to doctor’s appointments. There are late nights…illness exacerbates at night. And the most overwhelming feeling for a caregiver is the feeling of helplessness which happened quite a few times for me. I was and am literally responsible for the person who took care of me. I was taking care of the person whose loving face was the first I saw when I came into this world. Talk about pressure. I did not want to mess up.
I really thought I had more time to make changes in her care. The morning she passed I had planned to call one of her physicians to start a new treatment. But it was not to be.
I now battle in my mind; the battle of wishing I had more time to make changes. But I also know as one my sisters always reminds me, ‘God is sovereign’. The bottom line is, we all have a day assigned to us, that last day on earth. The best thing we can do is to be sure we have our affairs in order so that we do not leave any undue burden on our family, and to be ready to meet our maker.
My mom thanked me for caring for her. And all I could say was ‘you’re welcome mommy’. But what I should have said was ‘it is my honor. It is the least I can do.“ I know she knew I loved her though. I gave her loud kisses on her cheeks from time to time, I prayed with her some nights and comforted her as best as I could as things got worse. I was in love with her dimples, always wishing I had gotten them. But it turns out those beautiful dimples skipped a generation.
Sometimes when I would be washing dishes she would sit at the kitchen table and we would talk about one thing or the other. I would say something and then get no response only to realize she snuck out on me to go watch the evening news.
Well, She played that trick on me one last time. She snuck out on me without saying goodbye. I knew she did it because if she told me she was going I would have begged her to stay, as much pain as I knew she was in.
My consolation as I grieve the loss of her presence in this world is that she is no longer in pain. She is no longer taking tons of pills, and going to tons of doctor’s appointments. She is now spending her time singing in the Soprano section of Heaven’s choir.
Sing on my sweet mommy, until we meet again.
Whether you contribute via patreon.com/childlessnotbychoice, or you go to the website and contribute via PayPal, your contributions are appreciated and used to help the platform to get the word out. Thank you!
Articles of note:
Special thank you to:
Thank you Devoted, for the beautiful theme music we use here at Childless not by Choice. Devoted has had the opportunity to sing and play in many countries. To learn more about Devoted, including their concert schedule, visit their website at http://www.devotedministry.org.
My contact information:
Website: http://www.childlessnotbychoice.net and http://www.civillamorgan.com
Pinterest: Civilla M. Morgan, MSM
LinkedIn: Civilla Morgan, MSM
If you would like to become a one time or ongoing sponsor, or if you would like to advertise your business or an upcoming event, contact me at email@example.com for details.
Remember, subscription to the podcast is free. Simply go to Apple Podcast, Stitcher Radio, Spotify, Overcast, or wherever you listen to podcasts. Search for Childless not by Choice, and hit the subscribe button. It’s that easy!
Well, thank you for listening to this episode of Childless not by Choice! Until next time! Bye!
‘To recognize and speak to the broken hearts of childless not by choice women, and men, around the world.’
‘Spreading the great news that we can live a joyful, relevant, and fulfilled life’.
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.
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.