By Kathleen Guthrie Woods
A while back, I received an e-mail from an LWBer I’ll call “Kim” who was struggling to find her place in our community. She hadn’t been through infertility, nor had she made a conscious choice to not be a parent. Instead, she’d held out for Mr. Right and married a man she loved—who didn’t want children. It wasn’t exactly my story, but I could relate to much of it. I shared my response with Lisa, and she asked me to consider sharing it with other LWB readers.
If you see yourself in here, I hope you’ll find some encouragement, some support. I hope you’ll feel—maybe for the first time—that you are not alone.
I am so sorry to hear of your losses and sorrows. I get it! Our paths are similar.
First, congratulations on your recent marriage! I, too, held out for love, which meant I got married in my 40s. My husband was worth the wait.
Second, a bit of my own story: I went through a long process (mid-30s to early 40s) of exploring whether or not I could/wanted to have a child on my own, and ultimately decided it wasn’t something I could do. It still irks me when people accuse me of making the “choice” to be childfree, when I feel in my heart that this destiny was forced on me in so many ways. Like you, I wanted to be a mom and I would have been a great mom. So not fair!
By the time I met my husband-to-be, I was starting to come to terms with the facts that my age and health were not in my favor for bearing and raising children. Sure, I could have tried every medical miracle, but with what results? I couldn’t do it. When I knew we were at a defining point in our relationship, I sat my then-boyfriend down, ready to set him free if he wanted children, because I knew I couldn’t offer him any guarantees. It came as somewhat of a relief, then, when he told me he never wanted kids.
However…that doesn’t mean we don’t have moments of “What if…?”
You asked how other women in your—in our—shoes are “living with it.” I’m sitting here at my desk trying to think of the best answers to give you, the real answers. It’s not easy, Kim. There are days when I love my life just as it is, when I celebrate that one of the reasons my husband and I have such an amazing relationship is because we are not having to divide our energies and attentions to take care of children. We spend our weekends together, even if it’s just running errands or watching Law and Order reruns on TV. We aren’t driving in different directions to attend soccer and Little League games. We are the last couple on the dance floor at wedding receptions because our friends who are parents have gone home to relieve babysitters or because they’re exhausted from all their obligations. These are blessed days indeed.
And then…and then…Halloween comes around and I want to stay in bed and cry about all the joyful events I’ve missed and will miss. I have to talk myself into decorating for the Christmas holidays because there are no little ones to revel in the magic, no one with whom I can share precious traditions. I lied to a friend a few weeks ago, a friend I love, because I couldn’t bear to go to her baby shower. I will love her child, we will be part of her child’s life, but I just couldn’t sit in a room full of women who got what I so desperately wanted.
In between, I lean heavily upon the wisdom and experience of our sisters on LWB. Sometimes I can offer the words of encouragement and support; other times it’s me who needs to be picked up off the floor. I encourage you to spend some time familiarizing yourself with the resources on the site. Yes, many of the women are here because of infertility, but we can still learn from each other how to move through this and forward into new life paths.
Melanie Notkin of Savvy Auntie has coined the phrase “circumstantially infertile.” I personally hate the term, but it makes sense to me. She is childfree for the same reasons we are (and I believe she’s still single) and has turned her experience into being an auntie advocate. I encourage you to check out her site. From my own experience, I will add that being “the fun aunt” has its advantages.
I also have learned a lot from Jody Day’s book, Living the Life Unexpected (also available on Amazon). She has a site called Gateway Women. I know Jody (also circumstantially infertile) has groups around the world, so you might check if there’s one near you. If not, maybe you’re the woman to start one? There are also several forums online on the LWB site. Find a topic that speaks to you and jump in.
Finally, I want to remind you that healing takes time. Please be gentle with yourself, Kim.
With my best wishes,